Saturday, June 14, 2008

Making Some Dirt

One drawback to container gardening is the requirement of a good potting mix. As anyone who has bought a bag of Miracle Grow mix recently can attest, the stuff just doesn't come cheap. Also, there's the ever present possibility of getting a little something extra in your store-bought soil from who-knows-what chemical fertilizers to pesky plant diseases. If you want the peace of mind that comes from all organic soil...well that costs extra.

So, with all this in mind, I've embarked on a little experiment that will hopefully be good for my wallet, good for my plants, and good for the ecosystem. I am going to begin recycling dead plant matter, leftover vegetables, and other organic material into what should be a rich compost for my future veggies.

I decided to start out small with my experiment and upgrade later on if things work out. So I made a trip to the store and picked up a 64 quart Sterilite container for about $7.00. I chose the clear plastic model because I want the sunlight to get in and heat things up a bit in order to speed the composting process along.
After getting home with my new container, I proceeded to take it out back and drill two rows of 1/4" holes around it spaced about 4 inches apart (both between the holes and between the rows). These holes are intended to provide adequate airflow so the much needed bacteria can grow and do its job breaking down the compost material. Also, I drilled a few holes in the bottom for drainage of excess water. As the compost breaks down, I want to keep it warm and moist, but not soaking wet.
Once I finished drilling all the holes, I placed the compost bin in a spot where it would get a few hours of direct sunlight per day, added some old shredded leaves, stems, dirt, crushed eggshells, outdated veggies, and even a little paper. I then wet the contents down mixed it all thoroughly and placed the lid on top. From this point on, I'll add material as it becomes available, sprinkle in a little water as needed to keep moist, and stir/shake the contents up once a week or so. I'll keep you all updated over the next few weeks to let you know how my dirt is coming along!


Annie said...

Great idea on the container. I started composting about 4 months ago. So far so good, although I still have yet to use any compost (I want to make sure it has fully composted) I have written a few posts about this on my blog...I also have a link to the type of composter I purchased. One this that I have noticed here in Vegas is that the compost dries out really quick and that you have got to add a lot of water. Keep us posted on the progress...I am so excited to see someone else composting in Vegas (I don't know of anyone else)

PS. the posts are on my "mommy" blog at
(you had left a comment on my "green" blog)

CityGarden said...

Great idea!
I think I can make something like this for my container garnen in city. Compost bins are too expensive in Greece.
I will start in September, because then I will have enough brown leaves from the trees in the street and because now we have hot summer and I'm afraid to start now because of smell.
Until then I will read about your dirt in your blog updates

Northern Shade said...

I used to have a very similar container composter before, with red wiggler worms in it. The red wigglers help the compost decompose faster. It's great for breaking down kitchen waste, and turning it into useful compost.

Patrick said...

When you are ready to expand, you might consider something like this:

It's not that there is anything wrong with what you have, but a purchased composter is designed for optimal airflow and drainage (it has an open bottom), it's more convenient to empty, doesn't need to be stirred and it's also probably a better size.

The composter in the picture is 330 liters, and is probably about right for the average kitchen or household waste of one person for a year. If you are more than one person, you will probably end up wanting a second composter if you have space. As a rough guideline, a composter will hold 10 times it's capacity in waste, because it will decompose as you add more to it. So a 330 liter composter, will hold 3300 liters when all is said and done.

You can empty it more often than every year if you want, perhaps even every few months, but then you spend a lot of time picking through not quite yet decomposed stuff trying to separate out the usable compost. It works better if you resign yourself to a one year cycle.

Everything works all that much better when you have two containers too, because when one is full you can let it sit and more fully decompose before emptying it.

This is at least my experience. I live in a Pacific Northwest like climate, so everything may be very different for you. I also don't have a sunny spot to put my composter in.

Ashraf Al Shafaki said...

Nice idea. The wholes in a plastic container is an interesting idea that did not pop in my mind before, hence my never thinking of plastic as a container for composting.

However, I guess the size is too small for composting. I guess you will fill it too quickly and will have loads of left overs from the kitchen being sent to the landfill still. Composting takes time to work. If you are going to use worms for composting, then perhaps the extra sun for warming will not be needed, in facts worms prefer it cool.

Let us know how things go, and if things go on well, perhaps you can modify things a little and also go for a larger size container to take more of your kitchen vegi and fruit peal leftovers.