One bin, always ready compost method

Having an ample supply of good rich compost is a garden necessity. Compost has many uses, and all of those uses will result in nicer plants. It can be expensive to buy though and making your own free compost can be time consuming and hard work. I'm pretty busy in the summer, so spending hours and hours turning compost piles isn't exactly the best use of my time. Plus I just don't have it in me to manage several different compost piles. Instead I use a one bin, 10 minutes every week, easy method of composting, and it works perfectly!

Easy one bin compost method. Always ready!

I didn't want to mess with a bunch of bins or have a huge unsightly compost pile. I did need my own compost though. Compost is necessary for a healthy garden, especially an organic garden. Instead of the traditional high and wide wooden bins I went with concrete block and a bin that was much shorter and longer. It works out well for me. Here's how to build one...

Easy one pile compost method

Instead, I have one long and low composting bin. The bin is about three feet wide, two feet deep, and eight feet long. I built the bin by stacking concrete blocks on the ground. I like them better than wood because they tend to hold moisture better. 

I left small gaps between the blocks for air circulation. 

I started by filling the bin in the front. I put grass clippings, dried leaves, and plant trimmings in the bin along with kitchen scraps and chicken coop litter (if you have it). I try not to put more than a few inches of each material on a layer. You don’t want a solid foot of grass clippings in the bin and you should alternate layers of green and brown material. 

If necessary, keep a few bags of dry leaves around so you can alternate layers of brown waste and green waste. You could also dry out grass clippings by spreading them out in the sun for a few days...this will turn them from green to brown.

I fill the first two feet of the compost bin all the way to the top before starting to fill the next two feet. I work in imaginary sections, though you can absolutely mark them off in some way of you'd like. I pack as much material in that row of the bin as I can before I start filling the second row. While you're filling a row do not turn it! Once a row is full you'll start turning it but work on filling the row behind it.

I put down some twine so you can see what I mean.

Easy compost method. Single bin.

Flipping the compost

Once that first row of the bin is full, the rules of composting say that you should turn the material in the bin every week. Always turn a row over into itself. Mix from the outside in, flip the inside to the outside and the bottom to the top. Mix each row into itself, but try not to mix the rows with each other. This only takes a few minutes. 

I placed my compost pile under the trees. The shade keeps it from drying out too quickly and the placement keeps it out of our main area. While your compost pile shouldn't smell, it can happen occasionally and this keeps it out of our immediate smell zone. The moisture keeps the material damp, and will cause the pile to heat up, which is what makes the composting action take place.

If you live in a really arid climate you might want to water it once in a while. Remember that moisture speeds up the composting process but too much will make the mixture soggy and smelly. As the material in the first row starts to break down, it will settle and the row no longer appears full. 

The compost at the front of the bin will be ready first. When I need it I just scoop it out and use it. Once that row is emptied I turn row #2 into the first spot. Turn #3 into the second spot and so on all the way to the back of the bin. This will leave an empty row at the back which you will now start filling again. 

You will always add raw material to the back of the bin and pull finished compost from the front. This way you always have some compost ready to use.

Easiest compost method ever!

I particularly like this system because the material is all in one pile. This way the microorganisms, insects and bacteria which help to break down the pile are always present and can spread through the pile easily. Once your first row is ready, it feels like this method is faster for the subsequent rows than if you make separate compost piles or bins. The only real downfall that I've found from this method is that sometimes the compost doesn't get hot enough, and some weed seeds get through and could sprout in your garden.

Having a pile of rotted compost in the front of your compost bin is great because if you have a lot of leaves or grass clippings to add to the back, you can throw some rotted compost in with it in order to maintain that layered/mixed effect that is necessary in order for the composting process to work well. 

Sure this process is a little work, but when I have free, beautiful compost to add to my gardens...it's all worth it!

Related reading: Want more information on organic gardening? Check out this collection of articles on gardening.

~L

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