Dear James: My children are learning about composting in their science class. We want to do our part for the environment and build an inexpensive compost bin. Do you have any suggestions on building a simple, yet effective one? — Hope D.
Dear Hope: Organic materials such as food waste, lawn clippings, and shrub and tree trimmings make up more than 30 percent of the garbage we throw away every year. There is a way to dispose of organic material that is less costly than landfilling and also returns the nutrients to the soil. This way is composting.
There are many types of compost bins. Some are as simple as a cylinder made of chicken wire. Others can be purchased as kits and assembled in your yard. The purpose of any composter is to keep the waste materials contained. Heat and moisture in the pile allows microorganisms to speed up the process of decomposition.
You can build a very inexpensive and highly efficient bin by using wooden pallets. These pallets cost almost nothing and are often discarded at factories, hardware or home center stores. As an added benefit, this keeps these pallets out of landfills.
Assembly is simple. Place three pallets in an upright position on end, and wire them together at the corners. Secure two sides together with nails or screws for additional strength. Attach bolt latches to the front edge of the bin and the last pallet to make a removable door. The removable front makes it easy to turn the compost.
If desired, you can place a pallet on the top for a roof to keep excess moisture out. Cover the open spaces between the boards with 1″ x 4″ boards. Repeat this procedure to make a two-bin or three-bin system using six or nine pallets. Turn the compost by emptying the contents of the bin into an empty one.
Another inexpensive option is to buy any size garbage can. Drill about twelve half-inch holes randomly in the garbage can for drainage. The materials can be mixed by securing the lid and rolling the can.
Wire mesh composting bins are versatile, inexpensive and easy to construct. Roll out and cut 12 feet of metal hardware cloth to make a circular bin. Trim ends flush with a wire cutter and file off any sharp edges. Bend the hardware cloth into a circle and attach ends with clips or ties.
Make a 2-inch deep indentation in the ground the size of the bin’s circumference. Set the bin in place for composting. Make sure that the bin fits in the indentation in the ground so that the bin stands in a sturdy position.
Another option is to make a five-panel bin by cutting five 3-foot long sections of 24-inch wide wire mesh. Make cuts at the second row of squares to leave 1-inch long wires sticking out along one edge of each panel. This will be the top edge of the bin. Use a pair of pliers to bend over and tightly clamp each wire on this edge. Attach panels using clips or wire ties.
You can buy complete composting bins that you can set up in your backyard easily. Gardener’s Supply Company, (800) 876-5520, www.gardeners.com, offers several composters and supplies.
Toro, (888) 384-9939, www.toro.com, manufactures the Toro Composting Bin that converts up to 75 30-gallon bags of grass clippings into one bag of compost in a single growing season.
After you have your compost bin set up, add the organic waste materials. This may include grass, leaves, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps, shredded newspaper (black and white print), pet hair, cold wood ash and sawdust.
Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.