Using a 3 bin composting system makes it easy to manage, turn, aerate and use. Learn more as we talk about how to get started with this system.
Everyone loves to say they compost but do they really know what they are doing? This 3 bin system works great for us and provides a bit of fresh, wonderful compost for our gardens each season.
How to use a 3 bin compost system
As the title suggests, we use three bins to complete our full cycle of composting.
The first bin holds all of our “new” stuff. We collect kitchen scraps and toss them in fresh. We clean the chicken coops and throw all the waste in. We take down old and dead plants from the garden and add them to bin number one as well.
We are sure to turn the waste inside the bin frequently and keep it moist, but it is by far the yuckiest bin – filled with rotting food and all manner of bugs, who just love the stuff. One thing it is NOT, however, is smelly. An overly fragrant compost pile is a bad sign. If everything is in balance and properly covered, your compost pile should not smell.
Switching from bin one to bin two
This is when the fun begins. As the waste in bin number one reaches the top, we prepare to move it to bin number two. In moving all of the contents of bin number one to bin number two, we are able to really mix up and aerate the decomposing matter. This is important for a proper and expedient composting system.
After the contents are moved, we are left with an empty bin number one. We will begin to fill bin one again with the “new stuff,” but we will never add new material to bin number two. The only job bin number two has is to continue to compost and break down.
When three composting bins are full
As bin number one fills again, we move the contents of bin two to bin number three and so on and so forth. By the time bin number one is full for the third time, bin number three should be fully composted and ready to use in the garden. *Remember* New material is ONLY ever added to the first compost bin.
All of this will depend on how quickly you create the material that needs to be composted.
Some people will find that they need much larger bins or need to simply resort to large piles that are turned and shifted. These bins have always worked great for us, but we live on .15 acres in a large urban city, which may be very different from your situation.
You may also wonder how to know if bin number three is truly ready to be used. The easiest way to tell if your compost is done is by sight and feel. Does it look like compost and is it cool to the touch? If you can still discern large chunks of food or specific plants, it needs more time.
If it is hot or warm to the touch, then it is still decomposing. Don’t use it if it isn’t finished. It can burn your plants, and they will die, which would be terribly tragic.