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How-to Start Composting at Home

Updated on February 17, 2017
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Sherry has been using the same compost bin since 2009 and is adding to it in 2016. She takes pride in not using the kitchen sink disposer.

The Compost Process is Easy with a Black Compost Bin Tower

Home composting with the black plastic compost bins available now is easy for me. The hardest part is harvesting the finished product. I will tell you about that below. The tower bin has no worms, is not an unsightly big contraption and mostly odorless, depending on what you put in it. Composting at home is a good landfill sensitive idea that can easily be in every backyard.

This page will take you through a step by step compost start up that will give you the good green living feeling, and leave you with something extra to use in the end; rich organic compost that can be added to your topsoil in your yard and garden.

The Latin for the word compost is "to put together". That makes sense. An abundance of materials can go into your garden compost bin so you are gathering together considerable amount of ingredients. They all transform into a useful garden mulch or humus.

If composting start up has been a roadblock for you, read on. I have tried to give all the details in this plastic compost bin review for the Garden Gourmet Backyard Composter. Recently, I added instructions for assembly of the bin, if you should need it.


Do You Believe That One Person Can Make a Difference?

When we have friends visiting most ask about the compost bin in the backyard. The smaller kids are very interested. They are amazed at the material on top and how it looks when it is finished.

If you started a compost pile would you think you were helping the environment?

See results

I Compost with a Black Plastic Tower Bin

If the ready made compost tower bin is the way you think you want to go I can help you out. Get your compost bin tips here. Mine is up and composting fine.

Composting always seemed like a good thing to do, but I kept putting it off. There was work occupying so much time. It was just another project I would do later. Also, my husband thought the barrel arrangement was the best way to go. We have had an old barrel in our yard for 21 years just for that purpose.

Well, I put the brakes on that idea. A big 55 gallon drum on a stand so it could be turned was not something I thought would fit into the backyard. We have a suburban fenced backyard. It would be seen from many locations or from the bedrooms.

In 2007 I found something on eBay that works just fine and does not mar the backyard landscape. Before I could purchase it I received one for my birthday. Hey, I like useful things as presents.

STEP ONE

Choose a bin that suits your needs.

My composter is the black plastic module unit type, also called the Bosmere K676 11 Cubic Foot Composter I think it is about the cheapest ready made unit you can buy. It came in a box and sides slipped into corner units and was an easy assembly. (See instructions at the bottom of this page.) This unit has no bottom. Just set it on level ground. I started throwing things in it right away following the instructions that came with the unit.

Black tower compost bin assembly is easy. I did not do it myself, my husband had it together in 5 minutes.

For an easy foundation tip for the tower read tips here.

Spring is a Good Time to Think About Starting Your Compost Bin - Tip On Opening the Sliding Door of the Garden Gourmet Bin

The only thing about this compost bin is the door is hard to open. It simply slides into grooves on each side, but bringing the door up after it has been in place for a few weeks is not easy. If the separate units are a bit out of alignment it may get stuck and even with everything straight the sliding door does take some muscle to pull up.

I grab underneath the first section groove of the door and pull up with a steady hard motion. Some would have a challenge with the door. I am only opening it when it is time to gather the completed compost; about 3 times a year. If I had to open it everyday I would not like it. The door definitely adds to the exercise.

Update: July, 2012

I thought of a trick to make the door easier to open.

Run a stick in the channel to rid it of any debris. A half cap of vegetable oil poured down the grooves of the door on each side aids in letting it slide a bit easier. Hope that helps with the hard to open door.

Bosmere K767 11 Cubic Foot Compost Bin
Bosmere K767 11 Cubic Foot Compost Bin

This is exactly like my compost bin. It is about eight years old and still giving me service. I read a review a few years ago and one gardener had several and used old parts to keep two composting in his yard.

What a good idea that is.

 

Black Compost Bin Also Known As...

