Cheap & Compact Composting Buckets

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Project by Dchip posted 01-15-2013 07:46 AM 2263 views 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Cheap & Compact Composting Buckets
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The big project for this year is composting. Being in a city with a small porch certainly complicates things, but I am confident that I can get a system going in at least some capacity. I browsed many $100+ systems, but this price-point was just too high for something that may not work (or work well). In the end, I decided on a system based off of 5-gallon buckets (the beginnings of which are posted here). They’re basic HD buckets with lids (<$5) that I spray-painted black to warm in the sun. I also added some drainage/aeration holes. My plan is to just fill the buckets on a rolling basis, numbering each and keeping track of timing, etc. The buckets themselves can be stacked in the sun and mixed (shaken up) quite easily on a regular basis.

Since I have no experience with composting, am I missing some obvious fault with this system? Right now the only issues I can foresee are longevity and capacity, both solved with more buckets. I may also need the temps to rise a bit before any real breakdown takes places. Smell could be a big issue – but from my understanding healthy compost smells earthy and fresh. I appreciate any and all input. Thanks.

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC

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3 comments so far

View jroot's profile


5121 posts in 3475 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 01-15-2013 01:24 PM

Smell can indeed be an issue. I would keep the pails away from the door and open windows. Let the air blow it away. Otherwise, it sounds good. The idea of painting the buckets black is good. You might need to add more holes for aeration. Keep us posted.

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

View Radicalfarmergal's profile


4312 posts in 3107 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 01-19-2013 07:47 AM

Unwanted smells from a compost pile tell you that something is not in balance. Your compost should be moist but if it is so wet that it is soggy, you will get some very unpleasant smells such as what you might expect from a swamp. As long as you have sufficient drainage, so the materials get sufficient oxygen to ensure that the decomposition is aerobic rather than anaerobic, the smell shouldn’t be much of a problem. If you get a rotten smell, rather than the earthy, forest soil smell, you might need to increase the drainage in the buckets. Another potential solution to reduce compost smells is to add more carbon (e.g. dry leaves, dry grass, wood chips, shredded newspaper). Enjoy your experiment; I hope it works for you!

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile


14694 posts in 3845 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 03-17-2013 03:34 AM

I’d never heard of bokashi before. Interesting.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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