Monday, May 8, 2017

Using Compost Bins As Raised Beds

My composting method consists of tossing stuff into a wire bin and letting it decompose on its own schedule.  Because of the dry climate, things in a bin can sit there for years without decomposing much, so I ran a drip line onto the top to keep the ingredients moist and ensure compost within my lifetime.

Then we had the brainstorm!  Why not try growing stuff in the bin while it was decomposing? It has water and nutrients aplenty. It should be like a planter or extra-high raised bed.

The Construction:

Here's a new bin, made after yard cleanup, with layers of shredded branches, grass clippings,  and oleander leaves and blossoms.  The green thing is a bean plant that grew up the side between filling the bin and making the planter.
New Compost Bin

We made a depression in the middle of the material, lined it with newspaper and filled it with some garden dirt.
Layer of newspaper and dirt
Then we spiraled the drip line on the dirt and planted vegetables along the perimeter.
Drip line

Results

We had success with summer squash and tomatoes.  It's convenient to have tomatoes at a pickable height.
Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato, running wild

Problems

  • As the material decomposed, the plants needed to be adjusted for the lower height if they were draped over the edge.
  • The compost from the tomatoes was infested with tomato seeds from the fruits we didn't see that fell into the bin.
  • Tearing down the heap was a bit more difficult because of the massive root systems the plants developed, but not enough to make me stop using the heaps.

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