Building Your Composting Enclosure

Composting is a method of rapidly converting organic materials into humus ready for your garden or flower beds. Even gardens with hard packed clay soil can use compost to loosen it up. However, the fastest way to get it working for your garden is to use it as topsoil.

You’ll need to create some kind of enclosure for holding your composting material. This is more to protect your compost from marauding chickens, dogs, raccoons and possums who want to get into your rotting goodies. Some people try to use a pit for composting, but this usually ends up in a mucky mess. Keep your compost heap above ground in a semi-enclosed bin for the best success at speed composting.

You can create your composting containment area using a number of methods. Some folks use four corner posts and then nail in rails lengthwise (horizontal to the ground) on the exterior side from one corner post to the other leaving about a 2-3 inch gap. They do this to the outside of the bin and then nail up rails on the inside of the bin adjacent the exterior rails. Other folks prefer to keep the rails parallel to each other (snow fence style perpendicular to the ground), but still leaving a gap between each rail.

Another method is to build each side as a separate unit and then wire the sections together. Use four wooden 2in. x 2in. boards to create the frame structure and then use a staple gun or nails to attach 2 inch mesh chicken wire to the frame. This is really handy as you can easily disassemble the unit and move your compost heap to a new spot.

It’s not a bad idea to put some kind of top on this heap if you experience a long rainy period. You don’t want all your compost nutrients to wash down the hillside. Try using a half-inch sheet of plywood covered with plastic or tar paper to act as a top.

Some folks prefer to build a 3-unit compost bin so that they can turn the material out of one unit and turn it into the next as it decays. This is the most complicated to build, but shifting your compost from one bin to another makes for faster composting.

Usually a compost bin is 4 feet wide, eight feet long and four feet high. You can create a larger bin, but ten to twelve feet wide and five feet high is considered maximum.

There are a lot of barrel type units you can purchase or create. If you are creating one, be sure you are certain that the barrel is completely free of whatever ‘gop’ was inside of it. Usually you can find clean metal or plastic barrels advertised in the paper or on Craiglistslist.org. Barrels only offer a small amount of composting material and they really aren’t realistic for a garden or bedding. However, if you are planning for patio pot plantings, the barrel type of composting bin is perfect.

Just a few final tips. When planning your composting bin, you need to set it a good distance away from the house, minimally 50 feet. Compost must be free of grease, bones and human or pet waste. Get a load of good red worms to help promote the transition to rich humus. For every half pound of food waste that you produce every day, plan on adding a pound of worms to your compost pile.