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Three-Bin Compost System

March 20th, 2009

I spent the day yesterday moving my compost piles. I have the wire compost bins from Gardener’s Supply and I really like them. They are super easy to use, I especially like the ease of taking them down to move or turn my pile.
I actually have 4-5 compost piles. I have one for pine straw that I use for strawberries, blueberries, hydrangeas and other acid loving plants. I have a big brush pile that is for animal habitat, I have 2 regular compost piles and I have yet another that’s finished compost ready to be used.

When we were at Longwood Gardens I saw a wonderful three-bin system that I would love to have in my garden!
It’s a three-bin system, which if you use it properly will make compost faster than my way of just piling it up for a year.
We took a lot of photos of it because we really liked the design and I’m hoping to have one here at Chiot’s Run someday. The details are fantastic, like this lid that hinges in the middle for ease of use. They thought of everything!
Notice how they even extended some boards up the back of the bin to hold the lid when it was open.
Someday I hope to have one of these in the gardens to make my composting system much more efficient. But until then, piles on the ground will suffice.

What kind of compost system do you have? Do you compost?

26 Comments to “Three-Bin Compost System”
  1. Julia on March 20, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Last summer was the first time I had a compost bin, and I need to rethink my strategy…I took the passive method and was hoping by spring I’d have compost. I wish I had room for this system.

    Julia’s last blog post.. Garden Updates – Last Day of Winter

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  2. Bridgett on March 20, 2009 at 8:11 am

    I have yet to do a compost bin but it has been on my list of things to do for quite a while. I am wondering if you all have ever seen the kitchen compost containers? You keep them in your kitchen and use it to collect your cooking scraps for a few days and then transport it out to your compost pile later. I love the idea (especially in these cold Ohio winters) but am wondering if they smell after a day or so??? Thanks for the continued inspiration :)

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    • Susy on March 20, 2009 at 8:19 am

      I simply use a old bowl for my indoor compost bin. I don’t have trouble with smell. You can buy ones that have carbon filters to limit the smell though. My mom uses an old rubbermaid container that has a lid, and she keeps the lid closed to keep smell down.

      I’m actually hoping to get a vermi-composting system for this winter. I’m planning on putting it in the basement. This should be an even more efficient use of my kitchen scraps.

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      • Becki on July 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

        I saw an idea to use a ceramic jar, like a cookie jar. They’re plentiful in second hand stores so they’re cheap. Get on with a lid that fits pretty well and your compost is out of sight. I currently have mine in an open plastic bag, which doesn’t smell as much as you think it would. When the fruit flies start gathering, I just take it out.

        to Becki's comment

  3. Layanee on March 20, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Piles! I did have a bin but then the trailer loads of horse manure arrived and it was easy to pile it and turn it with the tractor. I love the neatness of the bins and they are much better for the kitchen scraps. I did purchase one of those Nature Mill composters but it has never worked. Gee, reminds me, must call once again for the refund.

    Layanee’s last blog post.. Reflections and tracings

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  4. Dave on March 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I can see why you like the bin at Longwood gardens. It’s very well done. When I get around to, I say that a lot, I’d like to build one just like that! Right now we just have a few old pallets screwed together. It works OK. I’ve also got a little dump pile where put larger material for it to break down.

    Dave’s last blog post.. A Sedum Garden

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    • Susy on March 20, 2009 at 9:06 am

      We say that a lot as well Dave! Usually for us it’s “This winter we’ll __________”

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Sande on March 20, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I have 3 bins constructed with old pallets. They are open on one side for ease of filling and turning. I just started them last year but so far they seem to be working well. I also have 3 plastic lidded trash cans (30 gal) with many holes drilled into the sides that I use for kitchen waste layered green and brown. I filled one through the winter and then dumped it on the bottom of one of the compost bins. We have raccoon and opossum problems so I always try to bury the kitchen waste well. I’m new at composting but there is a lot of good information available on the web.

    Sande’s last blog post.. Helper Dogs and Indoor Gardens

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  6. Spot on March 20, 2009 at 9:47 am

    My compost system looks a bit crude by comparison: I simply have a large pile in a remote corner of the back yard. Think of it has a zero-bin system.

    Spot’s last blog post.. Not Your Grandparent’s Patio Umbrella

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  7. Jennifer on March 20, 2009 at 11:12 am

    We got an “earth machine” compost bin. The state bought a ton of them and each town got a bunch, they sold them to the citizens who wanted them for a drastic discount. This was years ago and we feared they wouldn’t have any left, since our town only got 30 or 40. They did though, and last summer we got one for $20. Along with about 100 pages of composting information. All summer and fall it was a bottomless pit for leaves and neighbors’ grass clippings and food scraps. Once the temperature dropped it stopped composting and we took a bunch out of the bottom and spread it on the garden and mixed it in. It’s still full right now, but as the temps warm up we expect to have to find things to fill it up again. :) It brought us closer to our neighbors, which is pretty neat, for a compost bin.

    Jennifer’s last blog post.. My evenings – honeymoon planning

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  8. Maureen on March 20, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Love this 3-bin system, thanks for posting the pics! We currently have just one bin and it’s fairly labor intensive as we have to sift thru the new stuff on top to get to the usable compost on the bottom. Our plan is to add at least one more bin this year and eventually a third after that.

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  9. Di on March 20, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I have a one bin compost right now, but hope to make it three bins in the future.

