Posted by admin on September 27, 2010
To restate a popular phrase: “compost happens” and indeed it does. Make a pile of shredded leaves and grass clippings, stir it up every now and then and as long as it gets rained on occasionally you will eventually get compost. Worms and microscopic creatures will do their thing. While this process is simple enough it does have drawbacks. Not everyone has a good location for this pile of compost wannabe. Another problem is that it is hard to control the moisture level of an open pile of composting material which you do not want to wet or too dry. With the open pile design you can not readily remove some compost when you are ready for it, you need to wait until the pile has finished composting. Therefore you may end up with multiple piles of compost that are at various stages of completion.
To help address some of these issues we have come up with ways to improve the process. Many people use upright bins to compost. These can be as simple as a frame of shipping pallets on their sides to form a box. This type of composter will certainly help to make your composting more than just a spreading pile. This type of composting will also allow more critical oxygen to reach all areas of the composting material. You will also find it still fairly easy to mix up the composting material. Two problems still remain. First this is still primarily a batch process and second, moisture control is difficult unless you tarp the container.
There are newer manufactured bins that come closer to getting it right, with the idea being that you add the material in the top and remove compost from some type of drawer in the bottom as you need it. The concept sounds good but with many of these composters it is difficult to properly mix up and add air (aerate) the compost. Even if you are able to do a good job stirring it up you are back to basically a batch process without the planned downward and out flow. Yet if you do not stir it up well and just keep adding material to the top, the lack of oxygen will greatly slow or halt the composting process with this type of composter.
The next big step in composter evolution was to move to a simple drum style compost tumbler. Basically, a barrel was attached to some type of stand that allowed it to be rotated. This was a real leap in composting technology because you now could monitor and control moisture content, thoroughly mix and aerate the composting material and the composting could take place on a tidy enclosed space. For all of the advantages, one big drawback still remained. This was the ongoing problem of the batch nature of almost all composters. How could a composter be designed so that the composting would continue as an ongoing process with finished compost removed as it is needed? The answer was the development of a composter with a drum inside of a drum. This double drum system allows material to be added through a door in the side of the outer drum and as it breaks down into compost it will exit out a discharge port in the end of the rotating drum. This development has solved the last of the major hurdles to effective backyard composting. No more batch composting! With this type of composter, a good mix of greens and browns, and a little water, you will get your first compost in a few weeks and keep producing throughout the warm part of the year or all year long in warm climates.
If you are looking for the fastest most practical backyard composter, you really need to consider a composter that incorporates the double drum technology. Another benefit we have found is that children love to see how the compost seems to magically appear from the output port even though it was grass and leaves etc. that was added to the feed port moments before rotating the drum. This has allowed these high tech composters to be an interesting educational tool to help us impress upon children how they can be involved in the stewardship of our fragile earth.
Derrick Walters MBA has degrees in biology and chemistry. Derrick is a partner in a business that markets “green” products. To contact Derrick you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you would like more information about the newest in high tech compost tumblers you can visit http://midstatecomposters.com where you will find top rated composters and lots of composting information and tips.
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