Bring on the Compost!

Farmhouse38-Style Composting

Well, I finally got my behind in gear and officially set up to officially start composting.  This is something that I have been taking real lazy attempts at over the years (always with the idea that I could definitely do better), but after reading Chris McLaughlin’s book, Vertical Vegetable Gardening, (buy this book, people, it’s got the best small-space gardening tips and is getting rave reviews beyond just mine), my composting fire was lit.

I don’t have a lot of extra space around here on this little suburban lot, and I really have gone around and around as to where I wanted to locate the compost.  Ultimately, there was really only one spot that I could make it work, for better or for worse, and that was this one tiny stretch of planter area along our driveway.  Which is painfully out in plain sight.  So first, and foremost, I knew that, whatever composting method I chose, it needed to be inside some sort of container….furthermore, I needed to come up with a way to make this, what is essentially a trash site, cute.  Priorities, you know?

The other thing I don’t have much extra of is funds.  There are all these fancy compost containers out there (which are ugly, btw), but I could not fathom spending any more money on this thing than was absolutely necessary.  So, because I happened to have two 30-gallon galvanized trash cans that were sitting around twiddling their thumbs, they got the job.  I had space for three, so I did wind up going out and buying a third one, but hey, it was still my cheapest option.

The girls, ever-underfoot, thoroughly assess the soil at the selected site.  They ascertain that it requires compost.

The girls, ever-underfoot, thoroughly assess the soil at the selected site. Their findings indicate a compost deficiency.

After I had selected my location, and the girls had assessed and approved it, I proceeded to dig holes in the dirt roughly the size of each of my compost cans.

Gertie checks the size of the hole.

Gertie checks the size of the hole.

I’ve read it’s a potentially beneficial thing to have the cans slightly submerged in the soil with holes drilled across the bottom and bottom sides that not only allow for drainage and aeration, but also for beneficial microorganisms to come and go.  So I wanted to submerge my cans (that came out wrong) as much as I could.  Which, as it turned out, wasn’t very much….this is a pretty shallow planter, and I could only get them submerged about four or five inches.  So I drilled holes across the bottom of each can, and up only a couple of inches on the sides.

Drainage Holes

This drill bit is no joke. And, btw, keep a dust-buster handy if you attempt this–the slivers created from drilling through metal are a serious hazard–especially if you have chickens in the yard who want to eat anything shiny. And also, lock your chickens up while you are doing this. And don’t wear flip-flops. I’ve said my piece.

Once everything was drilled, I fit the cans into each of their spots, and back-filled so that they were as buried as possible.  I had already set aside a mound of composting materials to start my first batch, so my #1 bin is almost full.  The idea, here, is that once one is full, you move on to the next, and hopefully, by the time #3 is full, #1 might be ready to use.

From some scrap lumber that was sitting around the yard, I made a fun sign to hang on the fence (see how in a tutorial coming soon), that hopefully will not turn out to be false advertising.  In addition, I made some little scrap-lumber number plaques for each can….because there are just so many of them that I might lose track.

I seriously can't plan this stuff....these girls just know how to get a good shot.

I seriously can’t plan this stuff….these girls just know how to get a good shot.

Allegedly, the ground around compost bins is supposed to get really good and fertile, so I intend to take advantage of that and keep things planted around the cans.  Despite the best efforts of the poultry.

I'll be interested to see how quickly that kale becomes salad for the chickens.

I’ll be interested to see how quickly that kale becomes a salad bar for the chickens.

Oh, yes, and off to the side, of course, there is this:

This?  This is not compost.  This is where the dog poop goes.

This? This is not compost. This is where the dog poop goes.  I can understand your confusion.

This is our adorable new counter-top composter that I picked up from World Market.  It makes it a lot easier to get kitchen scraps out to the compost zone when you've got an adorable container for them.  I'm such a packaging sucker.

This is our adorable new counter-top composter that I picked up from World Market. It makes it a lot easier to get kitchen scraps out to the compost zone when you’ve got an cute container for them. I’m such a packaging sucker.

So is this the best composting system in the world?  Nope.  I can assure you, it is not.  Will it be good enough?  Maybe.  I’ll have to let you know.  One major thing I took away from Vertical Vegetable Gardening is that I shouldn’t stress over the compost–I should just let it do it’s thing with minimal fuss (hopefully).  If I stick to an approximate 50/50 mix of brown and green ingredients, theoretically, the compost magic should happen.  Theoretically.  For an easy break-down of how composting works, as well as a straightforward list of acceptable brown and green materials, pick up a copy of Chris’ book.  Because I’m not sharing mine.  🙂

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40 thoughts on “Bring on the Compost!

  1. Lisa January 11, 2013 at 11:53 pm Reply

    Oh if this isn’t the cutest thing. As always, a pleasure to read your post Kate.

  2. Betty Marshall January 11, 2013 at 11:56 pm Reply

    I think that you have done a great job. I’m encouraged with your layout. I really hope that this works for you. I really like your art. It adds so much Betty

    • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 12:02 am Reply

      Thanks so much, Betty! Fingers crossed that I wind up with some useable compost!

  3. Shannon January 12, 2013 at 12:12 am Reply

    LOVE!!! Making soil is key to organic waste management and reducing what goes to the landfill. And you most probably already know all the wonderful things you can put into it. Happy waste reduction!

    PS — chicken poop, okay for compost. Cat and dog poop? Flush it with human poop (which is equally bad for your type of compost).

  4. From a Montana Front Porch January 12, 2013 at 1:02 am Reply

    You would be able to make compost cute! I think I may have to do this! 🙂

  5. keepyourmemoriesinyourshoes January 12, 2013 at 2:28 am Reply

    Fantastic- now I am all jealous because mine is not at all fancy and your set-up is gorgeous! Nice job- Renee

  6. cindyricksgers January 12, 2013 at 2:32 am Reply

    This is very cute! My old wood compost bin is collapsing on itself after nearly twenty years of use and being dismantled and moved annually. This might be the way for me to go! I have made compost inside, in a lidded plastic garbage can. Because my compost just freezes outside in the winter, I tried this to see if I could get a bit of a head start. Whenever I put anything in, I scooped a bit of soil from a second container on top. Though it was mostly coffee grounds and eggshells, the carrot peelings and other organic matter did seem to break down. Outside, where the sun will help to warm it, you should have great results!

  7. Katja @ Shift Ctrl ART January 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm Reply

    Perfect containers. I love your system. I am still in the procrastination stage – or the proCRAFTination stage as it is known around here. That’s when you take on a new craft project instead of doing what you are supposed to ;).

    Love your chicken models. They should have an agent 😉 Ha ha

    • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 3:22 pm Reply

      OH, yes! I am extremely familiar with the pro-craft-ination stage, hahahaha!

  8. Christi {Jealous Hands} January 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm Reply

    Super cute composting area – if you’ve gotta look at it make it cute! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm Reply

      That’s what I think, too! And–it is dead-center in our yard—if I could have tucked it away somewhere it wouldn’t have mattered, but, didn’t have that option. Such a shame. 🙂

  9. Adventures We Seek January 12, 2013 at 3:26 pm Reply

    I love it! I think you have the greatest ideas!!!
    I know that you will probably be much better than I at emptying your indoor bin, but if not, we kept our table scraps in a baggie in the freezer until we were ready to take it outside….it helped with the smell and bugs too!

    • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm Reply

      Oh! That is a GREAT idea! So this little counter top one has a carbon filter in the top of it to allegedly combat all that, but we will have to see–no idea how effective it is or not. Thanks for the tip–I’m totally gonna use it if this one doesn’t work out (because I have zero tolerance for gnats and flies!).

      • Adventures We Seek January 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm

        When we lived in Korea, the entire country composts in your buildings parking garage. They had the best recycle system. There was very little trash in our home due to our 5 bin recycle system and compost trash in the garage. The freezer was a huge help for us. PS…a glass of cheap red wine on the counter kills food lies 🙂

      • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm

        What?! No way!!! I’ll have to try that (although no problems yet). Very cool. 🙂

  10. Green Door Hospitality January 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm Reply

    We have the same counter top compost container from World Market! We love it!! So cute and it’s great having it on the counter as a constant reminder!

    • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm Reply

      Nice!!–have you had it long? Any problems with gnats or odors?

      • Green Door Hospitality January 12, 2013 at 4:35 pm

        We’ve had it for at least 6 months. No issues with gnats or odors. That being said, we empty it pretty regularly.

      • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm

        Excellent! I intend to, as well….I won’t tolerate bugs and bad smells inside my house! 🙂

  11. Meredith/GreenCircleGrove January 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm Reply

    Love the idea! I have an ugly compost bin that works well, a 5 quart plastic (formerly ice cream) bucket in the freezer for compost, and another “chicken bucket”. All ugly. You give me such ideas!!

    • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm Reply

      Hahahaha! Glad I could help! 🙂 Heaven FORBID we have ugly compost! Perish the thought!

  12. Christie January 12, 2013 at 8:46 pm Reply

    Wow, quite lovely for a composter system! How do you plan to actually get the compost out of there?

    • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2013 at 10:19 pm Reply

      I dunno!! I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it! 🙂

  13. Becky January 13, 2013 at 1:43 am Reply


  14. Becky January 13, 2013 at 1:45 am Reply


    • farmhouseK8 January 13, 2013 at 1:57 am Reply

      Oh! I have the perfect one–my grampa’s old pitchfork….and it will look (gasp) so cute sitting there! Ha! Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

  15. Heather Dreier January 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm Reply

    Kate! I love it! I love galvanized containers, any size. I too am a huge “container” lover. I also love the counter compost container. As of now I just have a plastic bag that hangs on the back door to put all my scraps in. This is the cutest one I have seen.


    • farmhouseK8 January 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm Reply

      Oh, thanks, Heather!! Yeah, so far it seems to all be working out great (except for my ornamental kale at the base of the bins….the girls have decided something less delicious must be planted there). 🙂

  16. Shannon March 17, 2013 at 1:35 am Reply

    So now that’s its been going for a few months, how do you like it?? This immediately went to the top of my to do list! I have been searching and searching for cute compost. My hubby constantly teases me. He was quite impressed that I found one! 🙂 it’ll be cute next to our coop!

    • farmhouseK8 March 17, 2013 at 4:26 am Reply

      Shannon–it’s totally working!!!! It’s certainly not ready yet, but it is definitely doing it’s thing–I was just out there turning it today and it’s brewing very nicely. No bad smells, no flies hanging around–I don’t want to jinx it, but so far so good! 🙂 Good luck with yours!!

  17. sam3abq December 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm Reply

    Very stylish – great curb appeal. Composting is the bomb – it’s the 1st thing our family has been able to do from day one of our Urban Farm plans. I have a bit more sf in our backyard and have built one compost bin out of wood pallets and plan to build one more (3′ x 3′ x 3′). Chicken poop coming in the new year will add to it’s “cooking” efforts. Love your site. ~Sam

    • farmhouseK8 December 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm Reply

      Thanks, Sam!! I, too, am planning to add several more of these bins–so great!

  18. iggy123 January 9, 2014 at 4:27 am Reply

    Reblogged this on WordPress 101 and commented:
    Blog about compost and farm living in the LA suburbs.

    • sam3abq January 9, 2014 at 1:29 pm Reply

      Way to go. We’re looking forward to our 1st compost bin’s supply of black-gold – to use later in the summer, don’t think it will be ready in the spring just yet.

  19. Alicia January 12, 2014 at 5:57 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this – such an encouragement. I am trying to get my act together after moving (2 years ago) and trying to figure out what will work. This is a great plan and pretty too (both are important to me). Happy Composting to you.

    • farmhouseK8 January 12, 2014 at 6:30 pm Reply

      Thanks, Alicia–good luck to you! This has worked TOTALLY well for me–in fact, my only complaint is that it isn’t enough! So in a few weeks I am going to be adding several more of these cans, all sitting in a row! LOL.

  20. […] been composting for awhile here at the Farmhouse (see my composting set up here). I love being able to hang onto kitchen waste for a higher purpose. Some scraps go as treats to […]

  21. peggy April 5, 2014 at 9:58 pm Reply

    Did you drill holes in the top of these cans as well? Also did you drill any other holes in the sides? Are all the holes buried in the dirt?

    • farmhouseK8 April 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm Reply

      Peggy–I didn’t drill holes in the top, as these cans are very close to my neighbor’s property and I was trying to contain any smell. From time to time I pull the lids off for a bit to let them breath. I do have holes drilled in the sides but only around ground level and partially buried under the soil.

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