composting bin, any ideas?

Maigan(z6b MD)March 21, 2002

Hi, I really want to start a compost bin but all the ones I have seen are either too tall, too short and completely unaccessible. I am trying to think of a way my husband can build me one that I can manage to turn over when I need to. I have seen the barrels that you raise off the ground and turn, but that really won't make me or the compost pile happy. The pile needs to sit on open ground for the correct nutrients to work together. Does anyone have any super ideas for creating something that I can turn myself, on the ground? I am a wheelchair user with great upper body strength but from what I've heard and read, turning a compost pile is hard to do.

Anyway, just thought I'd throw this out there and see what comes up :)

This forum is great! Thanks for creating it



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Hi Maigan, Have you looked into the "rolling" compost bins? That may sound bizarre, but if you have good upper body strength, you and your husband might be able to figure out a slight modification so that you could use it. The text says that it "rolls, but won't roll away from you." Thinking that you could either have straps of some sort attached, or create a little "corral" so you could chase it (giggle).

Here's a link to one at Gardener's Supply....

Here is a link that might be useful: rolling composter

    Bookmark   March 22, 2002 at 12:07AM
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Alice_z6(z6 Boston)

Recently there was something on the compost forum
about perforated pvc pipes that you build the pile
around. A chimney effect happens, and large piles
become self-aerating, so you don't have to manually
turn them. The piles were not necessarily binned--could
just be piles, but it seemed like it would work ok
with a bottomless bin too.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2002 at 4:58PM
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Maigan(z6b MD)


I'm going to give the pipe thing a try. The rolling barrel idea was great but I have an obsession with the pile being on the ground so the little microbs can do their work ;) hehe
thanks so much for responding and happy gardening!!!


    Bookmark   March 25, 2002 at 1:14PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I live way out in the I don't have to worry about the looks of my compost pile. In fact, most of the time I never even use the compost pile after it degrades. We have been piling ALL our kitchen scraps for about 16 years on this pile, and it just all goes away! We don't turn it or do anything special. It just all ends up being a little lump on the ground! (Maybe all these wild animals are carrying it off??!). But it totally amazes me how it just disappears.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2002 at 7:47PM
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The rolling compoter has been tested here and did not receive high marks. Any plastic container without lots of air holes will retain the moisture and become too wet. Note that grass is 80% water. Plus the price.

I made my own rolling composter made from 55 gallon drums that have removable lids. They cost $ 10. My DH then puts holes in them with a large punch. On the lid there is 4 holes directly across from 4 more and several holes in a straight line on what will be bottom when the barrel is lying on the side for drainage.

The mix needs to be 50% green and 50% brown. Fill it up 3/4 of the way and put the lid on. Roll so the holes are always on the ground. If you can roll it every day that is great, but just so it is turned at least twice a week minimum will make compost in 6 weeks. I open mine every 2 weeks to check the moisture and mark on the lid with a grease pencil the dated started so I know when it is finished. But the first couple of times that you do it, you should check every week just to see if you have the right amount of moisture. After 6 weeks you will have compost.

To avoid having to sift the finished compost, I only use shredded grass, leaves, newspaper and sawdust. This way I have a tossed compost salad rather than layering. My shreader is from Sears and you can get it year round. I buy the coils of shredder line for the string trimers and cut my own line and saves a lot of money.

To help you roll the barrel if you have trouble pushing it would be to use a pry bar to help.

Please note that I have a bad lower back and can not lift over 25 lbs. I do not have any trouble with this type of composting. I have 4 barrels so I can close up one every 2 weeks.

For larger items, excess grass clippings, and kitchen waste, I use the bin system.

I normally read the junk forum and will post this in both places. I hope this will be of some help to you.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2002 at 9:51AM
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Just reread your memo and concerning your obsession with the pile being on the ground so the little microbs can do their work if you put some dirt
or fresh compost in the barrel you will have your microbs. Plus since the holes will be in contract with the ground, the microbs will find the

Good Luck

    Bookmark   March 28, 2002 at 9:58AM
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Hi Maigan,
My old back tells me that the days of turning compost are over. So, a year ago I began experimenting with ways to develop a compost pile that works quickly, it in touch with the earth and requires no attention. By George, I've got it! And it is easy to construct, durable, easy to compost in and very easy to take apart when the compost is finished. I hope you will try it. Very practical to set up in the middle of a raised bed and you can grow plants around it while it is doing it's thing. Here's how.........

