ENRI-311 ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURAL RESOURCE ISSUES TASK FORCE Constructing a Garbage Can Compost Bin A compost bin can be built easily and inexpensively using either a metal garbage-can or 55-gallon barrel. These bins can be used for food or garden wastes, but the materials will need to be turned. Turning the materials can be easily accomplished by securing the lid on the bin, turning it on its side, and rolling it around the yard. This will allow for mixing and aeration of the materials. The compost will generally be ready for use within two to four months after the bin is filled. The major drawback with this type of structure is the volume of waste that can be handled. Materials a plastic or metal garbage can with lid coarse sawdust, straw, or wood chips or a 55-gallon plastic or metal barrel with lid (Be sure that the barrel has not been previously used for toxic chemicals.) (Note: a hinge and latch may be used to secure the lid on the barrel) Tools drill work gloves Figure 1 - Garbage Can Composter Building a Compost Bin Using a Garbage Can 1. Drill three rows of holes 4 to 6 inches apart all around the sides of the garbage can. The drill several holes in the base of the garbage can. The holes allow air movement and the drainage of excess moisture. 2. Place 2 to 3 inches of dry sawdust, straw or wood chips in the bottom of the can to absorb excess moisture and let the compost drain. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin. Building a Compost Bin Using a 55-gallon Barrel 1. Drill six to nine rows of 1/2-inch holes around the barrel. Composting Basics 1. Be sure that your compost pile receives a balanced diet. You will need to include materials that are high in carbon as well as materials that are high in nitrogen. High carbon materials include paper, sawdust, wood chips, straw and leaves. High nitrogen materials include food scraps, grass clippings, and manure. Nitrogen fertilizer may also be added if necessary. 2. Maintain proper particle size. Items like leaves, limbs and newspaper work best if shredded or chopped into 1/4 inch pieces. Food scraps should also be cut into small-sized particles. 3. Make sure that your compost receives a proper amount of air. Turning or mixing every week or so will help insure proper air flow. Figure 2 - 55-gallon Barrel Composter Adapted with permission from Composting to Reduce the Waste Stream, published by NRAES, Cooperative Extension, 152 Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca, New York 14853-5701. (607)255-7654. Adapted for use in Kentucky by Kim Henken and Jenny Cocanougher, Extension Associates for Environmental and Natural Resource Issues with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. 4. Check the moisture level in the compost. Performing the "squeeze test" will tell you if the moisture level is correct. Compost should be damp to touch, but drops should not come out when you squeeze it. Add dry straw or sawdust if too damp and add water if too dry. 5. Monitor the temperature of the compost. Temperatures between 90° and 140°F are ideal. Compost bins at 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet is size maintain temperature better.
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