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People who insist on paying three dollars a pound for compost are "FAST FOOD" gardeners. Compost does need to be turned in order to get a finished product in a reasoanble amount of time.

But if you take the slow food approach: compost happens.

Another waste of money are recycled compost bins. How long will it take the FAST FOOD gardener to get $100 worth of soil from said $100 bin?

Also what FAST FOOD gardeners and many eco-warriors seem to forget: how large a footprint ( I will never use the term carbon footprint) does it take to MANUFACTURE a compost bin from any raw materials new or recycled?


Fast Food Gardners. I like that...made me grin.

Sometimes I wish I had a compost bin, just because I have 7 dogs who like to turn the compost for me. Ahem. However, mine would not be plastic.

Excellent post and I completely agree. Two bins are definitely better than one. I do like the bins that have a lid to keep out any unwanted guests. Compost activator???? Last I checked, Mother Nature does not need this for her composting efforts....

Great post.

The best composter I ever bought was made by Rubbermaid. I love it because it is very sturdy with very few moving parts--don't get me started on those stackable composters with their slats that fall apart--and it is huge, so the compost really heats up. I'd like another one, but alas, Rubbermaid is no longer producing these things.

A few years ago, I was looking for a composter for my country house and feeling cheap, ordered a $50 barrel composter on sale from Gardener's Supply. Should have known! It has a solid bottom--which means, of course, no easy access for worms and the other workers of the soil. The theory is that you are supposed to roll the whole barrel, instead of turning the compost inside with a fork. Well, have you ever tried rolling a hundred pounds of wet kitchen scraps? Not to mention the fact that the lid won't stay on.

You're absolutely right. It's foolish for Gardener's Supply to sell stuff that doesn't work.

I just toss grass clippings, leaves, branches, and whatever else I can think of in a pile in the backyard. You can't see it from the house so it's not a terrible eyesore. Sure, it's not a quick way to make compost, but it works eventually.

I've thought about getting a proper bin, but I like what Greg said about the $100 ones. I know we do this for fun and all, but sometimes when I think about the economics of it, I cringe a little.

Maybe I'll keep an eye on Craigslist or Freecycle and see if anything appears that would make a suitable container.

I left the bottoms open on my homemade compost bin and I "think" roots from the nearby trees crept their way up into my bins. All I know is that I have two compartments so choked solid with roots that I have to fight like mad to get my shovel in and get anything out. I laid weed barrier under my third bin. Meanwhile I'm trying to put off the day when I have to tip the other over, fight it all down, and start over. Any suggestions?

I have a row of three bins, Made from wooden pallets. They are about 10 years old and only the pallets separating the bins are beginning to decay. They are held together with bungee cords which were the only expense.THis means that I can get at the compost through different sides depending on where I am working I don't turn them at all or add fancy extras. As said, Mother Nature has been making compost a while without our help.

I agree--all this compost paraphernalia makes a very simple process intimidating and needlessly complicated. Here's my composting method: In early spring I covered a small area in my yard with newspaper and mulch (to keep weeds down around the cage) and over this made a round cage of wire fencing approx 4 feet in diameter. I laid some shrub clippings on the bottom for aeration, then added kitchen scraps, weeds (with chunks of soil attached), garden clippings, leaves, etc throughout the summer. I tried to cover melon and other pest-magnet scraps with layers of plants, (I don't compost meat or dairy)and so far haven't had a problem with odors or critters. Since I live in the country, I don't have to worry about nosy neighbors (some of em still burn all their trash--ugh!) and uptight neighborhood associations. By Labor Day the cage was full. I undid the cage and moved the contents to a nearby garden bed (this took less than an hour) where it will finish composting by next spring.
If you're a commercial composter, you have to know what's going on with your compost at a microbial level, and monitor the temperature and turning and all that. Fortunately, home gardeners are free to compost however it suits them best. Shame on Gardener's Supply for trying to convince people otherwise--this undermines their integrity!