1. Purchase a roll of the wire mesh that is used under stucco on houses. It is easily available at Home Depot or Lowe's. With wire cutters cut off a length about 90 inches long and 36 inches wide. Form this into a circle and wire the two cut edges together. This type of mesh is very rigid and strong. Wear gloves when handling it to protect your hands.

2. Put the wire cylinder in place. Cut and fit a piece of landscape fabric sized to go around both the inside and outside of the cylinder in one continuous piece. Cut edges can be stapled together.

3. Pound two stakes on the inside edge to hold all in place. Construction completed. Begin filling it with your greens. When all has composted the cylinder is easily lifted upward and the compost just spills out and when you have collected it simply slide your bin down over the two stakes again.

I have four of these tucked around my yard. They really work. And the reason that they do not have to be turned is that the landscape cloth has minute holes in it which allows air to pass into the pile around the sides. When I am watering plants I also give the 'composters' a drink. Wish I had thought of this years ago. It is so simple and effective for small gardens. It is a variation of another composting technique, but much easier and, as I have found, more efficient.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2002 at 7:19PM
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Maigan, have you considered a raised worm bed - NO turning required.
With having limited upper body strength, adaptation is a necessity for me and I've found that vermicomposting produces more black gold to the smallest effort ounce than any other method I've found so far.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2002 at 2:32AM
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Maigan(z6b MD)

ohhh Snavl, I have never heard of a raised worm bed. how do you go about doing that? that sounds like fun. do you use regular old earth worms??? do they winter well? hehe

Thanks everyone for all your great suggestions. I"m currently working on a compost pile with the wire and a pipe ;)

Now I want a worm bed hehehe man I love spring! I want it all

Hugs ;)


    Bookmark   March 30, 2002 at 10:54PM
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Maigan, you can build the raised worm bed straight onto the ground, but it isn't necessary when vermicomposting to have ground contact, as the introduced "compost" worms have those little microbes already in their gut. Picking the site for an on ground bed is important, eg if there are any trees nearby, even within 25 metres, their roots will more than likely find the bed and form a fibrous matting which can eventually choke the bed. Any outside beds need protection from heat, rain and cold, and must be well drained, but none of these are a big problem. Worm beds may be as deep as 3 feet, but this makes it more difficult to harvest the castings, and you'd need access to the bottom more compacted layers which requires too much shovelling for my liking.
The bedding only needs to be 6 inches deep to be able to produce castings, tho I keep the bedding to about 12-18 and seem to have less trouble with bed temperature, moisture etc especially in the extremes.
A permanent above ground bed is really only a flat, open (no lid), hardwood box, supported on cement blocks or bricks (stand these in a flat tray of water and no ants or other creepies in your bed) and it also encourages the worms to stay put. Say 10ft long by 2.5 - 3ft wide (depending on your reach) with 15-18-24 sides. This bed would eventually support I guess up to about 25 kilos or 100,000 worms - lotsa mini-microbe factories! A permanent peaked roof could be constructed for rain which would also provide a Âframe from which to hang shade cloth or black plastic. Even if your area receives snow, you can over-winter your worms.
I realise this description is not detailed, but if you need more info feel free, I'll help as much as I can and this site is swarming with experts. You may email me as well, &/or check out the archives of the site below, it holds a library of info, &/or do a search here at GW under worms, &/or do a search for vermicology or vermicomposting on the web &/or do a trip to your local library. Many hints available, much fun and much much black gold.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vermicomposting

    Bookmark   April 1, 2002 at 7:21PM
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Maigan....May the four winds of this fine universe smile upon 'ye. Please consider reading Ruth Stoudt's, No Work Garden Book. It is out of print. Your library will get it in for you. My second bit of advice is to throw away every other gardening book you may have. For it has been said, "if you read more than one garden book you are already in trouble". I have gardened for over fifty years without using mono-culture chemicals. I have found no other gardening book that makes as much sense as The No Work Garden Book. Read this book and follow it's principles to make your gardening problems go away. As an aside to your specific needs this book will solve your compost problems too! You may E me if you like. I never turn a compost pile. It just takes a little longer to make the black gold that way. I'm in no hurry. How about you?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2002 at 11:37AM
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Jillrob(NC 8)

Hi Megan,

I'm a strong upper body w/c user, too. I do all kinds of composting. I dig my kitchen scraps right into the garden, either by digging it into the soil in empty places in the garden, or by just tucking it under the mulch around plants. They disappear in an instant in the summer!

I also have a tumbler (which is REAL accessible). It's a vertical bin that spins head over heels. I can spin it easier than walking people--they seem to get knocked in the head. BUT I don't like the bin. You really need to save everything somewhere else then add it when you've got enough to make a batch. A bother.

