Compost is a vital element in the organic garden, so you mustn’t let the absence of a bin stop you from harvesting black gold.
If you’re new to organic gardening, you may have yet to acquire the perfect compost bin for your property. To some observers, compost bins seem to fall into two categories.
Some gardeners own fancy compost bins, complete with all the bells and whistles such as spinning tumblers or strategically placed hatches from which to gather the finished product. At the other end of the spectrum, do-it-yourselfers dazzle us with their ingenuity, showing off their homemade compost bins crafted from pallets, concrete blocks, or trashcans.
While you decide which of these two categories you fall into, if any, you can start a productive compost heap today. These bins require little besides a space devoted to creating garden humus and a bit of sweat equity.
If you garden on a typical suburban property where it seems that a dozen neighbors can peer into your back yard from their decks, the art of composting may feel like showing your underpants. We know everyone wears underpants, but we don’t care to show them off. The solution to discreet composting is trench composting.
You can dig a myriad of small holes for your scraps, or you can dig a larger trench. If you dig small holes, create a line along a preexisting garden bed. Every other day or so, fill these holes with your coffee grounds and apple cores.
These mini-bins will enrich the neighboring garden bed. If you have a strong back (or a willing teenager), you can dig a trench large enough to accept leaves and grass clippings, which you can disguise with a thin layer of soil or mulch.
Straw Bale Composting
If you use straw bales for your fall décor, you have the perfect beginnings of a natural compost bin. Using a minimum of four bales, arrange them so that they create an enclosure, which you can fill with compost scraps.
If you have more than four bales, extend your enclosure to make a rectangular shape, with a single bale on either end. This design is preferable to making a square or stacking the bales to create a deeper enclosure, as these arrangements make turning the compost difficult.
If you locate your straw bale compost bin in a conspicuous part of the yard, turn the bin into a living flower box. Stuff handfuls of soil into pockets atop each bale, and plant the seeds of a trailing ornamental into the bale. At the end of the season, mix the decomposing bales into the compost pile, and begin with new bales.
Composting In Situ
Perhaps the easiest way to create a compost heap is to build the pile where you will use the finished product. If you want to create a new garden bed, but your turf is unwilling to relinquish its stronghold, start piling your yard waste on the future garden site.
You can outline the planned bed with rocks or edging first, to give some shape to an otherwise homely heap. Tuck the kitchen scraps under the yard waste to deter rodents. After one year, cover the pile with a layer of soil and mulch, and plant your new garden.