Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


City of Vancouver Distribution

Earth Machine Compost Bin

A Steal of a Deal at $25!


The following article describes the "Soil Saver" compost bin, which is similar to the "Earth Machine". It was previously distributed by the City. The techniques described by head gardener, Wes Barrett, will work with any type of home composting bin.

(C) Copyright: City Farmer 1995-1998

So says Wes Barrett, head gardener at Vancouver's Compost Demonstration Garden. "The recycled plastic bin retails for around $100", says Barrett, "and having tested many of the plastic bins ourselves, we think it's one of the best." The City of Vancouver continues to offer compost bins to residents of Vancouver for a subsidized price of $25.

Continuous Composting

Here's why it's one of the best according to Barrett. "The Soil Saver is shorter and squatter than some of the other bins so it's easier to work with and get into and turn the materials. It also has sliding doors on adjacent sides for easy access to finished compost. These doors allow for continuous composting - you just keep adding to the top and taking from the bottom."

Looks aren't Everything

"The bin is esthetically pleasing, too", says Barrett. "Many of the people who come to the garden like the look of the compost bin. It's nice and compact, black and not much bigger than a garbage bin, so it tucks nicely into the corner of a yard or patio. But the bin has a 12 cubic foot capacity which amounts to about 300 and some odd litres of food and yard waste. So it can do the job for a family of say, five people easily."

City Farmer's Special Recipe

"Looks aside", Barrett says, " it's really how you manage the bin that counts." The special recipe that City Farmer stands by is the old 'wet and dry, brown and green'. For example, if you start with a layer of straw (dry) or twiggy material on the bottom, you allow air to circulate up through the bin. Then you continue with alternating layers of brown (fall leaves, straw, stripped up newspaper) and green (grass, garden waste, food scraps). Generally, green materials tend to be wet as well, and brown materials are dry. Keep a bucket of dirt next to your bin so that when you add a layer of food scraps (uncooked fruit and veggies, no meat, fish, grains, dairy, oils), you can sprinkle it with dirt (kills smells and fly eggs), and then top it off with a brown layer. If the food is well buried each time, you won't attract rodents with the smells.

And make sure you mix everything up well at least once every two weeks with a pitch fork or compost aerator (available at most nurseries and hardware stores now)."

More Tips from the Master

"Store up your dry fall leaves in garbage bags or cans so you always have a brown source on hand. Keep a bucket of soil handy, too. Just store up food waste in a covered bucket under your kitchen sink, and add your scraps to the outdoor bin once or twice a week. We recommend setting the bin up in a sunny spot right on the soil, but if a shady area on the patio is all you've got, go ahead."

Extra rodent protection

For added rodent resistance, Barrett recommends a sheet of hardware cloth (1/2", 20 gauge wire mesh) which you can lay on the ground, then set your bin on top of it. That way rodents can't burrow up underneath.

Where do you sign up?

Just drive out to the Vancouver Transfer Station at 377 West Kent Avenue North (down Cambie, cross S.W. Marine Drive, turn left). They're open 9 to 5, 7 days a week. Bring $25 cash and ID. to show you live in Vancouver. The bin comes in a box and will fit into your trunk. There is a bit of assembly involved but we promise, you won't need a city engineer to put it together. If you don't live in Vancouver, call the Compost Hotline to find out if your municipality is offering a bin program; most of them are.

Personal Instruction and Hotline Service

If you want a personal workshop, come by the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden at 2150 Maple Street in Kitsilano. They're open Wed. through Sat. from 9 to 4. Or call the Compost Hotline at 736-2250 and ask about Demonstration Gardens in your area.
Go back to Urban Home Composting

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Revised March 9, 1998

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture