Trash Can Composting | Homemade Trash Can Compost Bin

Trash Can Compost Bin - notice the holes?Trash Can Composting?

..Yes, it can be done.
I have a small garden that I keep fertile with my compost tumbler and worm farm.This system works pretty well but having recently stumbled upon a fairly large source of free horse manure, I needed a much bigger system to handle this. ( I like to compost manure before i use it to kill weed seeds flush some of the salts inherent in manure and lower the pH). I considered purchasing another tumbler but for the $200 price tag, I figured there has to be a cheaper way.

Trash Can Composting

While on a trip to Goodwill scouting for more worm bins, I found two 30-gallon plastic trash cans for $2 each, and decided it was time to try “trash can composting“. I’d heard of this before. I had considered just creating a large pile of manure in the yard. I do this with some of the manure but I like the idea of a secure system to help manage the flies, animals, and odors emanating from the manure.

Generally speaking 3′x3′x3′ is the minimum size needed for a compost pile to get “hot.” The trash can is about 20 inches wide and three feet tall. A wee bit smaller than needed, it would seem. After worrying that my much smaller worm bin was going to heat up, I now have a much larger trash bin that I was afraid *wouldn’t heat up.

Trash Can Composting

A 30 gallon bin is about 4 cubic feet. The 3x3x3 pile is 27 cubic feet. I’ve gotten hot compost in a bin that holds about 11 cubic feet, but I was thinking 4 cubic feet is pretty small to expect much.

Trash Can Composting

I filled the first trash barrel about half full with a little food waste, and a lot of horse manure. I wet it down a little and let it sit. It didn’t seem to heat up “cook” at all. I added more “green” material and mixed it all up good, adding water until it had about the moisture level of my worm bin. I even added a couple of handfuls of compost from my worm bin, as an “inoculant.” I mixed it up good and then sprinkled a couple cups of soil from the garden over the top.

Trash Can Composting – Yes, It heated Up

I checked it the following afternoon, and the pile was definitely hot. I could feel the warmth on my palm from an inch above the top of the pile as well as t through the sides of the trash barrel. I don’t have a thermometer to check, but I know it’s hot enough that if I had worms in there, they’d be either dying or escaping.

Trash Can Composting

I have just a square of cardboard loosely covering the top. This is good for air access, because I don’t have a drill and I was too impatient to get started to wait until a friend could drill holes in it for me. I was hoping that stirred up well, loosely packed, with a loose top, the pile would have enough air to at least get started, and it seems to be working so far. I’ll figure out a way to punch some holes in it within a day or two.

Trash Can Composting

It doesn’t bother me to stir it up by hand. It might be harder with one filled to the brim. I wanted air holes in it, so I drilled 1/4″ holes all over the 2nd barrel (about 20) and poured the contents of the first into the second. Now, it really heated up.

Trash Can Composting – Locking Lids

I was tired of stirring it so I bought 2 more barrels with locking lids. Now, instead of stirring it, I roll it around the yard every few days.
Trash Can Composting, Best Trash Can Composting

Horse manure is easy to compost; after 3 weeks the barrel stops heating up and I toss the completed compost into the garden and yard.

Well, it’s been a few months and I now have 4 trash bins stewing compost. I like trash can composting as it’s easy to fill, easy to feel for it heating up and portable.

Tip 1: Make sure you get the kind of can where the lid clamps on somehow, because being able to kick the thing on it’s side and roll it around the yard makes turning the pile so much easier.
Tip 2: Drill about 20 1/4″ air holes all over it, top to bottom.

Tip 3: In cans, the water will go to the bottom and stay there, even with some holes in the bottom, making it slimy. Keep the lids on.

Next, I’m going to try worm composting with these trash barrels.

Here is a nice ebook on making compost that has more details on trash can composting than what I have written.
trash can composting

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