Cottage City Community Garden has a new three bin composting system. Construction on the new system began in mid-March and was completed by the end of March, 2020. The compost bins were built entirely from extra scrap wood and wire fencing found around the garden. The only items needed to be purchased for construction were deck screws. Some of the benefits of composting according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are:
- Soil enrichment, aiding in moisture retention while suppressing plant disease and pests
- Reduction for the need of chemical fertilizers
- Encouraging biological activity from beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create a nutrient rich material
- Reduction in methane emissions (a potent greenhouse gas) from landfills and lowering your overall carbon footprint
To construct the composting bin, we used Urban Farm Plans template as a guide found at http://www.urbanfarmplans.com/compost-knox-download-page/. The first steps were to take inventory and source materials from around the garden.
Next we laid out the rear support posts (pic 1) and dug holes for them deep into the ground. The tall corner posts are about two feet deep, and the shorter center posts are about a foot deep. The posts were then fastened to one another with 3 support beams that run the width between each post.
Chicken wire was stapled to the back of each panel (pic 2). After that, the front corner posts were dug into the ground at a depth of about two feet once again.
These were then fastened to the rear tall posts to stabilize the apparatus, then cattle panel fencing was stapled to the tall side posts (pics 3 & 4).
This process was repeated in the center with two shorter support posts creating our three bin composting system (pics 5 & 6).
Since the bins were completed, slats have been added to the center and right bins that slide down the front openings, allowing for the retention of composting waste.
How do we compost and what can we add to the bins?
The EPA’s general guidelines for composting advise that composted waste be comprised of roughly an equal mixture of brown and green materials that are watered and whose moisture levels are regularly maintained. Brown materials are considered dead leaves, branches, twigs, cardboard, crumbled paper, tea or tea bags, and cardboard eggshell cartons. Green materials are grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, and weeds. These items should be layered, alternating between brown materials and green materials. Brown materials add carbon and green materials add nitrogen to the compost. Water is needed to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi so that they can more rapidly breakdown the organic waste. Compost should be turned with a pitchfork every few days or every week to ensure airflow throughout for beneficial bacteria and fungi to thrive. We can add nearly any plant based material to the compost, that being said, large branches or whole plants will not compost in a timely manner. It is highly encouraged that anything you add to the composting piles please be cut into small clippings. The top of the compost pile should also be covered to discourage plant growth at the top and to trap heat within the pile. We should never add meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, rice, fat, grease, lard, or diseased plants to the compost bins. Signs will be posted at the community garden on the bins instructing you which bin to add your plant waste to with a list of items that can and cannot be composted. You are encouraged to bring your plant based food scraps, leaves, and grass clippings from home.