compost bin, still viable?

Asked May 21, 2017, 2:52 PM EDT

First off, I know this is not the right way to do things but...
A number of years ago we made a compost bin out of a plastc garbage can - drilling 2" holes and covering them with screen. We were unable to mix the compost and could only add to the top. I think we added to the bin for four years with the volume decreasing as dark stuff appeared at the bottom (we could see this through the holes). Last summer, though, the top slicked over with a smooth layer of fungus (I'm guessing) and smelled terrible for the first time ever. We stopped adding to the bin at that point. Presently, it has dried somewhat, does not smell, and has many small ants and other insects. My question is: can we use the material in the bin in our garden or have we created a toxic soup that we must throw out in the trash? Second question: are cottonwood leaves too waxy to compost? Thanks for your wisdom, Laurel




Boulder County Colorado

1 Response

Hello,

Here is a fact sheet on composting that answers your questions: http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/07212.pdf.

We would suggest re-composting your compost before using it. Make sure it gets well aerated and moistened occasionally. If you want to use your existing bin, you can fill it, then occasionally transfer it. To transfer it, raise the bin off the pile and put it down again next to the pile. Then aerate the pile as you place the compost back in the bin in the new location. If you do this regularly, then you will have a better aerated compost.

The factsheet above also talks cottonwood leaves.

It is a little work maintaining a compost pile, but having good compost is worth it.

Best,

Colorado Master Gardeners