Screw it! I'm composting!

At least I hope I am. Because I started my fall lawn overseeding project late I ran into a problem. Leaves on an overseeded lawn. Normally I would just mulch mow leaves into the lawn but with the seedlings still small and fragile, they can't handle the mowing and leaving the leaves on the lawn would block the sunlight and air they need. After worrying about the grass seed germinating it finally started coming in.

I used my blower to concentrate the leaves in areas where I could rake without stepping on the lawn too much. I was careful to not disturb the soil and seedlings, just lightly comb the rake through the grass to remove the leaves. After seeing all the bags of leaves I had, it seemed like such a waste to put them out on the curb when they could be turned into a great soil ammendment for next year.

So I decided to learn about composting and determine what the best composter for me would be.

Maybe I shouldn't act like I'm completely new to composting, just using a different method. In previous years fall leaves get spread on the lawn, along with other plant debris from the vegetable garden, mowed to shreds, bagged and then spread over the garden beds as mulch along with grass clippings. This is the sheet composting method. By the next planting season the decomposed material is tilled into the soil. Even after doing that and mulching leaves into the lawn I still wound up putting a few bags to the curb. This year I decided to buy a bin and try hot composting. Because of the problems with tomato blight this year I figured the hot composting method might also help next years crop.

I previously commented on a compost bins review video I stumbled on which found that the best composters are the bin composters. The tumbler types didn't contain as much material or get as hot as the bins. While they may be prettier and easier to turn, I decided they just weren't worth the money for me.

The compost bin I decided on was the Geobin Composting System from Presto. It is similar to the Presto bin composter featured in the video review which performed the best. Amazon had the best price I could find and I received my order 2 days after placing it and using the free shipping option. Two days is a lot quicker than it would take my procrastinating butt to go out and find one locally.

Price was a big factor. I didn't want to spend a lot and for less than $40 and free shipping the GeoBin composter looked very appealing. It will pay for itself after two batches compared to buying bagged compost. I was considering just piling everything up but I liked the idea of having everything contained.

Size was another issue. I don't have a lot of space and the GeoBin composter only takes up a maximum 4' diameter space. It is also adjustable in size. Presto recommends a size of 3' to 3.5' in diameter. I think I'll only be using it in the fall so being able to hose it off, roll it up and stick it on a shelf in the garage in the spring is just perfect for me. Another option might be to just reduce the size substantially and have a smaller bin in the spring/summer. It's a very versatile bin!

There were quite a few negative reviews on the GeoBin Composting System. Most of them were about the stakes breaking and not being long enough. Based on the reviews and the pictures, it seems they might have addressed at least part of the problem. The stakes I received are definitely not the same seen in the picture with the yellow tabs that people were complaining about. What came in the box are what look to be normal green garden stakes. They don't dig in deep into the ground but the weight of the materials inside should keep it from blowing over, especially if assembled in its widest setting. If it's really an issue, longer garden stakes can be purchased separately at most garden centers for a couple of bucks each. You also probably already have a few stakes you aren't using over the winter like I do.

The bin sides are made of a very thick plastic sheet that seems like it will last a long time. The issues people had with the stakes seem like they can easily be resolved so I didn't hesitate to make the purchase.

The one drawback I can think of is that it doesn't seem quite sturdy enough to use the sides to leverage a pitchfork or other tool when you turn the compost. Something like a Yard Butler Compost Aerator seems like a good tool to have to help aerate the compost in the bin. I'll see how it goes without one and buy one if I think I need it.

Assembling the GeoBin is pretty straight forward but the instructions could have been a little more detailed. So here's some tips in assembling the GeoBin Composting System that might help.

The bin comes rolled up and the plastic wants to keep that shape. When you first take it out of the box it may not want to cooperate. If it was earlier in the year I would unroll it on the patio on a sunny day to help it relax but the waather wasn't cooperating so I just unrolled it in a hallway for a few hours. This made it much easier to work with.

The GeoBin Composter comes with 6 bolts. They should be used 3 on each end. Think of a double-breasted jacket. The nuts only need to be hand tightened. If you tighten them too much you might wind up breaking the plastic washers or stripping the threads on the plastic bolts.

Once it was assembled and staked into a corner of the backyard I didn't find it as offensive as I thought I would. It actually looks a bit sleek compared to other options such as chicken wire. Just make sure you line up the bolts properly so the sides stand straight and that the ground underneath is fairly flat.

Within a short period of time I was ready to start filling it up.

To help the material compost faster I shredded up the leaves. Since I couldn't use the mower because of the new grass seed I remembered seeing a commercial leaf shredder that had a head like a string trimmer so I just used my Black & Decker NST2018 Cordless String Trimmer With Two Batteries. I would take some leaves out of one bag and place them in an empty bag then stick the string trimmer in like a giant stick blender. It worked out pretty well. After shredding, the volume was a lot less than before. After the second bag I realized I could just dump the bag into the GeoBin and shred them in there. The larger surface area meant less reaching and pulling up which made it go faster.

Right now the bin is filled mostly with leaves and thatch that I pulled out when overseeding and some plants from the garden. Once the lawn can be mowed I'll add grass clippings and the rest of the plant debris that I'll shred with the mower. In addition I'll be adding used coffee grounds from my own coffee maker and ones I pick up at Starbucks, vegetal and fruit peels, etc. I'm going to need a lot of "greens" to add nitrogen to make sure the pile heats up. Just in case I threw in a bit of liquid organic fertilizer to get things started.
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