    Reply to Di's comment

  10. warren on March 20, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    We have a big pile in the back that we keep turned and so on. It’s not methodical but makes some sweet looking dirt!

    warren’s last blog post.. Sprouts!

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  11. Dan on March 20, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    I compost in one of those earth machines or bio stake things. The city sells them to the public in the spring for $20 bucks so the price is right, pretty difficult to turn but I make due.

    That wood composter you saw is very nice. I’d love to build a unit like that one day. The screening is a great addition.

    Dan’s last blog post.. Spring Seeding

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  12. Teri on March 21, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I have one of those black plastic bins that the previous owners left. I put kitchen scraps in that and green material from the garden. The rest of my compost is piled. I have lots of organic material from my 4 horses. I use this compost to top dress my raised beds in the fall and such.

    Teri’s last blog post.. 79/365

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    • Susy on March 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm

      You must have a lot of manure with 4 horses. That’s fantastic. There’s a horse farm right down the road and I keep thinking about asking them if I can get some manure from them for my compost piles.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. Em on March 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    those wooden bins do look lovely don’t they? Our system is fairly rustic but it seems to work ok in this climate – 3 open-fronted metre square bays made from chicken netting and steel posts. No tops or fronts. It’s a cold compost, so we add to it as material becomes available, trying to balance the green/dry mix… I cover the bay with old cardboard when it’s full, to speed up the process, and it takes 4-6 months depending on the season. An entire cubic metre reduces to about 1/3 during this time.

    I’ve read that quite a lot of nitrogen can be lost in this (cold) process due to the insects that feed on the compost, so would like to incorporate chooks (chickens) into our system to turn over the processed compost and “catch” that nitrogen. Of course I want chooks anyway, but this would be yet another way they’d help out :)

    Em’s last blog post.. School homework and Garden diary

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  14. on March 22, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Now I know what I can do with all those pine needles I rake up. I can use them as mulch around my two new blueberry bushes, I can, can’t I. Growing blueberries is new to me so I am learning all the tricks. What about using them also as a mulch for the strawberries and hydrangeas?

    Reply to's comment

    • Susy on March 22, 2009 at 2:02 pm

      Oh yes, I mulch my strawberries with pine needles throughout the winter, as well as my blueberry bushes. Hydrangeas would love it as well to keep those beautiful blue blooms.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. Pampered Mom on March 22, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    We’ve got a purchased compost tumbler and then a three bin dealy that we made using some palletts we got for free (we used the directions in “The Compost Gardener”). PLUS – we use in garden methods of composting like “Comforter Compost” and “Honey Hole” as described in “The Compost Gardener” – man I love that book!

    Pampered Mom’s last blog post.. Busy

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  16. How Not to Compost on March 25, 2009 at 11:08 am

    […] just throw garbage on the ground outside and call it a compost pile.  It’s not.  Chiot’s Run has a great post about a three-bin system.  And last year, I made my own bins from old garbage […]

    Reply to How Not to Compost's comment

  17. What’s In Your Compost Bowl? | Chiot's Run on March 27, 2009 at 4:46 am

    […] about compost last week were fantastic. I really enjoyed reading everyone tips about what and how they compost. I thought we’d continue the conversation today and talk about what you put in your compost […]

    Reply to What’s In Your Compost Bowl? | Chiot’s Run's comment

  18. Krista on March 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    do you put bread in your compost..or tortillas?

    Reply to Krista's comment

    • Susy on March 24, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      I do put bread in the compost, the yeasts are actually great for the compost. I put things the compost some places tell you not to. When we eat chicken I save all the bones and bury them in the garden. Usually I dig a hole and bury them well so an animal doesn’t dig them up. I don’t see the point in throwing the bones out and then buying bone meal at the store – seems wasteful. I also will throw dairy (cheese/yogurt) in the compost, most places will tell you not to. I don’t throw grease in the compost though, that and anything with food additives and artificial colors and flavors.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  19. Krista on March 25, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Susy.. I’ve just purchased my compost bins..and am so excited to get my hubby to put them together!! I have worked up four containers of green matter..and have lots of brown around the yard to work up to get started. I’ve heard this process takes 6 weeks, others say longer. What do you find? How do you compost in the winter? does the cold keep it from going well? love love love your blog, you’ve inspired me.
    .-= Krista´s last blog ..New Cooking School Schedule =-.

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  20. Reid on November 26, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    I have two bins. I empty one in the fall. It is not completely finished, but I let my soil friends do the rest of the work. I cover my non enclosed raised veggie beds (with nothing on them I’ve been told they look like Indian burial grounds!) with it. It is never enough. I make note of the beds that did not get covered with it in the fall, and then add the one I filled during the winter to the remaining beds in the spring.

    My family eats a lot of oranges; and I collect coffee grounds all winter, so in the spring it smells of fall leaves, citrus, and coffee as I take off the lid to turn it in the spring. Only gardeners could appreciate the sweet smelling steam that is produced on a crisp clear spring morning!!

    We cut hair at home, so that goes into the bin as well. I also have a bag of leaves on hand to add during the winter.

    This year I will take off the cover of one of them so the snow can pile up and keep it toasty.

    I plan on growing squash out of one of the bins next spring by emptying half of the compost, and fill it back up with good potting soil and mixing it all together. Has anyone tried this?

    Thanks in advance for your replies!

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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