We started our compost pile with a free 5 gallon bucket from the bakery department at our local big box store. If you ask nicely, almost any store that has a bakery will give you their leftover frosting buckets, and if they can’t give them away, they will sell them for cheaply. They usually are rinsed out, but not cleaned out.
If you feel uncomfortable asking for buckets, you can buy them at Home Depot for less than $5 (as of today’s date). I’d personally rather use the leftover frosting buckets because they are free for me, and because it is a small way to recycle something that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
In order to use these buckets for composting, I wash them out well, then I drill about a dozen holes in the bottom of the bucket. If you don’t have a drill, a hammer and a large nail will work just as well. These holes will allow adequete drainage for when your compost gets wet. Try to make the holes large enough that worms can crawl though them if you plan on leaving your compost bucket directly on the ground.
I usually have three compost buckets going at any given time in different stages of composting. The first bucket is the bucket I’m currently filling. The only thing I have to remember is to always cover a layer of green with a layer of brown.
The green layer are things that are high in nitrogen. For this layer, I use things like coffee grinds, all vegetable and fruit scraps, tea leaves, and freshly cut grass. You can also use garden weeds as long as it has not gone to seed yet. In order to remember, I think of this as the “Living Layer”.
It’s important to always throw a brown layer on top of a green layer for a few reasons. The brown layer includes things that are high in carbon. This “Dead Layer” includes dead plants and dead grass clippings, newspaper, cardboard, hay, straw, sawdust, ect. I keep a few mounds of garden mulch close to my compost pile that I can throw on top of kitchen scraps in a hurry.
You want your compost mixture to be slightly damp, but never muddy or overly saturated. I usually leave it out for the rain or squirt some water in it when I’m watering the garden if it looks really dry. If it’s storming outside or if it’s been raining for more than few hours, I will put the lid on, just to protect it from our crazy Texas weather, but you really don’t have to.
After I fill up a bucket, I dump it in my wheelbarrow, and give it a few turns with the shovel. Then, I dump it back into the bucket, and let the sun do it’s magic. I only dump and mix the compost once or twice a month – you don’t have to do it that often, but it makes me smile to see my lovely compost in it’s different stages. It’s amazing that I can literally turn things that I used to throw away into something that is so useful for my garden.