What is a Compost Barrel?

Carol Francois

A compost barrel is a container used to create compost. Compost is the result of decomposing organic materials in a controlled fashion to reuse in a garden. This material is brown, natural material that is used as fertilizer. Typically, the compost barrel is approximately 25” (63.5 cm) in diameter and 35” (88.9 cm) high. It is fitted with a thick inner wall as well as a device to turn the materials over inside the compost barrel.

A compost bucket.
A compost bucket.

Compost is used to improve growing of horticultural items. The material is rich in the nutrients and minerals required to support active growth of plants and vegetables. Compost is often mixed with soil or peat to improve the neutrality of the pH levels in the soil. A compost mix is based on the materials included in the compost. Certain types of vegetation produce a more acidic compost, which is not as beneficial to the vegetation.

Compost can improve the pH levels of soil.
Compost can improve the pH levels of soil.

To create a compost barrel, simple purchase a wooden wine barrel or similar wooden container. Place the barrel in a location easy to access to add materials, but not too close to the house. Compost is created through the decomposition or rotting of vegetation, so there is a naturally occurring smell to compost. Once you have determined an ideal location for your compost you need to prepare the compost barrel.

Install thick wood walls on the inside of the barrel to increase the temperature in the barrel, while insulating the barrel from the environment. The installation of these walls results in faster composting. Install a rod in the middle of the barrel with the crank located on the outside of the barrel. The crank is used to turn materials inside the compost barrel over to encourage aeration and the development of even compost. Make sure that the compost barrel has a tight fitting lid to reduce the possibility of animals breaking into the barrel.

At the end of the four- to six-week period, all the vegetation will have decomposed, resulting in a fine, brown soil material. Add all your organic kitchen scraps, vegetation and rotten food to your compost. The more varied the mixture of decomposing materials, the richer the compost will be. Check your local city bylaws on composting and recycling to ensure that your compost barrel complies with local regulations. Incorrectly stored compost barrels encourage wildlife that may not be especially welcome inside a busy city.

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