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How To Start Composting Part 1: Choosing A Composting Bin

Part1: Choosing A Composting Bin

How to Start Composting: Part 1: Choosing A Composting Bin
Author: Patricia Bass

If you are thinking about composting or perhaps there are laws about such where you live, this article will attempt to help you get started. I will assume that you will actually be collecting materials to create compost to be used by yourself in the yard, garden or potting soil,rather than the method where scraps are accumulated and carted away by a service. Types of containers used in composting will be discussed in this article. Materials and methods are discussed in Part 2. 

Before choosing a composting bin first decide how much compost you may generate. This information may determine the type of bin selected and will definitely determine where the materials that will make compost should be kept. You have basically 3 choices; the choices are a pile sometimes called a heap,a bin which can be made with compartments and kept open to hold the pile or on a smaller scale a container sold for making compost, often referred to as a garden composting bin, and third, generally for smaller batches as well, a barrel or tumbler.

Regardless of the type composter selected choose a location that has just a little bit of shade but receives enough sun to heat up the materials to speed up decomposition. Ease of access by equipment is one factor to remember before starting the process. This is especially true if you choose an open bin system or pile, often called a heap. When the pile is decomposing it needs air which can be achieved through turning the pile the backbreaking way using a shovel or the tractor and front end loader.But remember you will most likely want access large enough for a cart or wheelbarrow to fit for removal of the compost that has been created. Not to worry, you can insert pipes with holes into the piles and decomposition will occur just fine with very little turning. A common material for the pipes is PVC with approximately 1/8th inch holes drilled randomly on all sides. Many bins of this type are made of concrete and have at least 3 sections for compost in various stages of readiness.

If you do not have need for composting on such a large scale choose a container purchased especially for making compost. A garden composting bin usually sits on the ground with the bottom open or if you prefer it closer to the house there are models which have a bottom in them or any of these bins can be placed on concrete. These models range in size from a little over a foot square at the bottom and tapered like a pyramid approx 18 inches toward the top to all weather models 2 foot rectangularly shaped and about 4 feet tall. The space required can be as little as 2 feet square and access can be with a wheelbarrow or yardcart. A bin that remains open to the air such as a wood composting bin or wire bin can be purchased. One advantage to these models is they disassemble if you decide not to compost for the winter or change where you want the pile. A second advantage to these bins is materials can easily be continuously added. The only drawback is for optimal decomposition and since this type composting bin is open it will allow access to any animals who might smell the scraps, one must aerate turn or mix the contents reguarly. It is best to mix with each addition of new materials. A tool can be purchased or use a shovel or pitchfork.

Or if you want a composter for which aeration requires no tools, choose the compost bin tumbler, often barrel shaped and sometimes called a composter tumbler. The capacities for outdoor varieties all seem to be about 50 gallons. Indoor tumbling models will be discussed in another article. The variations of this drum type are numerous but they work because you roll the barrel or use a handle and tumble the contents inside depending on the model chosen. A few models are round like balls. The advantage of all these models is the ease of mixing or aerating contents. The disadvantage is these models work best if a batch is made all at once without adding more materials later. Materials can be added a little at a time and all that happens is a slight slowing down of the decomposition process. It takes longer to have finished compost to use. In article Part 3, I will explain the ingredients to be used for making compost the first time.

There is a variety of models of containers for making compost. All of which fit into two groups, open bins, often called garden bins or enclosed bins sometimes referred to as barrels or drums or tumbler composters. Each type composter will make great compost, the choice is up to you which one fits your situation.

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