I have a pile in the side yard. I just throw stuff on it, and fluff it once in a while with a pitch fork rather than turning it. There's also a gadget that is a straight rod with little flippers on the bottom. When you push the rod down through the compost pile, the flippers withdraw into the rod, but when you pull it out again, they flip down and provide great aeration. (Of course none of this is really necessary.)

I also do vermicomposting right in the house. I've got worm bins sitting on a table (to bring them up to a convenient height) and feed them kitchen scraps as well. This is my favorite compost.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2002 at 4:24PM
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Hi Megan,

We had an electrical smoker that stopped working so I am using it a composter. The smoker came in 3 parts; a lower tray, a cylinder camber for center, and a top cover. I am using the center and top. I just placed the cylinder on the grow and started filling it with the proper mixture. Since I wasn't planning to use this mixture until next season, it works well for me. Also, it is small and attractive. Once it is filled to the top in approximately 3 weeks, I am going to remove the top and plant flowers in it too.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2002 at 9:30AM
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tumbler_steve(UpSt NY)

hi all,
i want to build an outdoor compost bin that is attractive and neighbor/landlord friendly.
here is my idea, tell me what you think:

3 bin composter out of wood.
each bin is approx. 1 cubic foot
i'm making the bins removable
i'm using 2 step sifting method (larger wire mesh on the top bin/loading bin and finer at the bottom of the middle bin)
i want to have a worm bin in the middle.
i'm making a grinding mechanism for the top/loading bin
the idea is to break up the compost before it hits the worm bin to speed up the process.
at the bottom of the middle bin i want a fine wire mesh (hard ware cloth bottom)
the idea is to have the finished compost fall into the bottom bin.
i'm building it so it will tumble (will flip head to tail) as well.
is this too much? have i combined too many ideas?? will the worms stay in the middle bin?

also, how much air do i need for this to work and should.
i know this is a lot stuff to take.

thanks, steve

    Bookmark   July 7, 2004 at 4:09PM
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There are some gardeners who feel that turning compost is actually counterproductive, as it kills organisms and disrupts structures that the organisms have built. This is much like the idea that tilling is destructive and less effective than adding materials on top of soil. However, aeration is always good. An easy way is to use a stick, pole, hunk of rebar, garden stake, tool handle, etc. - insert it into the pile, gently stir it around until it goes as deep as you want, then remove and do again in another spot. It aerates without turning or overmuch effort.

I have the Smith & Hawken Biostack composter, which consists of several hollow plastic squares that can be piled on top of each other to form the walls of the bin. You can start with just one layer, then add layers as your pile gets taller. When it shrinks, you can remove layers - so you never have to reach into an unnecessarily tall bin. I got mine very cheap through a county program promoting composting and recycling.

I am wondering if anyone has ideas for ways to sift and/or harvest compost that are easy on the joints.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 9:14PM
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my dh framed out a large screen for me. but normally my compost doesn't need to be sifted...i'm trying vermicomposting now too to get me through the winter- very very easy on my joints

    Bookmark   March 3, 2005 at 12:42AM
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earthlydelights(6 pushing 7)


excellent invention. i'm going to give your idea a shot and put one here, there and everywhere around my property.

one question, how long did it take to break down?


    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 10:56PM
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marie99(z8 SC)

I never turn compost. I keep it in big plastic tubs with a few holes drilled in them, all around and on the bottom. I find worms in them even though I don't put wiorms in them. Whatever the compost needs, its obviously getting it.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2005 at 2:15PM
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i have to say after all my years of composting on the ground, i do love my vermicomposting even more!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2005 at 12:04AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

The easiest way to turn compost is with the $20 item below, a Compost Turner. I've had one for several years, & it works just great. The business end has two metal wings that fold against the shaft going down, then flip out when you pull up.

Just one thing to remember: NEVER just jam it down into the compost as far as you can, or the weight of the compost will trap it there (don't ask me how I know!). Use it in the top section, dig & lift, fluff that up, then go a bit deeper, then deeper, until you reach the bottom. The whole bin gets aerated, and it only take a couple of minutes. Be sure to get the one with a T-shaped handle as below. There is an L-shaped one that looks harder to use, as you have to do it one-handed.


