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trash can compost bin - does it work?  RSS feed

 
ellen kardl
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I've composted on a larger scale in the past with multiple 36" hog panel bins, but now that I don't have livestock/manure/bedding/etc, my bins are just too huge for kitchen scraps.

I have seen that people use trash cans with holes drilled in them for composting, and I want to give it a try. My question for you all is, do you think that 32 gallon bins (I have three) will get the compost mass hot enough to work, or should I get larger cans?

I'm going to drill 1/2 inch holes all around, but I'm not sure if they should be drilled on the bottom too. The cans won't be too heavy to get rolled around a couple times a week. Should I paint the (plastic) cans black? How many holes? Should the lid be vented?

Am I overthinking this? Will it work? THANKS!
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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I've never tried it, but I have serious doubts that a 32-gallon bin - or even a 55-gallon one - would get hot enough for traditional "hot" compost. But cold composting also works - and even better, I'd get worms.

Dunno whether paint would affect the composting process, but it would help protect the plastic against UV.
 
ellen kardl
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I think these cans must be UV stabilized, as they have been outside for about 5 years and they are still flexible. They are light gray, so I just thinking painting black would bring more heat inside. I have the Rubbermaid Brute cans.

Lots of people have been doing this (look here, for one place: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/soil/msg0109074524835.html ). I'm not familiar with the term "cold composting" but you probably mean something like worm bins? That would work too.

Well, I'll give it a try and report back in a few months.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Cold composting is also called moldering. In cold composting, you don't worry about carbon/nitrogen ratios or turning. Just pile up your materials and let them sit. The moldering process will not kill seeds nor all pathogens. Leaf mold from a forest floor is the end product of moldering. Great stuff for gardening, but it can take years to produce - and the forest floor needs it, so it's best left there. 

Kitchen scraps are perfect for worms. Last summer, I drilled some air and drainage holes into a galvanized 32-gallon trash can, half buried it in a semi-shady spot, added some worms and bedding, and tossed in all kitchen scraps. The worms went to town, and no matter how much stuff I added, the can never stayed more than half full.

The drawback was that it was a hassle to harvest the compost/casting. This year I am using a plastic watering trough, so harvesting is much easier.

I could see burying a trash can in the middle of a planting bed and letting the plant roots find their own way to the goodies.

 
George Lee
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Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Make one of these.. Probably more efficient. You can always have additional traditional compost cans elsewhere, but try this!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIyEQoxgocY
 
ellen kardl
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I like that! But I went ahead and made the trash can version. HUNDREDS of holes, it took hours to drill them all! It's half filled, and let me tell you, in full sun on all sides, it gets pretty hot inside. I don't have a thermometer in it yet. But I think it's hot enough to cook the seeds. If not, I'll just watch what goes in. I'm going to go ahead and make 2 more so I can let one sit while the others are filling up.

It's funny, the hens discovered it, and they go around in circles for an hour at a time pecking at stuff in the holes (which are only 3/8 diameter).

It's not too heavy to move around either, or roll on the ground.
 
Matthew Fallon
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Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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i'd say go with a flow-through worm bin in the trash cans for your kitchen scraps ,
not the best video but  this shows the basics of it
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcfX_xZtm0s

you lay newspaper across the grill on bottom ,then shredded damp paper,maybe some soil,then your red worms and some food.

for other examples try www.vermicomposting.com

i may make one from a 55galon plastic drum.i've got 10 for a rainbarrel system that i am putting off for now.
 
ellen kardl
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Interestingly enough, it seems to be working! The beauty of the trash can is that it isn't so heavy that I can't move or turn it to follow the sun a couple of times a day if I happen to be out near it. It's hot in there; I realize that the difference is external heat, vs self generated internal. Don't know if that makes a diff in the quality of the compost.

I put too many holes in the top though, so it's more wet that it "should" be. but it's turning into lovely brown stuff!
 
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