When my 15 gal. nursery container is full of scraps, leaves, shredded paper, etc., I pitchfork the whole mess into a plastic composter that sits on rollers and spins in place. Everytime I add to the nursery pot, I give the barrel a spin, too. By the time the pot is full again, the compost in the barrel is ready! I did pay about $150 for it, but I value it at least that much...

Are any bins really necessary? I just started gardening last year. The compost pile was the first thing I added because it wasn't warm enough to garden yet and there were leaves still to clean up. It couldn't have been simpler. I just raked all the leaves into a pile in the back yard and then buried the kitchen scraps in it. During the summer, I added grass clippings, plant trimmings, dirt from repotting house plants, and more leaves from another leaf pile. In the fall I stopped adding to it and started a second pile with the fresh leaves. In the spring the first pile was ready to use. When the compost was gone, I left the winter pile to finish and started a new pile in the first spot. The winter pile isn't as finished as the first was, but I've been adding it to the veggie beds as the season comes to an end. By spring, the beds will be enriched and ready for planting.

I might turn the piles once or twice, but only to get the drier outer leaves into the middle and mostly for the exercise. It's more fun and a better workout than the gym and without the membership fee. There are critters in the neighborhood, cats, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, but I've never seen signs of any bothering the compost pile. The only pests are the yellow jackets if I get lazy and don't bury the veggie scraps right away.

As long as anyone is buying those fancy products, there will be companies trying to make the next big thing and sell it to us.

not everyone who wants to compost has space for a pile for slow composting. i have a good-sized garden but very little other yard. i also live in a 6-family condo & i didn't want complaints about me "dumping trash" in the yard. (as it is, i hide the fact i dump chicken doody in there. that's my free inoculate.) as a birthday present, i got a tumbler i love. since it is small i want to move things along and i get compost in 6-8 weeks and receive no complaints from the neighbors.

not all of us who buy a tumbler are ignorant, "fast food" composters, or suckers. if i had the room, i would have a simple 2 or 3 open bin "system."

Hear, Hear Donna! Though I agree there are hundreds if not thousands of complete waste of money bins, those that say all of them are a waste of money clearly don't have a back yard the size of mine.

I would love to have multiple compost piles that I could throw things in (like a weed in seed pile and the "clean pile") but realistically I have space for 2 of the quite vertical plastic containers and thats about it. Why plastic even though its terrible? Well a plastic compost bin has walls that are less then a cm thick all combined. To build the same thing out of wood you have to start eating up inches to get the same compost foot print. If you have a garden where inches don't matter I'm happy for you. But please don't judge those that buy aids for the postage stamp yards.

Its still unfortunate that those aids are really buyer beware though. So many terrible products out there for terrible prices.

i have a simple two bin system that NEVER gets turned, and makes fantastic compost (one is working while the other is being filled or used). and i threw an old shower curtain on the ground underneath to keep tree roots out...
by the way, Slow Gardening (TM) is the perfect antidote to Fast Food gardening...

Where I live, the City's solid waste division takes the old 50-gallon garbage containers ( the kind we're given for curbside pickup ), thoroughly cleans them, removes the hinged top, slices of the bottom & drills 1" holes randomly through the walls. Turned upside down, it makes a slightly conical, self-aerating compost bin. They will deliver the bin free of charge to any resident requesting one. I use one of these for composting & am considering getting a second to give me the luxury of not turning a pile. It's easy to lift ( aeration holes serves as finger grips as well) & move when I want to get at the whole pile, but I can usually turn the contents with my garden fork through the top and be done with it.

Not every city will re-use the bins like this ( mine's the only one in the region that does) but it's worth checking out. I know the County of Sacramento, just South of me, gives plastic bins to all who take part in a half-day composting workshop. Maybe other cities/counties do something similar ?

Well said. I don't turn my compost either. My husband does once every several months, if he thinks about it. I hate that companies are trying to complicate such a simple process.

