Building a Rotating Composter

Commercial rotating composters are costly, but effective. I have one that I bought from Lee Valley Tools and it works great. Unfortunately they sell for $185, so adding a second one was over my budget.  

I also have a standard square wood-slat composter that I never remember (or should I say bother) to turn with a pitchfork because it’s difficult to do. Some of the material in that compost bin has been there for eight years. It was when I bought my first compost drum that I really began to take full advantage of the medley of leaves, grass and kitchen scraps around the house and yard.

I decided to make my own rotating compost bin with the goal of keeping it affordable and humble. I did some research and found plans for a number of rotating bins on the internet, but I was particularly inspired by one that I saw in person when on a garden tour last fall in Edmonton. It was simple, inexpensive and, according to the owner, effective.  

To make the composter, I used repurposed 2×8 preserved wood that I had on hand and an olive barrel from The Italian Centre Shop which cost $23. I also bought four tie plates at 87¢ each and four joist hangers at $1.17 each.  

I cut the 2x6s in the dimensions as shown below. I’m not sure the precise angle of the cut, but I designed it so that the legs would be 40 inches apart (outside measurement) at the bottom. 

I put two legs together as shown and screwed a tie plate on each side to hold them solidly. I then stood the legs up and used a level to place the joist hangers six inches from the bottom of each leg. I then used 30 inch cross pieces of 2×6 lumber to attach the two sets of legs together.  

I had some 2 inch PVC pipe on hand, so that’s what I decided would serve as my bar. I know I’ll have to reinforce the PVC eventually, but for the time being I thought it would do. (I replaced it a few days later when I found a discarded metal bar of the same size.) 

I cut two 2 inch holes 20 inches from the bottom of each side of my barrel. The barrel was 40 inches in total height with the lid, and I wanted to have the barrel well-balanced when it is rotating. Once the holes were cut, I inserted the PVC pipe and placed the barrel on the stand.  The notches hold the pipe in place.

The next day I decided to make it into a double composter, so I built another set of legs and added a second barrel. Now I should have lots of composting space for the year. If not, I know where to find another barrel and where to buy some more tie plates and joist hangers.

Using the barrel is simple, and when it’s a quarter full it spins with almost no effort. It’s wise not to overfill the container (keep it under half full), as I imagine it becomes more difficult to spin as it gets heavier.

I leave the lid off so that oxygen can reach the amalgam of yard and kitchen waste, although if it rains hard I like to cover it up. I might need to put a small drain at the bottom front, but for now it seems unnecessary. I try to remember to spin it every day (with the lid on of course) and I hope that in a few weeks I’ll have some great compost.



Making an Upside Down Tomato Planter



This year I decided I wanted own an upside down tomato planter, similar to the Topsy Turvy planters seen in magazines and on TV. With the price as high as $20 for a single planter, I had to figure out a way I could make one for far less. I wanted it to look nice and be functional, but not break the bank. 

I bought some green waterproof fabric at the discount fabric store for $2.50 a meter. It was great to work with because it had no fray. I also purchased a 90 cm package of no-name velcro at the dollar store for a buck. 

I had a 23 cm (9 inch) peony ring (plant support) that I wasn’t using and I thought would work perfectly for the upper support. At the dollar store there were also some  25 cm wire hanging baskets which would have worked nicely and were only $1.50, but I didn’t buy them. If I hadn’t had the peony ring I would have used a wire coat hanger or two.

Using  C= pi x d , I calculated that I needed approximate 73.5cm of fabric for the circumference and I added 2.5 cm for the seam allowances and 1 cm for flexibility for a total of  77 cm. I cut out a piece of fabric 77cm by 66cm.

I folded over 5 cm along the long side of the fabric and pressed it. This would become the top of the planter. I made three buttonholes 25 cm apart along this folded edge, with one of them 1.5 cm from the end. Between the buttonholes I sewed an upper row of velcro and a lower row of velcro, each 24 cm long.

I sewed the side seam, making sure to leave the buttonhole near the edge just outside the seam. Then I folded over the bottom seam of the planter 2 cm and sewed a hem leaving an opening large enough to insert a cord.

Instead of a cord I found a plastic cable tie that I thought would work  just as well. I ran it through the pocket at the bottom and cinched it up to make about a 5 cm hole.

I put the peony ring between the upper and lower velcro, folding a flap over and securing the velcro to itself. The three legs of the peony ring were threaded through the buttonholes. All I had to do was make a bend at the top of each leg and I had a three evenly spaced hooks to hang my tomato planter from.

Voila: only $3.50 for my tomato planter and I think it looks as good or better than the store bought version. I plan to plant a tomato in the bottom and perhaps a wave petunia in the top.

Starting My Gardening Blog

Raised Vegetable Beds

Raised Vegetable Beds

There must be thousands, maybe tens of thousands of gardening blogs out there in cyber-terra. I frequently, sometimes randomly, come across very imaginative and creative gardening blogs when I’m searching for information on a specific plant, technique or a how-to project.

I decided to start my own blog primarily for my own entertainment and enjoyment, but also to share with others some of the ideas I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned in my zone 3 garden.

I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where some might argue we have become a zone 4 in recent years. Frankly, the zone doesn’t really matter – what matters is which plants survive and which don’t. Every yard has it’s own microclimate, or various microclimates, that will determine what will overwinter successfully. Soil conditions, protection from wind, good snow cover – they all affect what we can and can’t grow in our own little plot.

In the past few years I have become increasingly interested in permaculture, although I admit I haven’t given my yard over entirely to growing food. I’m a fan of growing vertically, as I can get more into my tiny raised beds by going upwards.

I like to keep things simple and tidy. The past two years I have used square foot gardening in my raised beds, and I love the look and efficient use of space.

I hope to be able to share photos and information about the various projects in my backyard, and learn from others who have thoughts and ideas to post.

It’s the beginning of spring here in Alberta, and it’s going to be a great year for gardening.