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There are literally thousands of ways to make compost enclosures. Just search Instructables here, if you don't believe me. This one was made in about an hour, requires minimal tools, and is very, very cheap. It gets the job done without wasting time looking pretty.

Step 1: A Wordy Introduction to Composting and Tools You'll Need for This Project

Compost is basically rotting organic material that breaks down into primitive soil. When added to the sand, rocks, and clay that make up dirt, the mix becomes the ultimate in nature's nutrient delivery system to plants. Composting is taking place everywhere, all the time. Wherever organic material (leaves, grass clippings, dung, etc.) meets dirt, composting will begin to take place.

For now, let's concentrate on building a simple, cheap, and useful compost container. To properly break down, composting matter needs the following: moisture, air, and time.

A full-enclosed container such as a plastic barrel or garbage bin will not work for composting as it does not allow enough air into the mix. So you end up with the stinky rotting stuff instead of the real compost. Compost has a somewhat pungent, but very earthy, healthy smell to it. Rotting stuff just makes you gag.

Moisture will come from water and from the items you ad to the compost pile. Kitchen scraps, grass clippings, weeds from your garden, etc. are all things you can ad to your compost pile. Everything from egg shells to uneaten vegetables to drainage from your cooking can be thrown on the pile.

Time, of course, is what it is. For a good sized compost pile to properly break down into useful soil mixture, it needs at least half a year, but a full year is generally better.

To build a good composting container, as I've shown above, all you'll need are:
  • four fence posts--any kind, so long as they're at least four feet tall: wood, metal, whatever. They need to be sturdy and you should be able to somehow attach wire fence to them (screws, wire ties, staples, etc.).
  • chicken/poultry wire or the equivalent. This needs to be of small mesh, so the openings can't be more than an inch square. Chicken/poultry wire is cheap and easy to come by, even used.
  • organic matter like scrap wood, downed tree limbs, etc. of at least 13 diameter to use as a base for your heap.

You'll also need simple tools like a way to cut the wire (tin snips, wire cutters, pliers), a way to drive the fence posts into the ground (sledgehammer, heavy hammer, post pounder, or whatever), and a way to break up the base materials for the bottom of the heap.

Step 2: Marking It Out, Putting on the Wire

For this enclosure, I marked out a rough square with the fence posts and pounded them into the ground with a mini-sledgehammer. These were standard T-posts for fencing that I have several of hanging around here. Once the posts were in, I wrapped them in wire to form a hoop around the outsides of the posts. This is the container, basically.

I pulled the wire as tight as I could, but this isn't a fence to keep animals in or support any weight, so it doesn't need to be completely taught. After tying off the end of the fence (to the fence itself, completing the hoop), I tied the fence to the posts with some bailing wire. Again, this doesn't need to be tight or engineered for weight bearing or anything. A couple of pieces of wire per post is good enough--just enough to keep the hoop from lifting off the posts or spreading out too much with weight from inside.

Step 3: Base Materials & Finishing Up

I broke up some tree branches from a dead tree I'd felled earlier in the month. You can see here I used my OSHA-approved sandals as leverage to snap the branches to the desired length.

I then dropped the branches into the bottom of the hoop enclosure to form a sort of grid as the base of my heap. This serves two purposes: it keeps the compost up off the ground (a little) and allows openings for air to enter the bottom of the heap.

Make sure that a couple of inches of the base materials are poking out through or under the fence so you can pull them out later. Not all of them need to be this way, but most of them should. The idea is that about a month or so before the compost is cured, you'll pull these out to allow aeration to come up underneath the heap and finish it off more quickly. This is optional, but a very good idea.

Finally, the heap enclosure is complete and I can start throwing in compost! I recommend starting the bottom layer with heavy fiber material like grass clippings or straw. This creates a sort of bedding for the rest of the heap to sit upon in the beginning.

There you have it, a cheap, simple, easy and fast compost enclosure. This was originally published on my site at Aaron's EnvironMental Corner.
<p>ha! Osha approved sandals :) nice tips here. thanks </p>

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Bio: I live in Wyoming and am striving for a sustainable, green lifestyle. I blog on my site at Aaron's EnvironMental Corner, where I talk ... More »
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