Monday, July 21, 2014

Compost bin made of 100% salvaged wood

Now that we are full time Vermonters, we have gotten more serious about our composting habits. Until now, we used a commercial, plastic bin that worked for our seasonal needs. We plan to add more vegetable beds and grow more of our own food, and we anticipate having more kitchen and garden waste that can be turned into fine soil.  This weekend, we built a compost bin and based most of the dimensions and construction techniques based on the wood we had at hand.
Peter combed the shed, workshop and garage for spare bits and pieces. 
Years ago, we had a trundle bed and the two mattresses rested on platforms made of wooden slats, stapled onto lengths of heavy cotton twill. When the beds were finally "the worse for wear", we took all the staples out of the slats, bundled them with masking tape and tucked them away for "some project down the road". Measuring three feet long, we decided that these would be perfect slats for the sides of the bin.
In our former home, we used the classically affordable cinder block/wooden plank system for some basement storage. Now cut into 6 foot lengths, we screwed these boards to two uprights, and they became the back panel of the bin.
Another random piece of wood added to the top gave us a 4 foot high back section.
 We added uprights and cross pieces to create the basic 6'x3' rectangular frame.
The bed slats were screwed onto the two sides of the frame, leaving spaces in between to provide ventilation. A sheet of very old plywood was cut to fit in the middle, to create two section in the bin. The front of the bin is only partially finished. We need to find a few more 6' lengths of board to add to it. 

We bought a bale of straw (our only expense, so far!), covered it with scrap plastic and a few logs to keep it from blowing away in the sometimes crazy winds up here on the ridge. By layering twigs, leaf mold, garden and kitchen waste and straw, we hope to create the perfect concoction for rich garden soil.
The front is removable, to allow for turning with a pitch fork, and/or moving the compost. The front panel is secured by four bolts, one in each corner of the panel.
Even these  four bolts were salvaged... from an old (duplicate) flower press we set aside as we were packing up for the move. 

We plunked another old piece of plywood on top to keep the rain out, and now we are ready to see what the bin can do for us.
We consulted a few books for this project, but this 13th printing circa 1972 tome was most helpful. Purchased at a yard sale for $1.00 by a friend, it has been tucked into our homesteading library for years, just waiting for this day (thanks Michael). From the Introduction, "Compost is at the core, the essential foundation of natural gardening and farming. It is the heart of the organic concept."