It's hard to believe, but the average American family produces over twelve hundred pounds of organic waste in a single year, and most of it ends up in landfills. That's a real shame when you consider it could be going to work in your garden. It just makes more sense to reuse this valuable material rather than going to garden centers and nurseries to buy it in bags.
Composting is simple, but you need a place for it to happen. That's why I designed a simple compost bin, which I call my compost corral. All it takes are 4 concrete blocks, 16 landscape timbers and 4 metal rods.
Material List for Compost Corral
- (16) 8 Foot Landscape Timbers
- (4) Concrete Blocks
- (4) Concrete Reinforcement Bars, 5/8" dia. and 2 Feet Long
Begin by placing the 4 concrete blocks about 8 feet apart. That's the same length as the timbers. The blocks elevate the corral so you can shovel the compost from the bottom.
Next drill a hole just halfway through 2 of the landscape timbers at each end. These will be the bottom rungs of the corral and will serve as a base for holding the concrete reinforcing rod. For the rest of the timbers, drill the hole all the way through. And make sure the hole is slightly larger than the diameter of the rod.
Set the 2 "base" timbers on the concrete blocks with the holes facing up, then stack 2 more timbers on top of these to create a square. It is a similar process as when you built things out of Lincoln Logs.
Now align the holes in the top 2 timbers with the half holes in the bottom two timbers and insert your concrete reinforcing rods.
To complete the corral just stack the remaining timbers one on top of another over each rod. Stacking the timbers like this will create air spaces. And that's important for decomposition.
When it comes to composting I've learned a few tips that help make the process a bit more efficient.
First, I always look at composting materials in two divisions - green and brown. Alternating thin layers of green and brown is the best approach. By layering these two at about a 50:50 ratio you can yield some impressive results.
Green materials consist of anything green or high in nitrogen. Brown materials on the other hand are a source of carbon. And leaves are ideal. I also like to break up old bales of straw.
Avoid adding sticks, diseased plant material, cooked food and weeds.
Now when you add leaves to your compost bin don't let them mat down in thick layers. This will exclude much needed oxygen from the process. Water is also a key ingredient. Keeping the materials moist is like putting fuel on the fire. Lightly water and turn your compost about once a week.