Weekend Gardening: A Cheap and Easy Way to Compost

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If you peruse garden sites and catalogs, you’ll find an abundance of products to help you compost, and frankly the prices can be pretty ridiculous. In our opinion, $200 or more for a compost bin plus another $40 for a pretty crock to store your kitchen scraps until you have time to take them out to the compost bin hardly makes composting worth it, so we MacGyvered a simple and relatively inexpensive solution for composting using plastic storage bins available at any home improvement center.

Andrea Meyers - compost bin

Michael bought three of these bins and drilled some holes for ventilation, then we began filling them up. In our kitchen we keep a gallon plastic bin that collects the daily scraps, then we empty it each evening into the compost bin. We don’t use chemicals to treat our grass, so grass clippings go in the bins along with fallen leaves, fruit and vegetable peels and scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea leaves, nut shells, saw dust, hair clippings, dryer lint, wood chips, and other assorted organic materials.

During the summer we keep our grass clippings in a pile next to the compost bin and add a layer of grass every time we add kitchen scraps to the bin. The layer of grass on top seems to help keep the scraps underneath a little warmer, which helps with decomposition. After filling a bin, we keep it closed except for occasional turning and start filling the next one, so we have three bins in constant rotation. This compost is about four months old.

Andrea Meyers - Compost, 4 months old

The method seems to work pretty well and gives us fresh compost every four months in the warmer half of the year. In winter the compost doesn’t heat up as easily, so it takes longer for the compost to mature.

Once a bin is mature and has nice dark brown earthy material, then we spread it around the garden, rinse the bin, and start anew.

Andrea Meyers - Compost on raised bed #4

Last spring I attended a presentation on kitchen gardening by Rebecca Bull Reed, Associate Gardening Editor for Southern Living magazine, and she shared some tips for starting your own compost:

  • Healthy compost is composed of 1 part green (the stuff you save in your kitchen) to 2 parts brown (dead tree leaves, healthy leftover soil from repotting, etc).
  • Add to it and turn it over regularly.
  • Cut your vegetables scraps small so they break down faster, or you can even run them through a blender.
  • Good compost takes 2 to 6 months to create, but your patience will be rewarded with nutrient-rich compost to add to your garden.

Composting is not a mystery, it’s something anyone can do and your garden will reward you for it.

More Information on Composting

EPA.gov: Composting

Garden Fork – How to Compost Your Leaves

Kitchen Gardeners International

More Gardening Posts

Weekend Gardening: Vegetable Gardening Tips from Southern Living

Weekend Gardening: Fruits of Our Labors

Weekend Gardening: Starting Seeds Indoors

[Disclosure: This blog earns a small commission through affiliate links.]


  1. says

    This is just perfect! Have been using an open compost pile while getting the rest of the yard in shape, but will definitely copy this idea! I do lasagna and postage stamp gardening and this is the perfect solution. Well done.

    • says

      We also lasagna our raised beds. When we pulled all the dead plants out after frost, we left the fallen frozen tomatoes and tomatillos in place and just this week added another layer of compost on top. It’s so easy and good for the soil.

  2. says

    If you need extra garden space, check out my blog this week for postage stamp gardening in plastic bins. Hate spending real money for things that have such simple solutions!

  3. says

    Our BioStack composting bin was subsidized by the city so it didn’t cost too much. Pretty much kept everything neat. I practiced hot composting the first year, but got lazy and went with cold composting – everything broke down fine; it just took longer. The worms really loved it.

    Just like homegrown food, there’s nothing like home grown compost!


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