The Mobile Compost Bin

Compost is a crucial part of your garden soil. Worm castings are an excellent source of nutrients for plants that can be mixed with soil or can be converted to a compost tea to fertilze the plants directly.

There is nothing wrong with purchasing bags of compost. However, if you have the space, you can place leaves, food, paper and cardboard waste in a compost bin with worms and have it nourish your future dinner. Just about anything in your kitchen can be composted. The exceptions would be dairy products and meat. Coffee grounds, egg shells, napkins, tea bags, bread, and most leftovers are perfect. The less obvious items I use are dog hair, human hair (from brushes), vacuum cleaner waste, which is mostly the two previous items and dust, and dryer lint. Although lint doesn’t break down, it retains water like a sponge. Paper towel rolls and certain cardboard work as well. I avoid the glossy colorful boxes. Kitchen scraps can be placed in an old Tupperware container with a produce bag placed inside for easy removal.

The best plan is to layer brown and green layers like a lasagne. Brown is leaves and paper products. Green is coffee grounds and kitchen waste. I go to the Saturday farmers market and collect carrot and beet greens, bruised tomatoes, cabbage leaves, etc. Some of the farmers will allow you to load up as much as you want. Autumn leaves are another great source for the composting. We have a secret weapon for more material. A parrot named Guillermo. The newspaper from his cage and perch are composted along with the sizeable amount of food he throws or drops…. or poops! All of this gets placed inside a brown paper bag and taken out to bo composted!

To assist the breakdown of materials and provide worm castings, red wriggler worms can be added to the pile. In 2009 I purchased some red wrigglers in the mail. 5 years later the current generation is doing well! Keep them supplied with food and make sure they don’t dry out and they will multiply at an amazing rate. Their population can double in 90 days!

I have used a mobile compost bin for a few years now. The bin is made out of wire fencing. That’s it… I use the wiring fence with 2″x 4″ rectangles and it  works fine.

I started out with a free piece of 1/8″ thick oak on the bottom to avoid nutrients leaching out of the compost when wetting the pile. The first layer is a pile of tree mulch.
Composting pic1

The wire fence then gets placed into position.
Composting pic2

The next step is to create a hole in the middle of the pile. The hole gets a layer of Guillermo paper.
Composting pic3 Composting pic4

A layer of kitchen scraps is next.
Composting pic5

Another layer of parrot paper followed by a thick layer of kitchen scraps.
Composting pic6Composting pic7

At this point, from the existing compost bin, I remove approximately 50 red wrigglers and place them on top of the new heap. Approximately two shovel fulls of wriggler-filled compost from the existing pile covers them.
Composting pic8Composting pic9

Cover with parrot paper, wet down, and cover with a layer of mulch.
Composting pic10Composting pic11

A tarp place over the pile will slow the drying of the compost and avoid leaching of nutrients in the rain. If the location of the bin is to be gardened, leaching is not a problem.

The existing mobile compost bin gets a parrot layer, wet down, and tarped. The wire fence is removed and it will no longer get kitchen scraps. It will finish off in the next couple months and wrigglers will be moved to the new bin.
Composting pic13Composting pic14

As kitchen and parrot paper are added, I dig a hole in the mulch and bury the newest materials, placing wrigglers on the new stuff. A bin full of leaves is good to have nearby to cover smelly fruit and avoid gnats.

Keep the compost pile moist, like a damp sponge. Do not cover the sides; the fencing allows oxygen to reach the materials. Using a pitchfork, turn the pile once a week.

The mobile bin is convenient and can be placed anywhere you wish to amend existing soil! You will not need to transport the compost to your location via wheelbarrow. Simply lift off the wire fencing and rake compost to desired depth and spread it out as far as it will go.

Compost, sifted soil from the hen yard, rock dust, and fireplace ashes are layered with tree mulch to build the soil for a nutrient and mineral rich garden!

I hope you will try composting whether it be a little for some patio plants or a large bin for the serious backyard gardener. You can reduce your garbage output while feeding your vegetables. Happy gardening!

4 Comments

  1. DanR

    Very interesting piece! My experience with composting has been disappointing for the most part. This year will be better. I like the idea of using the fireplace ashes. I’m now using the “drunken composting” method to water down my compost pile. It is a mix of one can of beer with a can of cola and a cup of ammonia that I spray onto the pile. And, believe it or not, the uric acid present in urine accelerates compost decomposition and typical “western diet” pee has an NPK ratio of about 11-1-2! It’s sad, yet funny, how modern civilization alienates us from what our ancestors knew and implemented in their daily lives.

    1. Keith

      I just used my batch of compost mixed with local soil for three fruit trees I planted. Just finished planting two before dark today… That saved a little money on soil amendments. Having a household of daughters, my garden is no stranger to ‘human liquid fertilizer’. It also provides nitrogen that may get used up by the decomposing wood chips. That way you can drink your beer on a hot day in the garden instead of pouring it on the compost!

  2. Gary

    He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread. Pro 28:19.
    I should get motivated and start a garden, really enjoy your articles.

    1. Keith

      Gardens are work, but, enjoyable work. I am trying the method of layering tree mulch, rock dust, and compost. I want to have bread with minimal tilleth. Check out Back to Eden, a documentary about a farmer that uses a whole lot of mulch. I think he has been layering for 17 years. It also greatly lowers water usage. That is big in California right now. backtoedenfilm.com. Thanks for the comment and let us know if you get started!

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