I’ve been bugging my hubs to build me a compost bin or compost pile since we moved into our house two summers ago, and last month he finally made my wish come true!
We decided to make a compost pile instead of bin because it was a simpler, easier project and we could use materials that we already had on hand. We (well really just Jer) made a two stall open pile, using reclaimed wood – some pallets and a piece of leftover fence from our neighbor – so this great compost cost us nothing to build!
Here is the compost pile “before”. I have been wanting to compost for so long, but didn’t have a dedicated bin or pile, so finally I just started throwing food scraps in the back corner of our yard and then Jer would add grass clippings or yard stuff to it every once and a while. But, I really didn’t just want to leave it an open pile like this.
My awesome hubs hard at work building the walls.
And here it is when he was finished.
This is what it looks like today. We’ve been piling stuff up on the left hand side, and once it gets full, we’ll let it sit and turn into compost while we start adding to the pile on the right hand side. I have been amazed and how much this has decreased our overall garbage, and while I still hate throwing away food, I don’t feel as bad when I know it’s going in the compost pile to become something that will nourish our plants and help our garden to grow.
I’m actually planning to start adding to the right hand side soon so that the left side can do it’s thing and make me some compost before the fall. I want to spread it over my garden boxes to get ready for next year.
I think I need to add some more “brown” material though. I really have no idea what I’m doing as far as composting goes – we just throw our stuff in there and hope it will turn into compost. I went to a composting workshop last year and it was really informative, and he talked about having the right mixture of “brown” and “green”, but the main thing I walked away with is that it is not too complicated and you should just go for it and start composting and not worry about if you are doing it “right”. So that’s what we’ve done. We’ll see how it works out for us!
Now I just really need to figure out a good system for keeping my kitchen scraps until I’m ready to take them out to the pile. And what about during the winter? Hmmm, I don’t want to think about that yet. I’m trying to enjoy the final days of summer!
Do you compost? Do you use a bin or a pile? How do you store your kitchen scraps before they head to the compost?
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bec shulba says
i have been wanting to get a compost going for the last year and still haven’t done it so way to go! i’ve never heard of an open compost before though – what about animals getting into it with all the food in it? or does that not happen where you are?
Emily @ Live Renewed says
We definitely have animals where we are, but have not had any problems with them getting into the pile. You’re not supposed to put meat, dairy or other protein type food into the compost, which is what would attract animals. We also try to cover up the food with grass or dirt, or turn it into the pile often, so the food is not really sitting out in the open that much. Hope you’re able to start composting soon!
Looks great! I’m doing the open pile method right now, and it doesn’t work so well. I’ll have to remember this idea for a bin! As far as storing scraps, I have a dedicated plastic cup that sits by the sink, and I throw peelings and eggshells into it. When it gets full, I take it out. It’s small enough that it doesn’t start smelling but large enough that I don’t have to take it out every day. You could also put a bucket under your sink if you didn’t want to leave it out.
I usually let my pile compost over winter and I figure that the dump needs some compostable material too, so I don’t feel too bad about throwing some away in winter. 🙂
Natural Homemaker says
What an interesting idea! It’s got me thinking & researching about viable ideas
I have exactly the same compost system,, double sided made with the pallets…it is a great way to take care of the compost materials but my chickens keep busy digging and spreading my materials out…I have been trying to get some collected all summer and it just does not add up very fast…I am not giving up and hopefully by spring we both will have compost…
I started a compost pile this spring, at first it was just a pile, then hubby got me a bin for my b-day. I stir mine up every time I add to it (every few days)that way it’s evenly distributed. And since it’s been so hot here (105+)I’ve been watering it when I throw food in, it really helps. I also have some worms in my pile which is great because I’m out of “brown”.
I wanted a fancy compost pail in the kitchen but they were a bit pricy. So we picked up a small office trashcan from Target for $12. It has a removable pail which is perfect for taking to my pile. We just put the whole thing under the sink.
I know what you mean about throwing food out, but I feel so much better knowing that I’m “recycling” the scraps!
Have fun with it!
kim schmidt says
I am apart of a community garden and we compost there. It’s an open bin and while it’s not great, it’s a start. For me, it’s all about turning it. I think I’m one of a small handful that actually turn their stuff, though I’m the one to turn the entire heap every week or so. Water and turning are key (beyond the mixture of brown and green!).
I have a small old time commode bowl that I keep under the kitchen skin. I take it out when it gets full, which during the summer is every other day. Depends on if we just picked up our CSA farm share and can things – that gets taken over that evening.
I started composting a year ago and am liking it. We took an old metal trash can, drilled holes in it, and voila! I roll it around periodically to mix it up, and let the sun bake it, which I think helps it decompose faster. I have almost a full trash can of rich soil that I’m planning to mix into our raised-bed gardens (we live in town) this fall after I’m done harvesting food. We’ll mix the compost into the soil, cover with straw, and let it sit for the winter.
Question: storing food in the kitchen until I’m ready to take it out back: any suggestions? I just put it in a bowl with a lid or such, but I’m looking for a better option.
Emily @ Live Renewed says
That’s a great idea for keeping your raised bed gardens over the winter! I’m going to try to do that too!
