Try Garbage Can Compost

07112 garden_compost_book

Garden tip from The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin; Storey Publishing; hard cover, $29.95


Who wants to talk about composting? Gardeners, that’s who. And authors/gardeners Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin share a wealth of information on creating compost heaps — right in the garden — in this easy-to-read how-to book on the subject. Here’s just one of their tips from the book:



Making a banner batch of compost in the confines of a barrel or tumbler is almost like test-tube compost — you can maintain precise control over materials, moisture and mixing, with no interference from curious critters or compromising weather. Purchased composting barrels or tumblers can be pricey and a garbage-can experiment is a good way to give tumbler-style composting a try before you invest in a commercial model. If you’re satisfied with the results you get with a modified garbage can, you may want to shop for a barrel or tumbler that’s specifically designed for this task. After rolling a garbage can around your yard, you’ll have a greater appreciation for barrel composters that are designed for easy turning.


Materials and Supplies

  • Cylindrical metal or plastic garbage can with secure lid
  • Drill with 5/16-inch bit or hammer and large nail (4- or 6-penny size)
  • Elastic tie-down (bungee cord) twice as long as the can’s diameter
  • Duct tape (optional)


  1. Use the drill or hammer and nail to punch 15 to 20 evenly spaced holes in the sides and bottom of the garbage can.
  2. Set the can upright in an area where there’s room for it to roll around. Add prepared ingredients to the can in alternating layers; moisten dry ingredients as you add them to the mix. Fill the can two-thirds to three-fourths full.
  3. Put the lid on the garbage can and fasten it with the elastic tie-down over the lid and hooked on each side to the lip at the base of the handle. If the lid does not seem secure, lash it on with a few strips of duct tape. Tip the can onto its side and roll it around to thoroughly mix the contents.
  4. Roll the can daily, making at least three full revolutions, for at least two weeks. To check for heating, feel the outside of the can with your hand. Every three days or so, you may want to open the lid and check the moisture level of the contents, watering enough to keep the contents as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and to break up large clumps with a turning fork or other long-handled tool.
  5. When heating subsides, you’ll know your compost is nearing completion. Continue to roll the can every two to three days for another week. By this time the temperature in the can should be the same as the air temperature outside. The compost is now ready to set aside to cure for two weeks, which can be done in the can or in an open pile, covered with a tarp.
Categories: Gardening