Earthkeeping – Orchard Gardens

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

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Backyard composting

What can we do in the winter garden?  Why, think about spring, of course.  And, work on our composting.  I wanted to increase the amount of compost I had available and wanted to find a way to compost food scraps.  It had to be easy, and it had to be rat-proof.  This round unit is ideal for that.  The round shape means rats cannot get their teeth into the plastic to chew.  The ball is on rollers so the compost can be turned and this speeds up the compost process.  The second photo shows a 3 bin unit which is covered with wire.  The front boards are removable to allow access to your compost, and the top lifts up to add items.  Rat-proof?  Maybe.  The 3rd photo is a round plastic unit with a lid.  It definitely is not rodent proof, and the chew marks at the top prove.

If you are just composting garden waste like leaves, plants, and grass, there is not so much need to worry about rodents.  Anytime you add any food matter, the chances increase that you’ll have visitors.    A friend woke up one day to find that raccoons had dug up her carefully buried food scraps.  (several months old).

The main thing with composting, whether you add food scraps or not, is to layer your browns and greens.  Browns can include lots of things, not just brown leaves.  You can use shredded newspaper, old pizza boxes, torn up paper towel tubes, etc.  The browns add pockets of air, which are critical to making the process work.  When starting a compost pile, you can also put in a couple of layers of old compost or garden soil to add in the beneficial microbes.  Turning the pile will speed up the rate at which your material turns into compost.  However, you don’t ever NEED to turn it.  You can just fill up the bin and leave it.  Look in there a few months later, it’ll be half full, as the material becomes compost.  It may take a year or so to create compost in a pile that is not turned.

When using food scraps in the pile, layer food scraps with layers of browns and other green material.  Use only vegetarian food scraps (no meat or cheese).  If you find your pile with food scraps is smelly, add a layer of garden soil to the top.  It’ll stop the smell.

With a 3 bin system, like the middle picture, you can have 3 stages of compost, one you are adding to, one that is “cooking” and one that is finishing.  Cooking refers to the fact that a properly put together compost pile will heat up as the microbes do their thing.


Round compost unit

Round compost unit


3 bin composting unit



Round barrel type composting unit