We just bought a house and have started to transform the yard into edible food beds using hugelkultur methods. Next step, setting up my compost pile. I have done very minimal composting and could really use some suggestions and tips. Growing up we used to throw food scraps into a large garbage can that my dad later buried in trenches in the garden. I've also used one of those inexpensive black plastic compost bins that basically just holds the debris in place and keeps it warm. I got very little finished compost out of that, though I was probably throwing in too much green stuff and not enough brown. Anyway, now that I have HK beds, I won't be digging trenches. I'll need finished compost to throw on top of my beds.
So, what is the easiest way to get finished compost in a suburban area? I've read that a simple pile is best or that a worm bin is best. I have some pallets I found and thought I might put together a bin with those. Thoughts?
I use inexpensive wire fencing to make 4' diameter, 4' high wire cages. I start with straw, then layer until it's filled up. After a couple months I stir it up and move it to my finishing bin. Works great and cost me about $3. If stuff falls out the sides, I put straw or cardboard or paper around the sides to hold things in. I also put fresh fruit and veggies into a trash can to liquify for a week or so before I add them in. Be warned though, this thing is a fly machine
'Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance.' - Hippocrates
Best method in my opinion are compost worms. I regularly take their castings, mix it with a good amount of water and use it as a liquid feed for my plants. Great stuff.
If you want to do the hot composting thing, often means buying in straw, get some comfrey leaves to help it cook, get your brown to green material ratio right. Linda Woodrow had some great ideas about it in her book "The Permaculture Home Garden", though unfortunately her main idea of chicken domes is not as successful. One of those ideas, build the heap, get it cooking so it is hot, and turn it over to the next site. You can then mulch and directly plant in the area that it was, as a way of burning off any potential weeds and seeds.
I also have closed off bins for whenever I have excessive material, or when the worms are a bit less active in the middle of winter (overfeed = dead worms). These bins are a matter of convenience, and help to keep mice, and insects in check. Just empty the first bin after the second becomes full. Oh, and avoid putting weedy material in them. Have a large bucket with a lid to drown them first if you want to still keep the material on site. Or solarize them in a black plastic bag left in the sun for a couple of days.