Compost is often referred to as black gold in the gardening world. Organic materials undergo an amazing transformation as friendly bacteria breaks down the fibers and cells holding the nutrients.
This process naturally takes a few months, but the process can be sped up if you provide an ideal environment for the microbes to work. Bacteria need two things to break down organic materials: moisture and air.
Moisture and air are available, but you have to increase the surface area of the organic material to expose everything in the compost.
This is where a compost bin comes in. By having something that holds everything together while allowing moisture and air to feed the working bacteria, the process of decomposition occurs much faster.
People get really fancy with do it yourself compost bins, but as long as air and moisture are being introduced to all the matter, then you will have rich compost from leaves, kitchen waste and even cardboard by the fall planting season.
A simple backyard compost bin incorporates all the elements needed for efficient decomposition. If you buy everything new, it could cost around $30, but you could easily use scraps or reclaimed materials to bring down the price. Here’s what you need:
- Staple gun
- Rubber mallet
- 1 4inx4inx6ft pressure treated post (cut in half)
- 2ftx10ft of chicken wire or hardware cloth
- 4 light duty garden posts
- A few nails
1. Lay Down your Pressure Treated Wood
You can substitute a pallet for the post, but the pressure treated wood will not rot, and the extra clearance allows greater airflow.
Make sure there is a channel cleared out between the posts to allow a clear path for air to flow under your base.
2. Drive Posts and Secure Chicken Wire on the Bottom
Drive the t-posts in the 4 corners of each post and staple a layer of chicken wire on the bottom.
You’re about to secure the slats, but the chicken wire will hold in more materials against the “air channel” and allow bacteria at the bottom of your compost pile to feed.
3. Secure Slats
To ensure that all material is exposed to the air, you will occasionally flip and mix your compost with a pitchfork or shovel. Even if the chicken wire could bear the weight of your compost without additional support, your shovel or pitchfork would constantly get caught. Adding slats give you a surface to support your implement as you turn the bin’s contents. You can use scrap pieces of wood and nails.
4. Wrap Chicken Wire and Start Composting!
The t-posts have places to secure chicken wire, but I also used some wire to ensure the chicken wire was taught and connected to as many places along the posts as possible.
Once you’re done, just put in compostable materials and thoroughly mix once or twice a week!
Compost can help you grow tomatoes and other vegetables better by improving your soil. If you have sandy soil, compost helps the soil better retain water. If you have dense clay-like soil, the compost can help break up your soil so your vegetables don’t sit in puddles. Compost also puts essential nutrients like nitrogen and potassium back in the soil.