Ryan writes in with a helpful how-to –
Well, it’s garden season again, which means it’s time to start composting. I meant to be composting throughout the winter, but a telephone pole fell on my old compost pile, and I’ve had absolutely no motivation to repair it. It wasn’t much of a pile anyways. As anyone who knows how it works will tell you (not me!) composting can be tricky. It takes a delicate balance of nitrogen, carbon, moisture and air to do it correctly, and if you’re doing the conventional compost “heap,” that means making sure your balance of raw material is good, that the heap is well drained, and that you turn it over quite regularly so that air can get to the microbes that need it.
Some folks (especially urbanites like myself) have resorted to compost tumblers, which alleviate the air and moisture issue by making it easy to aerate and drain the pile. These tumblers are cool, but often expensive. Since it’s essentially just a drum on a fixed axle with some holes poked in it, it was fairly easy to build one myself on the cheap. I settled on a design that maximizes air and drainage, keeping the compost moist but not wet, and aerated but not dry. I did it for about forty bucks, and it didn’t really take any special tools.