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Barrel Composter Experiment

posted Mar 14, 2013, 9:20 PM by James Roe   [ updated Mar 29, 2013, 8:44 AM by Unknown user ]

I am fairly well convinced that composting is a valuable practice for any gardener.  I have often seen barrel composters in gardening magazines/books and in some stores.  The ones in stores seemed to cost too much and I figured I could duplicate one of them fairly easily.  The promise of a barrel composter is that one can produce compost relatively quickly and conveniently.  I've been dumping all our kitchen wastes onto a pile in my composting bins (along with garden and lawn cuttings, etc) and this seemed like a better approach.

Plastic barrels are abundantly available on Craig's List (for example) so I bought a couple for $10 each.  I drilled holes in the top and bottom so I could install an axle which was just a length of 1 1/2 in PVC pipe.  I drilled smaller holes around the circumference at each end for ventilation.   I cut a square hole in the side with a jig saw and attached hinges and snap latches from Lowe's for the door.  The hinges (and other hardware) were attached with pop rivets.  A simple cross-buck frame made of 2x4s serves to hold the barrel and allow rotation.  The photo below should give a good idea of the project.  (The barrel has been painted black subsequent to these pictures being taken.)


In use, the barrel is loaded with material to be composted.  I started with some horse manure and we have been adding kitchen scraps periodically.  The barrel is turned weekly (at least) which does a pretty good job of mixing the material.  However, with a large load turning the barrel is not for the weak.  It needs some handles to give a better grip or a turning mechanism.  I'm still experimenting with the latter to try to come up with a handle that can spin (slowly) the barrel.