Composting in Place

I’ve composted for years and had the rhythm down pat: Save scraps, hike outside to the compost, dump scraps, wait for the compost to break down, then haul the compost to where I needed it in the garden or yard. It worked, but in the past year or so, I’ve decided to compost smarter.

My composter is a round, two part plastic job that I got for $10 by attending a compost class put on by the county. In fact, I think this composter is the exact model that I have (albeit more expensive). It has two rings that stack, one on top of the other. It occurred to me some time back that if I used each ring individually, I could have two compost piles: one that we’re actively adding scraps to and another that’s full and in the process of breaking down. An unexpected bonus of this method is that my chickens will actually jump up into the compost bin and work it for me, as I guest posted about on The Frugal Kiwi.

So, chickens working the compost for me, two bins going at once; how much more efficient could my composting become?, you ask. Lots more. The last time I had an empty ring, I decided to set it up right where I needed compost. We filled it and let it sit for a couple of months to break down, without adding any new material. Today, I pulled the ring and called in the hens. As the chickens scratched at the compost, I sorted out any of the bigger bits that still needed more time to break down, but instead of hauling the compost off to another location, I just left it right there. The chickens did a beautiful job of spreading it around the base of my lychee tree, requiring very little effort on my part.

compost, garden, chickens, fertilizer, natural, organic

I still need to get out there and pick up some of the bigger pieces they unearthed, but you can see how rich and dark brown the compost is. My lychee is going to love it!

I’m going to start implementing this method by moving one composter around the garden and another to sit alongside various fruit trees, I think.

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  • Very clever. And, almost-free labor. :o)

  • Shelly ,

    You are so smart! I love it!

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Shelly, you are invited to come by any time and tell me how smart I am. However, after I figured this out, I couldn’t help wondering why it took me so long!

  • This post made me laugh until the photo of the chicken and I realized you were serious. Gives me another reason to want chickens in my garden!

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      I am totally serious! Your guests would love chickens wandering around, wouldn’t they? (Well, maybe except for the poop.)

  • NoPotCoooking ,

    Genius! You’ve really got this system down!

  • sheryl ,

    Those chickens sure come in handy!

  • Ok, now I’m wanting chickens. My niece just got some, so maybe I’ll visit hers for a chicken fix.

  • Good thinking. I will share this with my friend who has both chickens and compost!

  • What a cool system. I’m enjoying reading about your efforts.

  • Love this post. That’s the exact topic that has been on my mind lately. My compost creation so far has landed me nothing, as I put it at the foot of my pear tree and it keeps growing roots and feeding right out of it, maybe I am not turning it enough?! But I sure was shocked when I went in to turn it and my shovel was stopped by a mass of happy, white, pear tree roots.

  • April ,

    I built my compost bins last week by lashing together wooden pallets. I put them right nest to my (new) chicken coops and where I am building my garden boxes next spring. This is my first go at composting.

  • Brette ,

    This is a great idea. My parents composted when I was a kid and it was my job to haul the scraps to the pile every night:) When we were in Maine in the summers, composting consisted of dumping the scraps off the side of the dock below the high tide mark, which I’m sure now might not be the best practice.

  • Lynne Gillette ,

    I keep rabbits, in 2 1/2′ x 4′ freestanding cages. As the garden beds are finished for fall (late fall), we move the cages onto the raised beds for the winter. The manure falls right onto the garden, along with bedding they kick out of their ‘house’. I also throw kitchen scraps/coffee grounds, etc. into the mix. In the spring as the weather warms, the hutches are moved back to the north side of the house as rabbits don’t like the hot sun. I can then plant right into the beds (no turning needed) and mulch heavily. (NOTE: As the “compost pile” gets to 8″ deep, hutches can be moved to the next bed.)

  • Lynne Gillette ,

    P.S.- The garden worms take care of the aerating and composting. They LOVE rabbit manure!

  • tobi ,

    another real plus might be that the chicken also feed very well on the compost. that reducing feeding cost and increasing quality in outcome eitherways makes a sytem like that run on its own, the animals close the circle if you let them :-)

  • judith ,

    We have been doing this for over a year. Our local coffee house saves us their coffee grounds. We add scraps. and when we clean out the chicken house we add the droppings. A new spot each time we clean out the chicken house. I was amazed at the 1st spot. Beautiful rich dirt and we live in the “red clay fields” of North Carolina.

  • becky ,

    Smart thinking. In Africa they build keyhole gardens with the same principal in mind. They build a wicker tower, and around it they build a large circular raised garden bed with an opening so they can walk up to the wicker basket. Then they compost and water right in the basket and it feeds everything growing in the bed around it. Genius and easy.

  • Brilliant, Kris!
    I’ve practiced ‘compost lasagna’ for a while, but without chickens. I do this in the fall, after the raised bed is done for the season. If I’m removing plant debris (I don’t remove from the herb garden, that debris overwinters in case any lady bugs, caterpillars, or praying mantis cases are overwintering with it) I’ll boost the soil by layering fresh kitchen scraps, guinea pig bedding, and shredded fall leaves under a layer of coffee grounds (we’re tea drinkers, so we get big bags of grounds from the local shop) and letting that rot in place.  In the spring it’s mostly composted enough to plant directly into the raised bed, then I supplement with compost from the worm bin and outdoor com posters throughout the summer.  In the fall, repeat.

    Now, if we could have chickens within city limits . . . .

  • Wow! You inspired me. For a long time, now we’ve been talking about making a raised bed sized chicken hutch – I think I’m going to move forward on this after reading your post. I’m all for less work!

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