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Composting with pallets.

A simple, cost-effective way to build a dual compost bin is to use five wooden shipping pallets and two pallet tops. Pallets come in many shapes and sizes, give your compost a neater appearance than open piles, hold heat and moisture better, and can be covered from the weather if you've been getting a lot of rain. They also deter pets and rodents from scrounging for goodies in your pile.

The size I chose measures 3' 4"x 4', but any standard-sized pallet will work. If you ask around you will come across sources that are either willing to give them away or charge a minimal price. You'll also save valuable landfill space by recycling those pallets. If you live within the city limits you may want to check with your local municipality for any rules and regulations governing compost bins.

Assembly

Each pallet was placed on its edge with the bottoms facing outward, leaving a height of 3' 4", and a depth of 4', with an overall outside dimension of 8' 6" long by 4' wide. The outside pallets were butted up against the middle pallet, and nailed together. You may choose to use wire, screws, or even plastic tie wraps to secure the pallets together. What you should end up with by looking from a top view is a pallet construction resembling the capitol letter "H." The two thinner pallet tops are to be wired one on each end, to be used as removable doors, for adding and removing compost material and stirring, but most organic matter can simply be thrown over the top and forked into place. There is no bottom to this bin in order to take advantage of beneficial microbes, earthworms, and other decomposers in the soil. The pallet board spacing was adequate to allow air flow and retain the composting material, so there was no need to add a chicken wire liner to either bin.

We decided there were two reasons why the bottom of the pallets should face outward. The first being it is easier to shovel out compost (it doesn't get caught up on the support boards), and the second was to plant flowers in the forklift pockets. A piece of 1" x 4" board was cut and nailed to the bottom of each forklift pocket, which gave us flower boxes to dress up the dual compost bin.

Now that our bins are finished, it's time to get something cooking.

According to Stu Campbell, author of Let It Rot, The Gardeners Guide To Composting, successful composting requires:

1. The realization that no matter what you do or how many little mistakes you make, you are still probably going to come up with reasonably good, usable compost.

2. A basic understanding of the life forms and processes that operate within a compost pile.

3. A willingness to experiment.

4. A little effort.

5. A little artistry.

There are lots of recipes for making compost and whatever you have on hand at the time will determine your own unique recipe. After obtaining some manure, bedding, and spoiled straw (the majority of materials added should be carbon-based, ideally 30 parts carbon and one part nitrogen--and no meat or dairy products, please), I begin filling one of the two compost bins by using a ratio of one part manure and two parts straw. After every one foot of manure and straw mixture, I made sure it was blended together well, allowing for much needed oxygen. (Bacteria and fungus need oxygen to live and work within the compost.)

Next water was added for moisture (40 to 60 percent--roughly that of a wrung-out sponge). This step is important: Too much moisture may cause the pile to smell bad and become slimy; too little moisture may prevent the pile from heating up and "working" properly. I repeated this process until one bin was full. The plan is to turn the compost pile often by using a garden fork to toss the compost from bin #1 to bin #2 mixing and adding water and or organic material to obtain an internal temperature between 104[degrees]F and 130[degrees]F.

The manure and straw may not be the best blend to obtain fast results, but we will have compost in the future.

For more information on composting, refer to Let It Rot, The Gardeners Guide To Composting, 3rd Edition, by Stu Campbell. See Countryside Bookstore on page 63.

RAY KREUZIGER

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Title Annotation:The garden
Author:Kreuziger, Ray
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Words:742
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