3-Bin Composting

       In my mind our composting process begins in the kitchen.  The countertop compost bin, a ceramic bucket marked “simplify”, hosts all our organic kitchen waste, including vegetable and fruit discards, coffee grinds and spent filters, peanut butter and jelly sandwich remnants, anything besides dairy or meat waste.  When full we dump it into one of three outdoor bins, where it is joined by garden and chicken coop waste.  
       There are a handful of factors that go into a good compost mix: nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, water, and heat.  Nitrogen sources are green, like food waste and garden clippings.  Also, chicken manure or urine (we’ve composted our kids’ gDiapers - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0019I6R0E/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0019I6R0E&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20 over the years).  Carbon sources are brown things like dried leaves, pine shavings from the coop, or shredded paper.  The ratio is high on the carbon side – I’ve seen as much as 25:1 – so before we had the chickens’ shavings to add to the mix we used our shredded documents.  The mix is ideally well-oxygenated, which can be done by turning the bin frequently or mixing in coarser material so the layers can breathe.  Moisture can come either by rainfall through holes in the bin’s top or by occasional watering.  The other important factor in breaking down organic waste is heat.  Compost bins are usually black or a dark material to capture the sun’s heat.  Here in the Arizona desert there’s no shortage of heat and sunlight.  
      Our 3-bin setup - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003959G9Y/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003959G9Y&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20 allows us to rotate the material when one of the bins fills up, which serves to aerate and mix it all together.  The third bin holds the oldest, most broken-down waste, which is (usually) ready for use in a garden bed.  The second bin has the in-between, the stuff that contains chunks of usable soil but with areas still needing more time, heat, moisture, and air.  I suppose a little bug action as well.  The first bin contains all our immediate kitchen, yard, and chicken waste and is by far the most disgusting, filled with rotting food and heaps of bugs just loving the stuff.  Some might think the process is a smelly one, but a well-balanced mix should not have any smell at all. 
       The photos here show the process of transferring the contents of our number one bin, which has filled to the brim, to our number two.  The bins are made with a removable panel at the base, which can be opened for accessing already-composted material.  This also makes it easier than digging out the top but I usually dig out a few scoops then pull the bin off altogether.  We seem to make this transfer every four to six months, or whenever the gardens die and vegetation fills one up.  Sometimes I think the contents should be mixed more often than we do it, but having the three bin setup seems to allow things to decay naturally without much intervention.  Though it’s a task I tend to procrastinate, I always feel accomplished when completed.  Seeing and handling our discarded waste that’s turned into rich organic matter is to witness the completion of a natural cycle, our own backyard’s contribution to the ecosystem.  

Bin 1 with fresh organics on top

Beginning the transfer; Beta waits to sniff

Chicken goes after bugs, Bug goes after chicken

A sample of garbage-turned-soil

Transfer complete, adding moisture

Books on the Topic:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1615640088/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1615640088&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20

Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting (Third Edition) (Storey’s Down-To-Earth Guides) - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1580170234/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1580170234&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20

Shared at  The Homeacre Hop - http://summersacres.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-homeacre-hop.html
Shared at  The Backyard Farming Connection - http://www.backyardfarmingconnection.com/2013/05/the-backyard-farming-connection-hop-31.html
Shared at  From the Farm Blog Hop - http://theadventurebite.com/from-the-farm-blog-hop-32/
Shared at  The Homestead Barn Hop - http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2013/05/homestead-barn-hop-111.html
Shared at  Frugally Sustainable - http://frugallysustainable.com/2013/05/frugal-days-sustainable-ways-72/
Shared at From the Farm Blog Hop

Green Thumb Thursday Linkup

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Comments

  1. I like this system. We have composted over the years simply by piling stuff away from the house, (animal manure, grass clippings, etc. )turning the piles with a pitch fork every so often , then using when needed in our gardens.

    This system seems a bit more user-friendly.

    • To us composting has always seemed incredibly simple. We just keep throwing stuff in there, switch bins once in a while, and things break down in just a few months. I’d bet it has a lot to do with using this method since we’re never trying to use composted material that may be mixed with fresher, less broken-down material.

  2. I have one of those bins and while I liked it in the beginning, I wish I had bought a tumbler. This bin has gotten all out of whack. The slider door in the front doesn’t open. So if I want to get the dark beautiful compost out of the bottom I have to tip it over and shovel it out.
    How often do you add shavings and chicken poop from the cook to your compost bin?

    • Thanks for the comment, I know what you mean about the bin. I disregarded the directions a bit in putting it together and the cover doesn’t go on quite right. If needed in the future, I will get a tumbler because I like the idea of mixing and aerating every time you add to it, or at least more frequently than I do now. Maybe an old wine barrel or something.

      We add shavings each time we clean a coop, which is usually about every other week.

  3. Really good information on your composting process. We are currently using a 2 bin process. Thanks for sharing!

    Please join us again Thursday at:
    The HomeAcre Hop - http://summersacres.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20HomeAcre%20Hop

    ~Ann

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  5. Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop! We featured it yesterday!

Trackbacks

  1. […] the good old fashioned compost pile, or the DIY trash can compost bin. There’s the simple 3-bin composting system, which allows you to rotate your compost material. You can also build compost bins out of wood […]

  2. […] 3 Bin composting from Five Little Homesteaders […]

  3. […] is a pretty simple and easy way to go.  My husband wrote a post over a year ago about our simple 3-bin composting system.  He talks, in his post, about the importance of heat in a healthy composting system, but never […]

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