Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Expanding the Compost Bins

Last year's garden didn't produce as well as previous years and I suspect it was because I was stingy with the compost. We failed to gather enough leaves for the compost bin the previous year resulting in not enough compost to amend the entire garden in the spring. I could have purchased bagged compost, but money was pretty tight so I thought skipping a year would be ok. The garden's production was satisfactory, but I could see signs of nutrient deficiencies in certain beds.

K recently picked up some wood pallets intending to use them to stack our wood on. We ended up with enough for the woodpile and a new compost bin. We added the new pallet compost bin near the current bin. It's open now because I will be sifting compost for a while. But another pallet will be place on the right to close up the bin when not in use.

New Pallet Compost Bin

The old bin is just a few years old and is made of some stakes and wire. Usually my compost is made from mostly leaves, garden debris, and kitchen waste. It doesn't have enough nitrogen to heat up the pile and can take a while to finish. I only turn the pile over once a year while I dig out some finished compost from the bottom of the pile. I screen out the compost and return the larger pieces to the pile.

Part of the benefits to owning backyard chickens is the free manure they produce. According to The University of Missouri Extension's "Urban Chicken Manure Management" article, one hen can generate 80-pounds of manure a year. Multiply that by 6 hens and I will have 480 pounds of manure to add to my compost bin. This amount doesn't include litter. When I read these facts, I knew I needed more space. It was time for a compost bin expansion.

The addition of chicken manure will heat up my compost hotter than ever before. Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Fresh chicken manure can burn plants if it's applied without composting first. If the compost is turned regularly is can finish in 4-6 months. It will take 6-12 months to finish when composting the lazy way.

Compost Dug Out from the Bottom

I began sifting the current compost to add to the garden. There is some lovely finished compost on the bottom of the pile but it contains a lot of small sitcks. As I sift the compost, the unfinished leaves and larger chunks are layered into to new compost bin. Once emptied, the wire compost bins will be used to hold leaves and other carbon to layer in with the chicken manure. I hope with time to develop an organized system of holding pens, compost in progress, and finished compost.

12 comments:

  1. Rachel, I am happy to hear that I'm not the only one who composts the lazy way! Your new compost bin looks good! Hopefully it will accommodate all your new waste. My bins need some work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I begin each year with good intentions, but end up just dumping the stuff into the bin. Luckily, compost happens. It just takes longer my way.

      Delete
  2. I used to be an energetic composter, but now I just do it the lazy way. Last year I should have made one more round of the neighborhood for leaves, but it was cold and wet so I didn't. I like when I can get some good leaf mold as well as just compost. The more organic matter I add the better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We gathered enough leaves to fill the bins, but could have raked more. This year will be different now that there is plenty of storage.

      Delete
  3. Nice looking bin! I need to give my compost some attention soon. It is always nice to see what it has amounted to each spring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even with little attention, my pile is giving me some nice compost this year. I only wish there was more.

      Delete
  4. The chickens have really helped our composting efforts since we were lacking in browns from our yard. The shavings and droppings from the coop get layered with our kitchen scraps. I do it the lazy way too. I've found it helps to have two sections, one to be adding to, and the other to let sit, especially since I want to make sure I'm letting the chicken manure age enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We seem to have the opposite problem here. We have a lot of browns from the yard with all the leaves we rake up in the fall. Hopefully, the manure and bagged grass clippings will help heat up the pile.

      Delete
  5. Nice compost bin. I will have to add compost to my list of reasons to get chickens. I need to be better at composting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are pretty good at composting our household waste. If only I would stir up the bin more often the compost would finish quicker. Hopefully the expanded bins will help.

      Delete
  6. I have plastic compost bins which although ugly tend to compost things pretty quickly (although like you I spend a bit of time sifting out the sticks). I am trying to work out the best way of capturing my newly acquired chicken's manure for composting - the poo that falls on the straw is fine but I am finding deposits all over the garden as well and when I say garden I mean the paved parts rather than the planted parts. Sigh...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope to capture most of the nighttime manure with a "poop deck" beneath the roost. It will be filed with sand allowing the manure to be scooped out much like a kitty litter box. It seems like a good idea in theory, but we will see how it works.

      Delete