This compost bin is made by Scepter in Scarbourogh, ON, Canada.

You may find it under different names, such as...

Bosmere Compost Bin

Garden Compost Bin

Garden Gourmet Backyard Composter

tower compost bin
tower compost bin

Composting Start Up May Be Slow in Southern California

Just Remember the Not Too Soggy Sponge

STEP TWO

Start mixing four things in the bin.

1. Green

2. Brown

3. Water

4. Oxygen

I started mine April 2007 and all summer I had a dry container of garden leaves, branches and not much that looked like compost. I didn't get heat which I had read is a good indication of materials breaking down.

I started getting what I needed when I moved the location to a west facing wall that had hot afternoon sun and not a lot of circulation on two sides. I am a very happy gardener now. I've had compost to amend the soil and more to come. I am amazed at the way the organic matter compacts and in no time there is room in the bin for more material.

Grass clippings really get a heat going and turn black within a week. We can not put all our grass clippings in because the ideal is 60-40 on the wet to dry ratio of your material.

Green and Brown

This 60-40 ingredient mix is nitrogen and carbon.

 Compost heat as Steam
Compost heat as Steam

Aerobic Composting

Oxygen is Another Key Component of the Compost Process

STEP THREE

Turn that pile to let in oxygen.

Oxygen

Using a plastic tower or the rotating tumblers is called aerobic composting. Besides all the materials and water the pile needs oxygen to work. I found a short handled fork with four tines at the local hardware store to use as a compost turner. Look around when buying your fork. The turning forks on the internet are quite expensive.

Seeing the transformation of the materials is interesting enough that I find it no problem to turn the contents a little almost everyday just to see what is going on with the organic decomposition.

Three stages of microbes do the job. The first stage generates the most heat. When that is done another microbe takes over, is less hot and so on. As the microbes work they use the nitrogen to change the carbon into CO2 hence the heat. You will notice steam when the pile is turned. Turning the pile allows oxygen into the material so the next stage can develop.

Occasionally, I would notice an ammonia odor. Why is that? Too much grass. I found out during my research for this lens is that the carbon to nitrogen ratio was to low. To avoid the ammonia more brown material is needed. Once I found the right balance I had constant composting going on in the middle layer of the tower where it would get the hottest.

I am very curious about the workings of stuff but I have not actually measured the temperature of the generated heat. I do know if you have a 104 to 170 degree heat the pile will kill weed seeds and microscopic one celled animals. A grayish white layer is fungi developing on the cooler outer layer. This signals that the pile is in good composting stage and you will be seeing shrinkage due to break down of material. This is where bits of paper will decompose. Paper will be harder to compost because it is a cellulose. I found newspaper is faster to break down compared to paper from the house shredder.

Your important papers run through the shredder is excellent carbon and will totally break down during the composting process. You could save some electricity and just tear the papers. They will become almost dirt and of course unreadable. The paper egg cartons and paper towel rolls break down very fast.

Have You Been Using A Composting Bin?

How many readers have started a compost bin or pile?

Answer burning questions here.

99 people have responded to this question and we have a 66% yes for composting.

Do you compost in some kind of fashion?

See results

Finished Compost

Store bought compost, you may notice, has more small sticks. I do not have a chipper so I have hardly any sticks in mine. Takes too long to break up or cut by hand.

I have a screen I use to aid in getting a good batch to add to the soil. I throw big chunks back in the composter. I found that if I put in plenty of broken up dry leaves I get less chunks. We have vines that provide the dried leaves.

I find that one bin is okay. I wait three of four months for each extraction. If you have heat most of the time you should have the bottom half of the bin looking dark. I use the screen to filter the bottom half each time into a wheelbarrow. The half above your opening will stay put. Later it will start falling as it breaks down into black material.

Benefits of Composting

Many Small Units Are Better Than Huge Big Ones

It is true that your small compost pile is releasing CO2 carbons into the air. That is a big issue with the advent of global concerns for greenhouse gases. I thought of that and was leery of contributing more to global warming.

