Bush Class Basic Certified
Starting a Compost barrel/Pile
Ok, I searched and found some mention of it, but no detailed threads on composting. My neighbor gave me an awesome compost barrel. It's made from a 55 gallon steel drum, mounted on legs, sideways, with a hinged access door on it. Has a handle on it so you can turn it.
So I know the basics of how it works, but can anyone give some pointers on getting it started? How you go about using yours, what not to put in it?
I'll get some pics of my set up this afternoon.
We have a compost heap at the bottom of the garden, it's been there for years and years, it used to be a coal bunker when we had a coal fired boiler so it's fairly big probably 8ft by 4ft and 4ft deep and everything gets thrown in there, green waste from the kitchen, egg shells, tea bags, grass clippings, wood shavings, you name it, basically anything that will rot fairly quickly, dont put woody stems in as they wont rot that quick, well depending on what it is it wont, we tend to chop any garden waste that goes in there into fairly small pieces so it rots down quick, we also have cedar wood slatted lid on it to keep the pigeons and crows out.
I think when we started this one we put some soil in the bottom first, then added green waste for a week or so then put a cap of rotted horse poo on the top, mixed it all up and let nature take it's course, the poo we added was full of redworms and it's these little blighters and the rotting action that turn it into compost fairly quickly, i turn the top layers on ours a quite a few times during the year, not because i have to, but because im after the worms to go fishing with
We have a small one made from black plastic with vents and a twist-lock lid. It sits in the sun and stews all day
The only thing we don't put in it is meat or fish waste.
Anything else goes as long as it will deteriorate, such as coffee filters/grounds, banana peels, apple cores, fruit waste of all sorts, veggie waste, eggshells, etc.
You can add anything but woody stems and meat. Woody stems will not break down fast enough and meat will bring in the neighborhood dogs. It helps if you shred the plants before adding them to the pile. I pile up leaves, etc. and run over them with my mower to shred them. Then I rake them into a thin pile, add a layer of chicken litter, a thin layer of dirt and wet it down. I continue adding layers until the pile is as big as I want (usually 3 to 4 feet tall). I turn it 2 or 3 times a year. I try end up with two or three of these compost piles every year.
Not sure what your barrel is like, but if it's closed (no air vents) you'll get anaerobic bacteria, which cause unpleasant odor and take a long time to break down whatever you put inside. We've kept a compost pile--not a barrel--for years, in a bin with chicken wire sides to promote oxygenation. This encourages aerobic bacteria, and we never have odor problems. The best compost results from a 50-50 mix of green stuff like fresh grass clippings (nitrogen source) and brown stuff like dead leaves (carbon source), to which you can add vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc., but no meat, as others have said. Get a book on organic gardening from the library if you're really interested--those folks know compost. We learned the basic technique from a Rodale's publication years ago. If you have the right mix you'll literally create an organic fire. The pile temperature will rise to 150° F or so, steam will come off it, and you'll have useable compost in a matter of two or three weeks, from scratch. Hope this helps!
I took a black 55 gal drum and cut the end out and buried it in the ground a couple of inches. Then I cut a hole in the lid to accommodate a 2 in piece of PVC that had holes drilled in it for aeration. The only bad part was turning the compost.
Here is one I'm going to build eventually.
I just started a new compost pile today,I started with about 8 bags of leaves that I finely chopped up with the lawn mower then cut my grass. I added a 50/50 mix of each and a shovel of dirt then water into the barrel,, I made to make compost faster.
The barrel is blue I drilled 3/8 holes top to bottom on the sides in rows and on the top of the lid and on the bottom of the barrel.
I then drilled a 2" hole to the side of the barrel as center as you can , I put a 2" stainless steel pipe through the 2" holes.
I then built a frame for it to sit on with legs and a base I used plummers tape the metal stuff with holes on it to scure the 2" pipe down to the 4x4 legs and they have braces on the side of the 4x4s screwed to the wooden base made of 1x4 boards .
I also put nylon rope through the barrel in 2 spots to help with the mixing if you just have a pipe across the middle all the stuff just flips on to its self and dosen't get mixed up.
I want to mention one other thing I got all of the things to make the compost barrel at Habitat for Humanity resale store cheap the one thing I for got was coffee grounds I get from Star Bucks they give them away all you have to do it ask for them and they'll give you them free.
A good compost pile is about 80 percent carbon material and 20 percent nitrogen material. Carbon material is dried leaves, dried grass clippings. straw and similar. Nitrogen material is kitchen scraps, green grass clippings, and fresh manure. Avoid meat and fat, most paper, dog and cat dropings, and weeds. It helps to cover a pile with black plastic sheeting as it raises the temperature but leave spaces for air circulation. Since you have a barrel you can turn it easily but it should have air holes. I have found that my ground pile composts faster than my commercially made plastic compost barrel and I think it is because it gets a little hotter being on the ground. You can add blood meal to the barrel to get a jump start on the composting process but it is not necessary. If you have space use the barrel and a small pile close to it, perhaps inside a 3" wire mesh circle. You will have material in the mesh pile ready to put in the barrel when you empty it and it will make for a bit quicker supply of compost.
Most paper can be composted too. Old napkins and paper towels, newspaper, brown paper bags, worn out cardboard, etc.
Glossy paper like card stock and color magazine pages I don't put in. Doesn't biodegrade as well.
Sometimes you'll have suff sprout up from things you put in. I've thrown in dead flowers and eventually had live ones come up, and from throwing in veggie scraps I have had full cantaloupe and tomato plants come up in the compost. SO for this reason I do not throw in weeds I pull...those go in the burn pile.
Just a few tips....
I'm a lazy composter. I bought 20 feet of hardware cloth, and used it to make two cylinders. I dump food scraps (no meat or grease), paper towels, leaves, etc. into it until it's nearly full, then cover it with a square of scrap paneling and start using the other. When it's cooked down I slide the wire cage up, shovel out the compost, and switch bins again.
If you're going to turn your compost, a purpose-built compost fork is well worth the money.