building a compost bin

lilyd74April 27, 2014

This is a repost from the vegetable gardening forum; one of the suggestions they gave me was to come over here.

The city finally gave us permission to compost in the back yard, but of course, they had to add restrictions. I would love to hear your opinions on building a compost bin, or two, that meets city requirements and doesn't break my budget of about $20. Here is the city's list: "a tightly fitted lid," a capacity of no more than 64 cubic-feet and does not include any of these items: "burlap, tarp, vehicle tires, wire mesh, chicken wire, flexible fencing material of any kind or any substantially similar materials."
I'm hoping to avoid having to purchase some tiny plastic thing that can't turn stuff over and won't fit even a quarter of what I need to compost. Any ideas?

I would also appreciate any creative ideas on how to break up or shred compostable plant materials, especially woody ones. I've got stacks of last year's sunflower stalks, amaranth stalks, dead blueberry bushes, ancient bamboo stakes, etc. that I just can't get rid of. I have no space for heavy equipment - my house is smaller than some apartments I've lived in.

Thanks in advance for your creativity!
Lisa

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lazy_gardens

65 cubic feet = 4x4x4 which is a good size.

Consider using a wooden one - maybe made from a pallet or two, and put a tightly fitted lid on it and one side you can remove to do the turns. I think the city just wants to keep dogs from scavenging the compost.

Why would you need permission to compost? As long as it's inside the fence and not stinky and attracting bears.

As for the woody stalks, they are usually hard on the outside and "pithy" on the inside, and brittle. Whack them into chunks with a machete (working on a wooden surface like a stump), then bust them up by pounding them with a mallet ... doesn't take much because you just need to crack the stems, not turn them to pulp.

Running them through the rollers of a sugar can juicer would do it fairly easily.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:06PM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

wow that's a pretty tough order especially on your budget.
I would start asking around and seeing if someone is getting rid of any wood or pvc fencing. Check Craig's list also.
A lot of times people just want to change fence styles and get rid of perfectly good sections. I picked up 8 sections of 4' tall by 8' stockade at the curb after super storm Sandy.
You would only need 3 sections cut in half. 4 sides and the top with half a section to spare.
Maybe check local fence companies and ask if you can have what they have to throw out anyway.
Hope this helps

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:18PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

You should be able to score some free wood pallets, they make great compost bins. Check with hardware stores, home centers, plumbing and heating contractors, motorcycle and power eqpt dealers, etc. I usually use metal fence posts at the corners to tie everything together, you can use wire to attach sides to posts. Line with chicken wire to keep the stuff in. It won't be that noticeable from a distance, as a liner. The front pallet can be unwired and swung out or removed for turning or harvesting.

Consider a 2-compartment bin so you can turn the pile and start a new one in the first bin.

64 cu ft is quite large, you can easily make comopst in a 3x3x3 ft bin which is 27. If you go with dual compartments, make the second one about 2/3 the size since the compost shrinks as it decomposes.

I too am wondering why you would need permission, unless someone complained or there is an ordinance against it?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 12:52PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

or two:

For chopping, find a military surplus store and get a $10 machete, the kind they use to hack through the jungle. These are also available at some garden supply places. Then find a stump, log or some piece of wood to use as a chopping block. Lay some stuff on the wood and chop. Easiest when fresh and green. Don't chop off your fingers - no meat in the compost!

Can you post a link to your original thread in Veggies? I looked a bit but could not find it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 12:59PM
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lilyd74

There has been an ordinance against composting for many years, based on fear of rodents - not completely logical, but there you have it. I live in a city with a big "green thinker" population that thinks farming is icky. . . go figure. To them, living green is about repainting roads so there's a built in bicycle track on the side. I start talking about growing my own food and people ask me, "Is it safe if it hasn't been processed at a factory?" Sad but true comment that was said to me at work.

I scrounged up an old bookcase, about 3x4. I think I can knock the shelves out to make a lid that will fit closely, and then I just have to build up the bottoms of the sides with scrap lumber and get one side (the top shelf side, I think) to come loose for turning the compost.

I'm still trying to think of different ways to chop stuff up. I may end up with a machete after all. I saw some designs on the web for handcranked chippers using large drill bits, but they required welding.

You guys are great, thank you!

Here is a link that might be useful: original thread

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:55PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

I was thinking the other thread would have more about the city's issues but you posted it right here so I got what I was interested in.

The idea that composting draws pests is so outdated. I'm trying to imagine what kind of community thinks this way in this day and age. I am sure there are resources out there to help educate your city council and city staff about the benefits of properly managed composting. My city not only does free composting workshops for residents, but even gives away free compost bins.

Good luck with it and report back how it goes. Maybe you'll break through the 'chicken wire ceiling' and become a composting pioneer.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 11:37AM
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