Constructing a Compost Bin

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Something on The Side

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The beginnings of a compost bin... not just any compost bin but the Taj Mahal of compost bins!  The only thing missing is a reflecting pool but then again, a water element in front of a compost bin might detract from the rest of the garden area.

We chose to build the new bin using treated wood for aesthetic reasons.  Most of our neighbors used treated lumber for their fences and other structures, except for one who's chain link fence happened to border our property.  After several months of viewing the chain link fence, we decided to erect a wood fence of our own simply to hide the existing metal fence.  Therefore it was pretty much a no-brainier when it came to choosing materials to use for our compost bin.

Before construction of the new bin began, the old compost pile had to be moved.   With the help of a few unsuspecting friends the old pile slowly migrated about 10 feet, just far enough to allow for the construction activities.  Once the pile was moved, and the survey work had been completed, general excavation began. 

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I would like to point out a few important items for anyone who might be thinking of building a new bin.  First, make sure to have your property marked for buried cables.   Cable TV companies are notorious for burying their cables only inches deep (and they are easy to cut).  Second, have your lot surveyed if you aren't sure where the property lines are.  After spending several hours building a terrific bin, it would be a shame if your neighbor decided to make you move it three inches just because you crossed the property line.

After the excavation was finished, eight 6 foot 4x4 posts were installed framing one quarter of a circle.  This particular design was selected after many hours of day dreaming how to best fit a compost bin into our garden and yet maintain a dynamic, flowing appearance.  If you were to view the finished project from overhead, the long outsides form a 90 degree angle and are about 5 feet in length.  The back and front posts are placed 30 degrees apart forming an arc on a 5 and 10 foot radius.

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Basic construction tools consisted of a post-hole digger, spade, cutoff saw, table saw, hand drill, hammer (for driving screws the Red Green way), cart, and a few pipe clamps.

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After the back of the bin was framed work began on the front panels. 

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The panels were designed so that they are easily removed by lifting them so the bottom is about 30 inches from the ground then pulling them away from the bin.  Since the ends were tapered to match the angle of the upright posts, the panels wedge themselves into the posts if pushed into the bin, therefore preventing them from falling in.  A 3/4 x 3/4 inch strip is used to keep them from falling out of the bin.

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Finally, at the end of a hard day (one of several) one can really appreciate a cold DQ Blizzard while contemplating a job well done!

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The bin was working quite nicely by the end of summer. It had produced an ideal soil for garden use according to the Iowa State University Soil Testing Lab. In fact, they suggested leaving it alone for two to three years before adding anything to it and then only a small amount of nitrogen. Yes, composting really works if you put a little effort into the process.

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And last, your basic overhead shot of a working compost bin.

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More pictures later... maybe...