Saturday, April 18, 2009

Earth Machine Compost Bin

Let's talk about composting. Yes, it's related to food. Think of all the peels, roots, and other fruit and vegetable scraps you discard in the kitchen. I always felt guilty about wasting food. Now, I still feel guilty if I waste food, just slightly less so.

Considering Earth Day is coming up, I think compost talk is fitting.

Earth Machine Compost Bin

I use an Earth Machine compost bin. I've seen them on eBay for about $75, but you don't need to pay that much. I bought mine for $20 from the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. They sell compost bins twice a month to Los Angeles city residents. They also sell a stackable version for $45. I, obviously, went with the cheaper model.

Check with your city to see if compost bins are sold at reduced cost. Portland Metro sells them year-round for $39. My parents had one so that's why I'm used to this type of composter.

The Earth Machine comes in several parts. The top and bottom is easily snapped together. The lid can be twisted to keep animals out. The door at the bottom has a hole for you to put a stick through it to prevent animals from sliding it open. There are four big screws to bolt the compost bin to the ground. That's it.

I've never had to worry about any animals digging into my compost bin so that's a non-issue. The only time it was moved was when police, chasing a suspect through my neighborhood, tried to lift the bin to see if anyone was hiding inside. Those screws held it down tight. And yeah, I used to think my neighborhood was pretty safe...

Anyway, I toss in all fruit and vegetable scraps, paper, yard clippings, and egg shells. No meat. No bones.

The easiest thing for me is to keep a bag by my sink and toss scraps into that. Small paper bags that were used to hold glass bottles but are too small to hold anything? I use it to hold scraps and chuck the bag and all into the compost bin.

If I'm making a salad or chopping up a lot of vegetables for soup, then I keep a bowl beside me and dump all the contents into the bin.

Once I got into the habit, it became easy and automatic.

You'll want some aeration for your bin, so the combo of papers and kitchen scraps seems to work for me. If you have those cash advance checks from credit card companies, you can shred them and add them to the compost. This way you don't have to worry about sensitive information being found in the trash or recycling bin. If you've just mowed the lawn, don't dump in all the grass at once. Layer grass, then some shredded newspaper, then more grass, etc. Don't add in weeds, which often survive extreme conditions and will grow wherever you put the compost.

If the mixture is too dry, you might have to water it. If it looks too mushed together, you might have to turn the compost a bit to give some air. But other than that, there's very little maintenance.

Six months, a year, whenever later, you'll have compost. I don't even wait for my scraps to fully turn into compost before using it. I just line the bottom of my containers with the semi-decomposted mixture and then top it with soil. It'll eventually decompose anyway.

Other garden updates.

For apartment dwellers, Oanh of Unique Schmuck used a Bokashi with good results.

For more information:
Earth Machine
Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation Compost Bin Sales Events Schedule

1 year ago today, Dau Hu Nhoi Cha Tom voi Sot Chao Ot (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste-Stuffed Tofu with Fermented Bean Curd Chili Sauce).
2 years ago today, frozen yogurt with fresh fruit toppings at Pinkberry - Los Angeles (Koreatown).


  1. I bought this bin from Portland Metro! Hubby was hesitant because he thought it would smell or attract rodents. We've never had a problem with odors and it's not far away from out bedroom window. I've only seen one mouse in it once when the lid got blown off, probably because I didn't turn it all the way to secure it.

    My only complaint is that I put it too far away from my back door. No problem during the summer months, but during winter, just walking around the house to throw the scraps away is a chore. But I do it.

    It took about 2 years to get enough compost out of it, but I never watered it or turned it either. It would have probably gone faster if I had. Or if I used that compost maker/starter stuff. I only found out about that recently, and now I don't need it.

    Good food-related topic!

  2. Darlene,
    I don't have so much yard waste so it seems to take a while for me too. But I just keep adding to it anyway. It seems to decompose enough that my bin never gets full.

  3. another dumb question. what if i don't garden (or the kiddie pool gardening doesn't happen)... what do you do with compost then?
    i like this idea but i don't know how feasible it is for me to do.

  4. Lan,
    I have no idea. Presumably you have a patch of dirt in order to have a compost bin? So after the compost becomes dirt, you could just add to the pile? But it takes a long, long time for the compost to become dirt-like. I usually end up using it when the organic matter hasn't completely decomposed simply because it takes so long.

  5. WC, I hope you don't mind if I chime in again.

    This particular model bin has a bottom section that is sold separately, which is perfect for people who want to put it on a large (large!) deck or something.

    They also sell organic compost starter, which is stuff you throw into the bin and wet down. It supposely makes the composting go faster. I've yet to try it, but I hear it works nicely. Otherwise it take a long time to break down.

    You don't need a garden to compost. The stuff is great for house plants too! I like to replenish some of soil in my indoor pots with it. And mixed compost (being made of many materials) is better than the single component stuff you buy.

  6. Darlene,
    I don't mind at all. You certainly answered that question better than I could. :)


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