The first thing everyone should look at is themselves. If you support plant growth and generate organic wastes think about how you can be personally responsible for that. I have lots of food scraps from our three adult house and lots of plant growth from our one-third acre lot. I feel better that I am cutting on landfill waste and leaving it right in my own backyard. I also use less water running the garbage disposal. That is big in dry southern California. Less effluent to be processed at a treatment plant or running off to our bays and ocean sites.

The Black Plastic Tower Composter Offered by LA County Smart Gardening

Also Worm bins.

For those who live in LA County there is a program that conducts workshops and gives discounts for compost bins and worm bins (cash only).

The schedule for year 2016 is loaded with dates starting on Feb 8th. The workshops are at schools, parks, and libraries. The website for the schedule is smartgardening.com.

Living in Southern California gives you the advantage of producing compost year round. This type of compost bin is easy to put in a corner or behind a bush.

Start the tower drawing by paperfacets
Start the tower drawing by paperfacets

If You Do Not Have an Assembly Sheet for the Garden Gourmet Compost Bin

In the box should be:

lid

4 quarter panels

4 half panels

20 full panels

1 door panel

Assemble on a level surface. There is no bottom to this compost bin. It will sit on a level ground surface.

Start with 2 full panes and 2 half panels, with u slots facing up and locking u slots by snapping into place.

Next assembly step /drawing by paperfacets
Next assembly step /drawing by paperfacets

Put a quarter panel on each side to form the front door opening. Add a full panel to the back.

Add a full panel to both sides and then the rear.

photo from Amazon.com
photo from Amazon.com

Put the remaining quarter panels on top of the first two in front.

Add a full panel to each of the four sides. Now you have the opening complete.

Build up each side with the remaining full panels.

The last two half panels go on the top front and back.

The door slides into the grooves. Put lid on top.

End Result Good Rich Soil in Your Backyard

Will Rogers had humor that often made for serious thought. During the Dust bowl the country's topsoil blew all the way to the Atlantic ocean.

This saying from Will Rogers works today. "They're making more people everyday-but they ain't making any dirt."

I hope this article is help for your new garden project.

© 2009 Sherry Venegas

The Compost Process and Starting A Compost Bin - What do you have to say about composting?

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    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 12 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thank you for this useful and inspiring article on the tower composter. I am very enthused about getting back into gardening and composting, even though, technically, winter has not begun yet (another 3 weeks). Happy Dreams! ~Cynthia

    • paperfacets profile image
      Author

      Sherry Venegas 2 years ago from La Verne, CA

      lol, my bin is pretty odor free. It is a little work, though.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      my daughter taught me how to do it in a simple way since she learned fro school. Get a pail, throw in the waster food, peels, shells, add in vinegar and cover them up. Phew what a smell

    • Lynn Klobuchar profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 3 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

      I have been composting for a couple of decades. Big chicken wire bin in the back. My neighbor does it with me -- has een a great experience. Easy and the best science project ever!

    • paperfacets profile image
      Author

      Sherry Venegas 4 years ago from La Verne, CA

      @lionmom100: I have seen so much service with my vertical black bin. I am very happy with it.

    • profile image

      lionmom100 4 years ago

      A very good article. I'm a lazy composter with a black plastic tower with lower door. It is so much easier to use than my old round one.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I voted that one person does not make a difference, and I believe that to be true. However, a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of people all working together or independently can and will make a difference. Thanks for some great tips in these days of "green" everything. Like Kermit said: It's not easy being green. :-)

      TonyB

    • paperfacets profile image
      Author

      Sherry Venegas 5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      @flycatcherrr: I am glad to hear about all the ways your household composts. That is having it together and reusing, for sure.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Composting is great because it is one of the few clearcut ways to do somethng right in this world - turn waste into valuable stuff that we'd otherwise have to go buy! I picked the "backyard pile" choice in your poll, but I've actually got two black bins (for food waste that might attract animals), a worm bin (for indoors/winter), and a backyard pile for garden debris. Yeh, just a little compost-obsessed over here. :) *blessed*

    • profile image

      zvous 5 years ago

      In Indonesia, some people still do in traditional ways to make compost. they dig a hole, err... about 1m x 2m x 50cm depth. and then put the compost material there. cover it with some plastic. wait for 2-3 weeks. and then the compost is ready.