Hope you got some ideas from other comments for storing food scraps – that was my question too. I recently starting using a large plastic ice cream container that has a has a lid and a handle like a bucket. I store it under the sink next to my trash can and keep the lid on it so it doesn’t attract too many bugs and try to take it out at least once a day.
Heart and Haven says
I have a compost bin we’ve been using for 2 years now – works great! We use shredded junkmail for our chicken bedding (which goes into our compost), also a bit of shredded junk mail can be used as “browns” too. (make sure to tear out any plastic windows from envelopes 1st).
I don’t use a dedicated bin for kitchen scraps. I just use a bowl or tupperware on the counter & fill-up with veggie peels, ends, etc. and bring out to the compost bin after each meal as part of my kitchen clean-up. I don’t live where it gets cold though, and our compost bin is pretty close to the house as well.
Melinda J. says
That’s awesome! I like the “let’s try it and see what happens” method 🙂 Sometimes I’m simply too afraid of the wrong results and it paralyzes me from trying new things. Anyway, I have a little story. We have a large pile in the area near the back of our garage where we have, just like you, thrown grass clippings and other sticks and weeds, etc. Well, we also have thrown our used pumpkin remains back there. And, this year, whatever seeds that were left, took root, and we have this massive pumpkin vine growing there! It produced 4 beautiful pie sized pumpkins! Wow! Three of them already had evidence of animals eating them, so we just left those. We also have a vine in the front of the garage, and have 1 pumpkin, but it looks to be a mini pumpkin. There’s more blooms on it, so we’ll see if those will produce more pumpkins by October. So, the moral of the story is, just go for it! You never know what’s going to happen until you just dig in and try it! I LOVE that you used recycled items as your wood, too. GREAT idea!!! I’m going to steal it to use someday. Thanks!!
kristen marie says
am curious as to just the open bin method works… we have a doxie and i dunno if she would get into and make a mess of things….also what about other animals getting into it? ideas?what about the smell? we dont want neighbors complaining b/c of smell or animals…lol… also what are you putting in it? everything? define the green and brown concept
Emily @ Live Renewed says
Thanks for your questions. I probably should have addressed some of those thing in my post, but here’s my answers for you.
1. Most of the food scraps are fruits and veggies, egg shells, and stuff that’s basically unedible – we have a chocolate lab and she doesn’t get into the pile at all. Now, she is not one of those “will eat anything” kinds of dogs, but still she really doesn’t even go near it.
2. We live in the city, but have had everything from baby racoons, rabbits, possums, and a skunk in our yard over the past two years and we have had no trouble with animals getting into the pile (unless they do at night and we just don’t know, but I don’t think so). Again, I think it’s the type of scraps you throw in. You shouldn’t be throwing meat, or pretty much any type of protein in there, which is what would attract most animals.
3. A good compost pile shouldn’t really smell. Sometimes the food stinks at first, but as it decomposes, it really doesn’t smell at all. Again, we live in the city and in pretty close proximity to our neighbors and haven’t had any complaints. Also, we try to cover up the food as often as possible with a layer of yard waste – either grass clippings, weeds, or just some dirt to keep the food covered, and I think that helps too.
4. Again, I’m not a compost expert, but the green and brown refers to things that add nitrogen (green) or carbon (brown) to the soil. Green refers to kitchen scraps – again mostly fruits and veggie scraps, egg shells, bread is okay, but no meat or protein, including dairy – grass clippings, green leaves or weeds, and coffee grounds or tea bags. Brown is the brown stuff from your yard – sticks, sawdust, dried brown leaves, and shredded newspaper. It’s important to have some of both in your pile, and like I said, I think I have more green than brown. I’m still new at this and learning as I go!
Hope that helps!
Bee's Nest Deb says
We’re lazy composters and it works…although much more slowly than the folks who are dedicated to turning their pile and keeping it moist. We used to have great compost but now that we have chickens they eat most of our kitchen scraps so the compost piles is mostly grass and cuttings from shrubs. I’ll be interested to see if it still turns out as well as our previous compost.
I figure as long as we’re keeping it out of the landfill we are helping out. Our city is actually going to start picking up compostable materials sometime this winter and reducing garbage pick-up to bi-weekly. That should be an interesting experiment.
Emily @ Live Renewed says
That’s awesome that your city is going to pick up compost! Ours picks up yard waste, but not food waste. The yard waste they do turn into compost that is then free for city residents if you go and haul it yourself. That’s what we filled our garden beds with this year, and I’m thinking that’s why my garden is growing like crazy!
We have been composting for over 2 years and I love it. I bought a big container of pretzels from Costco and I use that bin under my sink. It works great – I can go 2-3 days without emptying it and it really only stinks when you open the lid.
One tip my husband just shared with me that I didn’t know was it’s best to crush the egg shells before dumping in the compost pile.
Emily @ Live Renewed says
Thanks for the tip Stacey! I just went out and turned my pile and saw that many of the egg shells had begun breaking down, so I tried to crush them up some with my shovel, and I’ll definitely crush them before putting them in the pile from now on!
HI emily..look like its fun to have that experiance composting..I will try that at home:):)