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Composting Without a Bin


September 28, 2014

My family and I recently moved to NM and want to start a new compost pile. WR, after seeing a photo of your pile on the site, I'm wondering whether we even need a bin. Do you just dump kitchen scraps and bulking material on your pile and turn occasionally? Any problems with critters and/or neighbors? We had a compost bin at our former home in CA so have some knowledge of composting, but again wondering whether a bin is necessary and any insights about composting in the NM climate (including winter) would be most appreciated.


Answer by WR: I've had great success without a bin. Right, I just dump in and stir occasionally. I do have to be careful not to put in weed seeds, Bermuda grass, virusy tomatoes since the pile doesn't get hot enough to kill those things. I've had good redworms in the pile that showed up on their own. It's important that the pile be in a good shade. Otherwise too much watering is required to keep it moist. I haven't had problems with critters or neighbors. In winter I sometimes rather ignore it, except for continually adding kitchen scraps. I water it with garden hose in spring,  fall, summer but it doesn't take a lot to keep it moist if I do it pretty regularly. I'm going to copy this to our compost questions group for their input. I know that JZ and others think a bin, or at least a pile with a good cover, is much better in our dry climate so I hope they will give you their point of view. I'm glad you plan to compost here. You might consider taking some of our free composting classes to learn more about composting in our climate. Best of luck! 

Answer by PB: The only thing I would add is that you have much better moisture control using this method if you cover the pile with an old piece of carpet, canvas or cardboard.

Response by Original Questioner: Thanks to you both for your replies! Interestingly, our only problem with our compost in CA was that it was often too wet. I wonder if the climate here might actually compliment our composting practice since we have an abundance of kitchen scraps as we eat so many vegetables and fruits. I think we'll start with a pile in shade and add a cover if necessary. And yes, I may take a class soon!

Answer by JH: Rachel, if you find this approach isn't satisfactory, check out our Composting in the Desert pamphlet.  It includes instructions for the wire bin method among other helpful tips.

Response by JZ:   Covering a pile not only helps retain moisture, but also decreases flying insects!   Keep up.

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