Whether you are an organic gardener, “frugal” or really into reducing waste that would otherwise to to landfills or sewage systems, nothing is as good for your garden bed as humus.
It doesn’t matter whether your gardens’ purpose is to create lovely flowers and shrubs or yummy veggies and fruits, humus provides nutrients better than the best chemical compounds available.
Humus also is a great way to make grass greener without harmful chemicals that eventually end up in your water supply and can give pets and people breast, brain, and other nasty cancers.
Regardless of what the Scott’s salesperson tells you every spring when he/she comes to our door (and that is SEVERAL times no matter how rude we are), or the promises Miracle-Gro makes in their commercial, the key to bigger flowers and veggies, as well as greener is not a bag, bottle or box of chemicals.
The key is to healthy lawns or gardens depends that need less watering comes from a thick layer of rich top soil and the best top soil has lots of humus, the organic component of soil, formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material.
Humus, particularly humus you make yourself from composting is not only better for your health, your water supply and your plants than chemical, do-it-your-self compost is far cheaper than chemical supplements or humus delivered from your local nursery.
If You Have Time, Skills, and Strength to Maintain Your Own Compost Piles/Bins, More Power to You!
If you have the ability, space, time and physical strength to build and regularly rotate your own compost bin, it’s the cheapest way to go. All you need is some chicken wire, some cedar sticks and boards (don’t use pressure treated lumber near gardens as it is loaded with arsenic and other harmful chemicals), and a heck of of time and a lot of upper arm strength.
If you have the time, skills and strength to build and rotate your own compost piles and bins, stop reading here.
The fact is, however, that between jobs and families, creating your own economical humus is best achieved with help from specially designed compost bins.
And even if you can built your own compost bin, if there is any part of the bin open to the ground, you may create wildlife habitats you may not like.
This is a true story: when I bought my first home, someone helped me build a compost bin for leaves and kitchen scraps. What they didn’t tell me is that I’d find a few snake nests in the bin when I opened it the first time.
I’m all for replacing habitats for displaced wildlife, but please: no snakes, no skunks, and no rats or mice. Unfortunately, this is one side effect of compost bins and heaps that aren’t professionally made to keep varmints away. (Salamanders, snails and spiders, fine, but give show me snakes or skunks and the benefits just disappear.)
Types of Compost Equipment on the Market Today
There is a huge variety of compost equipment on the market today:
- Low cost bins that you need to manually rotate
- Higher cost bins that let you easily rotate compost (and rotation is necessary to create quality compost quickly)
- Kitchen compost kits that let you start composting a variety of kitchen waste, even normally forbidden animal or oil scraps
- Compost Keepers that let you keep scraps inside for two to three days without stinking up you house
Our Favorite Compost Bins
Most people these days have to balance work and family, which can make it difficult to create your own humus. But, there’s a lot of compost options available to suit your lifestyle.
When it comes to compost bins, we like those that let you use a crank to rotate the composting material. Rotation speeds up the decomposition process and means that you get more humus more quickly, without having to look at ugly piles of rotting leaves and clippings for months or even years.
Some of our favorites are shown below, keeping in mind cost, ease of use, and how compact they are, which is really important for those who live on small lots, condos, or even apartments with terraces or balconies:
The last picture above is a set of worm trays. Sounds disgusting, but it’s really not. Worms efficiently make compost without causing any harm to you.
All of the above compost bins have different features, but all are easy to fill and easy to empty. The main differences between those at the lowest end of the cost spectrum and the highest are:
Resistance to animals such as skunks, racoons and other varmints attracted not only to vegetable waste, but to special additions to your compost bin such as fish (uncooked bones and skin) and lobster or crab shells that have been washed to remove all traces of oil or butter; and
Ease of rotating the composting material, which turns decomposing matter to rich fertilizer more quickly.
No More Excuses: Turn all Suitable Waste into Compost!
Let’s face it: There are many times when the t weather so cold or wet that it’s just is easier to put scraps into the trash or down the garbage disposal instead of facing the elements.
Other times, especially those of us busy schedules, we’re submit to the temptation and dump coffee grounds, orange peels, egg shells or coffee grounds and filters into the trash instead of venturing out the compost pile.
But, there really isn’t any excuse for doing that anymore.
Today, there’s a wide range of styles, prices and sizes of odor-free kitchen compost bins that can hold future fertilizer for two days or more, odor free, in our kitchens. This means that we can keep most scraps until it’s convenient to trek outdoors to the compost pile or bin.
There even are special systems that can start to decompose material not ordinarily suitable for compost, such as left0ver vegetables with butter or oily sauces and even meat scraps.
The Upfront Cost of Quality Compost Bins Pays You Back in Many Ways
Yes, the cheapest thing to do is to throw everything into a pile in a hidden corner of our yard (if we’re that lucky) and throw it around with a rake and shovel every few months to get the good humus/fertilizer at the bottom.
But, the bottom line is that while compost heaps reap rewards over the long-term, a good compost bin and accessories that such as kitchen storage bins mean more compost in a shorter amount of time.
Since our local stone/soil/fertilizer company charges us $225 or more (depending on season and sales) for 3 cubic yards of humus, it makes sense that we now have three active compost bins to supplement the many piles we have.
And we’re lucky: a good half of our yard is still wooded area. Nice, since we get to see salamanders, lady slippers and other endangered species when we walk to get our natural compost. But for the best stuff, such as what I use when splitting perennials or creating a new bed in our very sandy soil, I go straight to a compost or worm bin and use that.
Have I spent a fair amount on compost bins? Sure: but one compost bin alone has paid back on its investment is less than one year compared to what I would have had to otherwise pay for humus that I know isn’t as rich as what I create.
Another benefit: since we control what goes into the bin, we control what comes out. And this means we no longer find rampant strawberry or raspberry stringers in our compost, nor do we get weeds from whatever the local nursery got cheap from the local dump.
And, most nurseries get the base material for both their mulch and humus from local dumps. So while THEY may compost it “organically” or “without man-made chemicals” they (nor their customers) really have any idea what chemicals are involved.
Bottom line: if you want organic, make it yourself. And don’t feel guilty about buying professionally made bins: they don’t use the nasty chemicals of pressure treated woods and virtually all compost bins on the market today are made mostly or entirely of recycled materials that would otherwise be sitting in a landfill today.