Composting is pretty much standard for anyone with any kind of garden. It’s part of the natural cycle – the soil provides the nourishment that provides the crops, and we then return what we don’t use back to the soil, along with whatever other organic matter we can add. I’ve gone through several different types of composting systems, but my current one – the SoilSaver composter – does just what a composter is designed to do, and it does it well.
What I’ve used previously
ꔷ The old school standard that our family used when I was growing up was just called a “Tomato Ring”. It was a piece of fence in a circle about three or four feet in diameter that held leaves and whatever else was available. They worked, but only if you kept it watered and turned over; it was a rather labor-intensive system and was too quick to dry out.
ꔷ Next was a rotating drum system. In theory, this should be ideal – but it wasn’t. After numerous attempts, I found that every single batch would become anaerobic – it was not getting enough air mixed in, and it would become a slimy, putrid mess. A rotating drum with enough ventilation would apparently be too porous and lose its contents when being turned.
ꔷ After that was a round plastic composter that had an open bottom. This one worked well. The open bottom prevented water from accumulating, while allowing it to remain wet enough to decompose. It worked great until the side split and it had to be scrapped.
The SoilSaver (Amazon link) is what I am using now, and have been for the past three months; based on that, I added a second one a month ago. The SoilSaver is well-designed and sturdy when properly assembled and set up. One of the keys to “properly assembled” is following the instructions when it says that it must be set up on a flat level surface. The first time I set one up, the ground was not flat enough, and the top would not fit on very well. Removing the contents, leveling the ground beneath it (i.e., actually reading and following the instructions), then filling it back up made all the difference. The top now fits neatly and closes securely.
Nothing is perfect, and the SoilSaver is no exception. It is assembled with plastic nuts and bolts, and it comes with a wrench to tighten them down. It doesn’t take much to over-torque and strip them. They really ought to include a few extra of the plastic nuts and bolts – it couldn’t cost more than a penny or two extra. That’s it – the only thing I could find to criticize about it. Assembly is fast and easy, and it is designed to make assembly pretty much foolproof. When the sides are assembled, it is rather unstable when carrying it, so it’s best to put it together pretty close to where you’ll be using it.
While we’re on the topic of compost bins, a “must have” tool is the Yard Butler Compost Aerator (Amazon link). I first learned of this tool after seeing one being used at a demonstration garden at our county Ag Center. You’ve got to keep things mixed up and aerated, and this tool makes it fast and easy. I’ve read some reviews complaining that, after a while, the “wings” get rusted in place and it no longer works. Nonsense. Any tool needs to be kept clean and oiled if you expect it to work well and to last, and this is no exception. I keep mine in the tool shed when I’m not using it, and I always wash it off when I’m finished with it, and if I see any rust starting to form, a drop of oil is all it takes. As my father liked to say, “Take care of your tools, and they’ll take care of you.” I have been using mine regularly for a number of years, and it works just as well now as when I first got it. Highly recommended.