Yup, I have the old Rubbermaid one -- virtually indestructable and has worked well for many years now.

Here's my Labor Day post on composting:

My piles are out of sight, but near three rain barrels and the potting bench area.

Susan's right about the soil.

Oops, I meant Frank's right about the soil. Don't pay for contrived microbe-filled soil.

Lots of good responses--I'm glad so many other people are getting good compost without all the turning.

And my usual advice is that every gardener has to find their own best practices that match their temperament, time, budget and tastes, so I can understand how some people get some value from tumblers and compost starters. I'm not saying those things don't work, just that you can often get as good a result with less expense when the underlying principles of composting are engaged. I wonder how a big shovelfull of good garden soil for microbes, mixed with 5-10 lbs. of bloodmeal or alfalfa meal for nitrogen would compare in a side-by-side test with 'compost starter'?

Also, have visited many a gardener's open compost site and seen evidence of vermin--nibble marks, tunnels, etc.--and have asked how bad the mice/rats/racoons/possums, etc. are and been assured that they haven't seen any of the pesky critters.

We have a dog and enclosed bins and we still have critters trying to dig under the bins and get into the garage for the grass seed and organic fertilizers (and shelter of course) and we live near a busy downtown. Don't know how folks with open bins think they are critter free and if any of them are, I wonder what they are doing to keep them away?


I use a couple of pieces of "hog wire" rolled into 5 ft circles about 4' high. One is for scruffy, hard to digest stuff, the other is a fast pile: grass clippings, leaves, kitchen scraps, etc. Bunny puffs speed everything up. To turn the pile I simply pull the wire off the heap, place it next to the pile and throw it all back into the newly placed wire ring. Fast pile is ready in 6-8 weeks, slow pile about every 6 months. Keep a pile of shredded leaves to cover fresh scraps and have no pests. Also compost in place in my veggie garden by piling seed-free weeds up in the pathways, covering with grass clippings and or leaves. Once it's broken down a bit, use for mulch around plants.

I paid $35 for a 50 gallon "Earth Machine" bin ten years ago and it's been good. Have mostly used it as a cold bin. Two bins would be nice but I may go the pallet/homemade route next time. I didn't have a garden fork for a long time until this year, so I turned the contents of the bin regularly (garden forks don't slice up as many worms) and I got lots of fast, finished compost spread out just in time for the fall leaf-dump. I also mixed in chicken poop and coffee grounds and misc. "green" ingredients and I must admit, my bin of hot compost gave me kind of a geeky thrill. I suppose the ultimate compost geekery is peeing in a jug, diluting the pee with water, and dumping it all on the pile. Your optimal hot pile needs water as well as air and urine is rich in nitrogen.

(Sitting in the back of the classroom at 101 composting for beginners, raises hand)

Asks, “Do I really have to pee on my compost pile?”

Lol…Sorry Chuck your comment brought a hilarious image to my (all ready warped) mind.

Are we back to garden tinkling again? Folks one day you will get arrest for obscenity with under-aged lawn waste...

I don't have bins at all, although I did put up two crib ends to mark the backs of two new compost PILES. Compost does just happen, slowly, but fast enough. And my compost is never stinky. Is that because I use so much biomass from the garden and lawn and trees, as well as the kitchen? Add a little soil is a good suggestion. Unfortunately I have no dogs which would help with the deer problem, but that is another issue.

My husband and I are both disabled to an annoying extent, so turning a compost pile is a very occasional thing, something done when we are well rested and don't need the rest of the "budget" of energy we have.

So, the last 10 years we've been slow composting. We build a big heap of leaves, shredded if possible, grass clippings (I've been known to grab bags from random yards of the clear bags left by yard companies), and whatever kitchen scraps we have.

This pile is added to as things get there, and is more...stirred, that turned. When the pile is done...that's the new garden bed.

Only drawback is: we're going to run out of spaces for new garden beds in a couple of years.

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