Compost from a Rubbermaid Bin
A Pictorial Revealing
How Anyone Can Compost
by Josh Day
our first home in July of 2006. Situated on an acre of mostly wooded
property, we had ample leaf fiber and space for a full-blown composting
operation. We originally planned a large, elaborate, DIY system that
never got off the ground, located near a patch of earth we had staked
for a vegetable garden. A year later we accepted the fact that this
idea would never get off the drawing board, and we began to look through
catalogues for a premade composter.
affordable one that would fit our needs cost $130. As we had the knowledge
of making a superior composter for a mere fraction of that, there
was no way we were going to spend that kind of money.
end, after scrapping another idea for a toned-down DIY project, and
almost on a whim, we turned a Rubbermaid container that once held
tools into a composting bin that conveniently sits in our carport.
below details the process of seeding and starting again with leaf
fiber and shredded paper after our first compost "harvest."
are the finished results of approximately two months of "cooked"
compost. You'll find some leaves in the mix if you look closely.
This is why you need to mince the leaves a finely as you can;
we ran over a pile of leaves with our mower, but obviously a
fair amount survived. As you can see, the leaves don't break
final product should be dark--almost black, rich, and smelling
earthly sweet. Compost that is not ready has rotted wet matter--the
food items--that hasn't broken down yet and also stinks. Compost
that's ready for your garden will have a pleasant, rich-soil
is our compost bin. It's a long Rubbermaid tub that has a pair
of wheels at one end. The wheels are a great feature on a composter;
you can lug it anywhere in your yard with ease!
can see ventilation in the exposed handle area at one end (also
at the opposing end). It's not much, but it acts like the vents
in a CPU chassis, shuttling air in and out. When composting,
you must have adequate oxygen exchange because methane gas can
build up and literally blow the lid off your bin.
perforated the lid with a drill for further air exchange. I
stirred the compost every day or so. We had no problems with
oxygen getting to the compost. In fact, I personally think the
dark, enclosed environment helped break down the material at
a faster rate.
harvesting the finished compost, we left a little more than
a gallon at the bottom to seed the next batch. Then we shredded
our junk mail into a compost-feeding confetti. The paper is
"dry" material that's crucial to breaking down the
wet, rotting stuff and creating compost.
compost purists (or compost nazis, if you prefer) frown on the
usage of paper because of the black or color ink on the paper.
My wife has been making herb gardens with layers of newspaper
and soil (a "lasagna garden") for years and every
one has been a great success with very little weeds. In regard
to the health risk of the ink and potential contamination of
ground water, I personally think it's nothing compared to the
hard chemicals routinely sprayed on our produce.
we have the remains of a leaf pile I made along the edge of
our woods two autumns ago. I simply ran the mower over the pile,
repeatedly mincing the leaves until they were as fine as possible.
took what I needed and left the rest for future compost cycles.
fiber is the most crucial ingredient in your compost stew. You
always want to have a ratio of 2:1 or even 3:1 dry to wet matter.
If you don't have enough dry matter like paper or leaf fiber,
your wet matter won't break down and will simply turn into a
filled up the Rubbermaid bin more than halfway with shredded
paper and leaf fiber. Then I gave everything a good stir with
compost buffet would be complete without the signature watermelon
keep a sealed container in the kitchen for food wastes. When
it's full, we dump the contents into the compost bin in the
carport. We originally kept the food matter in a bucket, but
naturally fruit flies moved in and we quickly had an infestation.
though the Rubbermaid composter is only a few feet outside the
kitchen, having some kind of temporary storage/transport from
the cutting board to the outdoor bin is much more efficient
than constant trips to the carport while you're chopping vegetables.
here's what you want in your composter:
and fruit matter (onion exteriors, fruits and veggies that
have turned, peelings, rinds, husks, apple and lettuce cores,
shells without any whites or yolk, crushed
bags and coffee grounds
chopped fish (shellfish, especially the exoskeleton, included)
and some grains (once again the compost purists say NO to
pasta, but I've found it breaks down as fast as plant matter
if not faster)
paper napkins, in moderate numbers
this is what you do not want:
foods of any kind (junk foods like potato chips, fries, candy,
wife's parents compost everything organic (containing carbon,
the element of life, not organic as in natural), including the
stuff in the don'ts list above. And you know what? It
works out fine for them. Granted, their end results are not
as black or rich as ours turned out, and the stuff rots a lot
slower, but they've had no problems at all with their gardens.
is the temporary bin in which we kept our wet matter while the
main composter spent three weeks "digesting" the stuff
we had earlier laid in. When the compost really begins to break
down, and you feel you have a good amount, give it a rest for
two to three weeks and let it finish. You don't want half-rotted
banana peels and apple cores in your garden, do you?
going to get a lot of maggots, then a lot of flies, so you may
want to keep your temporary bin not so close to your house.
Also, you'll need a strong stomach as things get nasty when
you compost only wet material.
the dried grass. I threw in a handful every time I made a big
deposit. I found this helped with the smell and kept things
from turning into a complete gooey mess.
more note about grass.
the smell of your compost is killing you, throw in some fresh
herbs, like rosemary shown to the right.
you can see, our rosemary really likes its spot and grows like
tossed in two massive handfuls early on in our first compost
batch. The leaves broke down, but the limbs remained, although
they were on their way out during harvest time. I'd recommend
tying the herbs together in a bail of sorts so you can easily
pull it out when your compost is ready.
handful of fresh or dry grass clippings, scattered over the
top of the compost, acts as an accelerant to biodegradation.
Lawn clippings are an excellent source of nitrogen and do a
great job of kick-starting the composting process.
in, here's what the compost stew looks like after a quick stir
with the shovel. The brown stuff is the leaf fiber. Note I purposely
kept the seeded compost, the black, rich stuff, at the bottom.
when stirring, you want to mix up the very bottom with the top.
Give everything a good shake and stir.
discover the stuff at the bottom composts faster, where there's
less oxygen and light. During hot days, you may even see your
compost pile steaming. This is normal and a sign that it's "cooking."
summary, a Rubbermaid bin makes for an excellent composter.
You probably have one lying around your house right now. This
setup is ideal for small houses and even condos with limited
outdoor/garden space. Composting allows you more room in your
garbage cans and saves you money down the road on fertilizer.
a handful of grass clippings, a good amount of leaf fiber or
shredded paper, and a continual supply of organic plant waste,
anyone can compost.
Throughout this entire website, statements are made pertaining to
the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration
and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat,
cure or prevent any disease.