Composting: To Bin or Not To Bin!

Composting is sort of a new idea for me. Growing up on a mini-farm, we did composting a bit different than how I imagine it today. We didn’t have a compost pile or bin, but at the beginning of the season, before the seeds go in the ground, we would mix in a variety of compost materials into our soil.

Although that worked fine, I decided that I wanted something a little more structural and scientific. I want to make sure that I’m adding compost to my garden that contains the “right” amount of nitrogen and the “right” amount of carbon. I also want to have a place where all the composting can take place and I want to watch it occur.

I’ve been going back and forth about whether to build a bin or a tumbler and although leaning more towards a tumbler for ease of mixing, I still haven’t fully decided.  I have been looking at this Build a Tumbling Compost article on but am still weighing the cons and pros of both.

Pros of a Bin

  • Low cost
  • Large volume
  • Drains excess moisture easily

Cons of a Bin

  • Not as easy to access finished compost
  • More work at turning the compost
  • Can attract and harbor pests, such as mice

Pros of a Tumbler

  • Sealed
  • Increases the composting process
  • Easy to mix up the compost
  • Pest Proof

Cons of a Tumbler

  • Holds a small amount of volume (which might not necessarily be a bad thing if you only need a small amount)
  • Can be difficult to spin when fuller

Once I decide and build my compost bin, I’m excited to start adding material. I’ve read that layering between the “browns” and the “greens” (carbons and nitrogens) is one of the best way, starting with leaves and sticks.

Here are some common composting materials that I’ve found are recommended:

  • Cardboard
  • Coffee grounds
  • Corn cobs
  • Corn stalks
  • Food scraps
  • Grass clippings (for non treated)
  • Hedge Trimmings (for non treated)
  • Livestock manure
  • Newspapers
  • Plant stalks (be careful for diseased plants)
  • Pine needles (for non treated)
  • Old potting soil
  • Sawdust
  • Seaweed
  • Shredded paper
  • Straw
  • Tea bags
  • Telephone books
  • Tree leaves and twigs
  • Vegetable scrapes
  • Weeds without see heads
  • Wood chips
  • Woody brush

Of course with items that should be used, there’s always a list of items should never be used:

  • Bread and graines
  • Cooking oil
  • Dairy products
  • Dead animals
  • Diseased plant material
  • Dog or cat manure
  • Grease or oily foods
  • Meat or fish scraps
  • Noxious or invasive weeds
  • Weeds with Seed Heads

Pretty much just use common sense. It’ll be a little bit of a habit shift for us to start putting materials into our composter but with a little effort, we’ll have those microbes working for us in no time!




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