Here is a link that might be useful: Compost Turner

    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 11:20PM
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Has anyone heard of or tried the Green Johanna Hot Composter? This is the bigger version of the Green Cone Composter. I'm tempted to buy either the UCT 9.5cuft tumbler or this Green Johanna Hot Composter stationery bin. I can't see filling up the UCT in one shot, especially since we will only be putting in vegie scraps from the kitchen and garden and some fall leaves. I think the UCT looks just fabulous, though. We live in a tight neighborhood, so can't even consider the open wire-mesh or other open-bin style composting systems.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2007 at 5:59PM
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I put a 55 gallon drum on the wheels of an upsidedown wheelchair. It rolls so easy. Then I cut a 12" x 12" hole in the middle of the drum. I put hinges and a hasp on the piece I cut out to make a door for loading the leaves, kitchen scraps, etc. Next I drilled about 20 1/2" holes in the bottom and in the removable lid about 6" from the edge so the liquid won't leak out. I rotate it every day, sometimes twice a day. When it's ready to empty I just roll a wheelbarrow under the edge of the barrel, remove the lid and rake the compost in the wheelbarrow, put the lid back on, put the ring back on the lid, tighten it up and start all over again.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 6:16AM
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Any comments or questions on my 55 gallon drum and wheelchair composter are welcome. e-mail address is: Signed: ANAEROBIC

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 4:28AM
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Please help. I am new to composting. 1/2 green, 1/2 brown, egg shells, newspaper, fruits and veggies. Got it. Throw them all together in an aerated, moist bin. Got it. Rotate twice a week. Wait approximately six weeks and whalla! Do fill the bin just once and manage it for six weeks? What do i do with the rest of my daily waste during the six weeks? Do i add it to another bin? How do i continue to apply daily waste to my composting if my one bin is in the works? Thank you, all.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 3:05PM
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I tried a lot of composter ideas including the rolling kind once you start filling them with dirt and other materials they get very heavy and when all the wight is settled in the bottom it takes super human streingth to get it rolling. I tried wooden 4 Ft sq bins with chicken wire on the sides but this type of pile needs to be turned and as i am wheelchair boud its very difficult. What i have settled on is a pre made i got from Lowes (40.00) it has 4 openings at the bottom. As made it not much good really not much different thad a plastic barrel. But on each side there are evenly spaced holes. I placed rods through these holes at the lowest level in the front hole out the back then i laid hardware cloth cut to size ove the the rods. now as i add the various layers of dirt, leaves ect. the pile remains on the hardware cloth until it has rotted enough to pass through the cloth. By this time it is well composted and ready to use. There is no bottom to the composter so the compost has contact with the ground and worms will probably invade the pile. Adding coffee to the pile will attract worms but to jump start the vermaculture i went to a bait store and bought some worms and introduced them to the pile. incidentally the addition of any kind of nitrogen is helpful for compost if you do not want to buy it simply pee on the pile as urine is high in nitrogen. Good Luck PS I am thinking of adding perforated PVC into the pile to increase decomposition (The more air the better)

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 5:34PM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

Hubby and I used to garden together. He came up with the idea for 2 composts piles . Both just piles of food scraps and grass clippings on the ground, in opposite corners of our small (one third acre) back yard. Use them every other year, so that one is always allowed to "sit" for two years. In the spring, till the older pile into your garden soil. Next year, use the second pile. We are good about makingcompost. No meat scraps of any kind, just fruit and vegetables, leaves and grass clippings. One year I added newspapers. No glossy magaziones or colored comics, just black and white newsprint.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 8:31AM
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mamasylvia(Cheyenne now 5a!)

You folks have gotten me all excited to compost again! I'm going to start saving kitchen scraps and make DH start a raised bed frame of concrete blocks, so I can start adding food & paper now and be ready to add worms in a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 8:42PM
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Worms, monn. Get WORMS. Also: Grow willow but NOT in THE GROUND. Please, just in a pot.

I too have problems with the darn compost outside. I'm upright but difficult to swing those tools. I'm trying a 3x3 size instead of the larger. Maybe I can handle it. But I can always rely on my indoor pets to feed my soil. Right now they're breeding like crazy. DH built a rolling dolly to put the 35 gallon tub on so I can wheel them from their normal location to a table where I need to harvest that wonderful castings. I did an experiment this spring. Two marigold seeds. Planted both in the same medium, provide the same culture but one of them has 1 tablespoon of worm castings upon start. The one with worm castings is triple in size and exceeded the other greatly. I cannot get this from my compost pile. However, I need my compost pile to amend my clayey soils. The worm poop provides all the nutrition and coupled with the willow water it provides all the protection from disease I need. I brew worm tea and water and put just a little castings in with the soil.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:00AM
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