    • profile image

      DonMcCyclist1 6 years ago

      Thank you! Compost is amazing (I'll forgo a word that might put a G-rating on your lens in question). Though it might be other critters' (worms, grubs, microbes) waste, when I grab a handful of it and breathe in, I feel a thrill--this is real, whole dirt, and something in my nose knows this is one wonderful reward from the rotten stuff I put in. Composting can change our lives as we watch natural processes work instead of regarding everything as a waste disposal problems for more petroleum-burning solutions and that euphemisery: LANDFILL. Keep on rottin' and rollin'!

    • profile image

      VincentEllis 7 years ago

      I love the idea household composting, just think of the difference we could make if every household in the world had a bin!

    • profile image

      huvalbd 7 years ago

      Good, informative lens. Thanks for publishing it!

      Here in the UK, many local Councils make a deal with a vendor so people can buy plastic composters at a deep discount. We got black plastic compost bins where we lived before, but lack a good spot for one here--so, with a Council discount, we are trying Bokashi bins for kitchen waste and an outdoor pile for the rest. Bokashi bins aren't really smell-less, so ours is in the garage, not the kitchen. But digging the gunk from the first batch into poor soil seems to have turned that soil around. Plants are happy there now.

    • ICanCook profile image

      ICanCook 7 years ago

      I'm a gardener too and I love using compost. Now I just pile up stuff and turn it a few times a year, but it always so hard to turn, I wish I would just get one of those nifty composter. Maybe I will.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 7 years ago

      My neighbor went ballistic when I had a load of garden mulch dropped off a few days ago. The smell is too earthy for him, I guess. We usually get mulch from Griffith Park, but this was about 15 truckloads worth. Anyway, I'm frantically spreading it around the garden before my neighbor blows a gasket. Yes, it's great for the soil and the plants. Nicely done!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Here in Cambodia, there is the Voucher Skills Training Program of the Asian Development Bank and the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training and they started the communes on composting. Those involved sell their compost in the market as fertilizer. The communes engaged in this got really clean as most of the waste go to the compost.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 8 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I have one worm compost bin and then I also compost with a pile. I know it never gets hot enough, but it sure grows great weeds around it. And it definitely shrinks. I just need to water it more. Thanks for the tips.

    • paperfacets profile image
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      Sherry Venegas 8 years ago from La Verne, CA

      @mysticmama lm: mysticmama,

      Yes I like the advantage of having somewhere to put all those kitchen scraps. I think the eastern dwellers compost more than the bungaloid neighborhoods of fenced yards. I am glad to hear that you are doing this easy practice.

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 8 years ago

      I have one but think I need to move it to get more sun. I really need to get another one too because when it's full I have to wait quite awhile before I can empty it and start again. You've given me some useful tips here.

    • paperfacets profile image
      Author

      Sherry Venegas 8 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Hi Tom,

      I tried home shredder paper again. Putting it in the middle of the tower caused it to disappear in two days. With that I would put both newspaper and household shredder paper in the compost bin. Read your blog. I agree glossy is no good.

      I believe too small does not matter at all with paper. Just remember it is cellulose carbon and keep C:N at 40-60 or 30-70.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I posted a blog the other day on paper shredding and composting. What is a good size for the paper? Will a crosscut paper shredder cut the paper into too small of pieces for it to be beneficial to the compost?

      Thanks,

      Thom S.