I think you are right if you are using lots of material. however, a bin made
with 4 pallets, if you are using pallets as-is, is actually enormous in
capacity, and is effective if lots of material keeps going in, or (better)
goes in at one time and is well managed all the time. Just the thing for an
industrious urban activist!
It's not clear whether you are planning to deal with the kitchen scraps or
you have lots of weeding, grass or other vegetable material to put in.
Mark's design is not suitable for bit-by-bit kitchen material, is it Mark? -
you can't get such a wet scrap loading system hot, and heat and air and
aerobic processes are basic to Mark's design.
The plastic bins are more designed for kitchen scraps and they depend in
part on anaerobic processes, which gives them their tendency to stink if too
wet, or if there is too much inappropriate material. They can be
The question then becomes, Kate, whether you might be better off, if small
amount of kitchen scraps are involved, making a worm farm yourself.
This can be done on a very small scale with two bins of some kind,
stackable, which will fit tightly above each other. They can sit outside the
kitchen door, out of the weather, out of the direct sun to avoid baking and
evaporation. I can't advise you on the local dogs and cats - the thing
obviously needs to be hard to tip over.
You need a fly stopping, smell stopping lid for the two bins, and you need a
bit of fly screen scrap and glue suitable for glueing the mesh to whatever
the bins are made of. Use the mesh to close hand-hold holes in the bins or
any other holes flies can enter. If there are no side holes, you needs some,
near the top of each bin, where hand holes would be. Cut a few holes in the
floor of the top bin, about an inch square, and mesh those too, so as to
keep the solids and the worms in the top and allow liquid to fall through
into the bottom bin, which thus must have a sound, no-leaks bottom and most
of the sides. Keep the top bin moist, with an occasional rinsing pint of
water over the contents. The bin at the bottom will contain the finest of
liquid manure, which you should dilute. Fancy worm farms have taps in this
Make sure the top bin is not going to be too heavy to lift off when loaded
(and this is why you don't want to use styrofoam boxes because sometime such
a box will come apart in your arms), and that you have a tray to sit its wet
bottom on while you tip the contents (accumulate a few inches only at a
time, don't wait for it to fill) of the bottom bin into a bucket.
This is a very simple design: I would suggest you look at stackable bins you
may have, or cheap storage bins and then look at commercially available worm
farms in a garden shop. Ask all the questions you can, read the instructions
and decide if you want to make a basic model yourself, as above, using
principles which you will see in any such device -- or buy such a thing to
take home. Lots of the commercial worm farms have three decks, allowing
scraps to go in at the top, worm castings to be taken out at the middle,
liquid at the bottom (the worms can travel through holes between the top and
My two deck machine came to grief when I put in, experimentally, stupidly,
wood fire ash (wondering whether the potassium would wash though nicely),
without noticing there were still some hot coals. Came back later to find
the whole thing smelling much worse than compost, plastic sides melting less
than artistically in several places, worms baked. But it worked before
that,. The system depended no on getting worm castings broken down and
washed through to the bottom with the occasional shower of water rinse. Some
analysts have pointed to the very close resemblance between worm castings
and the solid material (cow manure over-wintered in buried cow horns)
dissolved in water to make Rudolph Steiner's Preparation 500, used by
biodynamic farmers. What you get in the bottom of the worm farm is very
potent indeed, and may well be worth holding to apply at full moon, if you
follow such ideas.
Oh, you will want to buy some worms for such a thing, or get some from a
friend who has a good solid, suburban composter which should have masses of
worms at some point in its strata - but not from Mark's pallet sized
composter, his worms want a hot environment.
>I stand by my experience with pallets in an urban setting
>Does anyone out there have any suggestions for a composter
that fits a small city lot? I do not have much space or
extra cash. There are houses close on all sides so I have
to be careful with smell and appearance for my neighbor's
sake. Any ideas?
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