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Do It Yourself - Composting Made Easy

Updated on April 8, 2013

I have been a gardener for many years now, but I was not a composter. I just couldn't wrap my head around how it worked. Finally about a year and a half ago we started our first compost pile and really it couldn't be easier. I wish I hadn't waited so long! Now instead of throwing out many of our food scraps we are turning them into awesome soil for our garden and flowers.

We started our first compost pile by making big boxes out of pallets. This worked pretty well, but it took up a lot of room and was messy. We also had trouble keeping it covered and turning it. It was nice to throw leaves, grass clippings and yard waste into, but we really didn't need something so large and it wasn't breaking down very fast.

Then I came across a site that had a detailed article about making your own compost pile out of a garbage can. We made two of these by copying the article. We used only items that we had on hand and it took about 30 minutes to get 2 compost piles set up. The items needed are a round garbage can, a drill with a 1/2 inch bit and some bricks.

The first thing to do is to go up, down and all around (don't forget the bottom) the garbage can drilling holes every few inches. Avoid the seams so as not to weaken the garbage can. Place the bricks on a level surface and set the garbage can on top of the bricks. This will provide adequate air circulation, which is one of the keys to good composting.

Now you are ready to add your materials. We filled one garbage can with material from our old compost pile and started the other garbage can with some newspaper scraps. We have since added lots of food scraps as well as some leaves and grass clippings. Everything seems to be breaking down nicely, much faster than the pallet system.

One of the reasons the garbage can composting system works so well is that you can put a tight fitting lid on it. This will trap the heat in, which is essential for making your scraps break down into compost. It is also very easy to turn this way. Just lay the garbage can on its side and roll it around on the ground a few times. Flip it back upright and sprinkle some water on it and it is ready to compost some more. You can turn it every day if you want, but we have chosen to do it about twice a week and this is working great.

Using a garbage can for our compost pile has been a very nice change from the pallet system. It is neat and contained. It is very easy to do and I think that we will easily be able to continue adding things and turning it even over the winter, which we couldn't do with the pallet system. It just ended up being a large frozen pile before. Now I think it will roll around easily even in the winter. If you are looking for an easy way to compost, this system should work very well for you.


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    • profile image

      Gale 6 years ago

      Brilliant! Thank you for this. I happen to have an unused garbage bin AND I happen to be wanting to start a heap. Much obliged!

    • profile image

      Vicky 7 years ago

      To aid in rolling the can, you can build a wooden stand (with 4 corners), and put wheels on each of the 4 corners. (Wheels facing UP) Lay the trash can on its side on top of the 4 wheels (can will be longer than the stand, thus will extend beyond wheels on either side). Simply push the can to make it roll!

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      Bill 8 years ago

      You'd be surprised at what you can feed your worms, even cardboard. There's no need to throw any organic material into the landfills or down the garbage disposal. Here's a list

      And btw, if your worm composter smells bad, you have a problem. It should always smell pleasant, like rich forest floor.

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      jencantwell 8 years ago

      Garbage cans can be plastic or metal. Just make sure to put a bungee cord or similar over the lid to keep it on firmly when you roll it to aerate it. Also, don't forget to roll it every day or two! If you don't, you'll end up with a fly-infested, stinky mess! Compost needs air to decompose.

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      Darlene R Taylor 8 years ago

      would like to know if garbage cans can be plastic or must they be metal?

    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 9 years ago from ma

      I was looking into buying one and they seemed fairly expensive. Using a trash barrel seems like a great alternative.

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 9 years ago from USA

      wonderful in fo -- when we get back to Oklahoma we're going to have a garden again and I will use this information. thank you!!

    • tamaiah profile image

      tamaiah 9 years ago

      ummm, our school taught us how to segregate garbages but they did not taught us how about composting, lucky for me i read your hub, i will tell mom about it so that we will act on it, tamaiah

    • rodney southern profile image

      rodney southern 9 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      outstanding job on this. this stuff works wonders!

    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 9 years ago from Arizona

      I know absolutely nothing about composting. How long does it take? What all can you put in the can? Does it smell bad? Very interesting article!