The Wonderful World of Bin Composting
The bin composting method of composting relies’ on micro bacteria to break down the organic matter that you supply and turn it into nutrient rich humus. For anyone who is new to soil terms; No, I’m not talking about the delicious Middle Eastern garbanzo bean spread, that’s spelled hummus and tastes much better than your humus will.
Humus is the word used to describe any organic matter that has been broken down as far as possible. Ideally, if the conditions never changed around it, this matter could remain the same forever. It has been broken down as far as it can go.
There are five distinct types of microorganism that are responsible for breaking down organic matter and they all rely on carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water. This makes bin composting a little more complicated than the other methods because you must maintain this balance yourself. Specifically, maintaining the carbon-nitrogen ratio is the area you will have to concentrate. However, just as riding a bicycle and losing your virginity both seemed impossible once, with practice, you can learn to recognize the signs and maintaining a healthy balance becomes second nature.
Depending on how long you want to take to make you compost, how much space you have and how much work you want to put into the process there are several different types of container you can use.
The first style is the closed bin and this is really composting at it’s simplest. A closed bin is best for growers who have limited space and a low budget. There are a huge number of commercially available bins on the market and most you can get for a pretty reasonable price. You can also make your own bin out of any number of materials. Wood is the most popular but you could make your bin out of sheet metal, tight knit chicken wire, or plastic. I prefer wood because it looks more organic (you are composting for goodness sake) and is easy to work with.
The bin that I have at my house is made of reclaimed redwood so it can stand up to the rain and rot incredibly well but that is something you want to keep in mind if you are going to make you own bin. If the bin is outside exposed to the elements it is going to break down eventually and need maintenance. Also the decomposing dirt on the bare wood will leave its mark as well.
The downside to this style of composting is that it can take a while to decay. It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to a year to create the desired new soil. This process is sped up the more you aerate the compost and by regulating how much you put in.
Here is a link to a great very easy to make bin. However, I recommend you don’t follow any guides at all. When you compost, you are aiding in the creation of new soil from old organic matter. You might as well be creative your self in this process. Use whatever materials you have at your disposal and design your own bin. Its almost impossible to go wrong seeing a compost bin is only a glorified box and we all know what a box is. This also makes an absolutely perfect afternoon activity for a family with young kids; it’s never too early to let them start exploring!
Just remember that good closed bins have a tight fitting lid to keep animals and the weather out, and are easy to access with a shovel to turn occasionally.
As the name implies this type of bin is one that relies on rolling to create the compost. Specifically, the rolling is what aerates the compost so that you don’t have to stir by hand which can be hard when you have a lot of dirt. A quick tumble or two every other day and that’s all you need to do.
This type of bin is most suitable to homeowners who have suitable space to roll the bin around. This is also a very clean, ascetically pleasing method of composting and the lid on the containers helps to keep the rain and animals out. The only real downside here is that as the bin gets more full, it will get heavier and harder to roll but that will also help to build you muscle and character!
This is similar to the rolling bin but instead of rolling across the ground the bin is held on a stand. It is attached at two points on either side to the stand and is able to be rotated (tumbled) around an axis. This means that it will require much less space than a rolling bin and be very easy to aerate. However as with everything easy, it will only come at a price. This type of bin tends to be the most expensive to buy because of the moving parts and the ‘technology’ involved. However, again, keep and open mind and be creative and you just might be able to make your own. I have seen some impressive homemade setups made with old rain barrels and oil drums.
Another downside to this style of bin is that once the bin is full and the composting has started, you cannot add any more organic matter until the current cycle is done which can take weeks to months.
If bin composting seems to be the right choice for you, then please, get up and start composting today. Well maybe you want to wait for the weekend to get started but when Friday afternoon comes around, get ready! If bin composting is not the right method for your life, do not fret; there are still many alternatives. Keep looking, there’s and you’l find something that will work for you, I guarantee it. And remember, it may take a little time but it will all be worth it when you get that dark rich topsoil your plants crave and they start producing like you have never seen before.
So start composting today and spread the love!