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Building a Composter 

Building your own composter will allow you to design a unit to suit your specific needs. A composter can be made of wood, concrete blocks, wire mesh or almost any material you have available. The three most essential features in a composter are: 

  • a lid that protects the pile from rain and snow and
    allows you to control how much moisture gets in

  • holes or vents to allow air circulation

  • a means of removing the final product

Here are some design ideas:

  • a wire mesh bin with a hinged front panel

  • a three-sided cement block bin with an open front that will allow you to turn the pile and remove the finished compost easily

  • a circular unit made from chicken wire or snow fencing that can be opened up to collect the finished compost

  • a wooden pallet or two-by-four box with a lid and spaces for ventilation a metal barrel or garbage can with holes punched in the side and the bottom removed

  • for more advanced enthusiasts, a unit with several compartments can be used to manage compost at different stages - raw materials, active piles and finished product

Put your unit in a level, well-drained, accessible area. If you live in a part of the country that has winter weather, make sure you can get to your composter all year round.

Add other organic materials in layers no deeper than l 5 centimeters. Cover each successive layer of organic material with about 5 centimeters of ordinary garden soil. This contains micro-organisms that will accelerate the process: A layer of soil also helps to mask any odors. 

Pour water onto the pile until it is about as moist as a wrung out sponge. Turn the pile once a week to mix all the materials evenly and expose them to air. Continue to add material as you go along. Always remember to cover new material with a layer of soil and to keep the pile moist. 

If conditions are right, your compost pile will begin to heat up, eventually reaching an internal temperature of about 60-70 C. The pile will actually feel hot to the touch. As the chemical reactions-slow down, the pile will begin to cool to about 40-45 C. The decomposition process is then complete The finished product will be a dark, rich, soil-like substance with a good earthy smell. (Do you have a commercially built unit? follow the operating instructions.) 




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