Creating your own compost bin can be a simple and inexpensive way to feed your garden and nurture the environment at the same time. Compost bins allow you to use household and garden waste effectively to create healthy soil. Read below for how to get started on two straightforward bins you can make with just a few key materials.
**GET WIRED UP**
A cheap, do-it-yourself bin is easy to make from chicken wire by stapling it to four posts and lining it with cardboard. A slightly more complicated version would have two layers of wire, with the gap between them filled in with balled-up newspaper or sheets of cardboard. The cardboard eventually will rot, but is easily replaced.
**Drive four 5-ft. (1.5-metre) posts** into the ground, about 30 inches (75 centimetres) apart and 12 inches (30 centimetres) deep. Use a piece of chicken wire, about four feet (1.2 metres) wide and eight feet (2.5 metres) long, and unroll it around the posts. Attach it securely to the posts with plenty of fencing staples as you go. Leave the front open.
**Once the wire is stapled** to the fourth post, snip off the excess. Check that no sharp ends of wire are sticking out; trim or bend them back so that they cannot cause injury.
**Line the insides** of the chicken wire with several layers of flattened cardboard boxes, slotting the boxes in between the posts, and wire to hold them in place. Start building up your compost in the bin. Use a cover to stop the rain from soaking the compost material and to keep it warm.
An unorthodox, but quick, cheap and simple bin can be made from a few bales. Straw is an excellent insulator, so it’s possible to make “hot” compost from relatively small amounts of material in the bin.
Eventually, of course, the bin itself will compost down, but that’s not a problem: just buy more bales and start again. The walls of a straw bin take up quite a lot of room, but you can exploit this by planting into the top bales. Anything that needs rich soil and grows fast will look good; experiment with bush tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, French beans, petunias, squash or trailing nasturtiums.
**Stack six bales** on their thin sides, to form three walls.
**Drive in 5-ft. (1.5-metre) stakes** snugly against the outside of the bales, two posts to each side. Insert a 5-ft. (1.5-metre) cane at the centre of the inside of each wall. These supports will hold up the bales when they start to decay.
**Place another bale** against the front of the bin. Start off the pile with material that has a bit of structure, for drainage, such as thin prunings. As the pile fills up, cover with cardboard, burlap, or old carpet.
**To plant in the top**, scoop out a small hollow and fill with potting mix or soil. Straw is pretty dry and has almost no nutrients, so add some fertilizer to mix and water well.
*Excerpted from* Compost: The Natural Way to make Food For Your Garden*, by Ken Thompson*
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