A compost bin in plain sight

Feb 20, 2023

by Bob Niklewicz

Where do you hide your compost bin or do you hide it at all? Is everything in the back of the yard, or in wooden boxes, or big piles somewhere out of sight? 

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Perhaps you have the garden waste inside black plastic containers that look like Darth Vader or R2D2? Compost is worth making, but maybe you can do something a little different and hide it in plain sight. How about putting it in the flower beds or next to pathways, or near raised planter boxes? That way you would not have to haul the waste across the yard, but rather just reach over, or take a step and drop it into something near where you are working.

Think about how convenient that could be.  Yes, bins are ugly and detract from the plants and themes you have established. I am proposing that you make compost bins disguised as silos and place them strategically around the yard. For example, I am sure you have seen or even used those 1/2 or 1/3 round sections of cement tree/plant rings.  A ring section  can be a 1/2 section that when put together with another, will make a 14” ring. A 1/3 section plus 2 more, will make a 24” diameter. If you make complete circles from these sections, then stack them, you can make a Silo to the required height–be sure to wear your gloves.

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As the rings are scalloped, air can travel into the debris at each level. You can water it and see how far down it is going. When it is decomposing, you can add to it or transfer newer deposits into the next bin by easily removing sections and shoveling material from one unit to the next, restarting a new batch in the first silo.  

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By making the ones in or near the planters 6-7 rings or more high, you can toss in the waste from the weeds and cuttings you want to compost, right there near you.  Assemble and re-reassemble them as needed to the height you want. Mix and match heights.  In some building material stores, they may have the cement rings in a black color. If you are imaginative and ambitious, there are many decorative or artistic painting designs you could try. 

If you think they are too ugly standing there, you can make them nicer looking by placing a container of plants inside the silo for color and disguise. Place the container right on top of the decomposing material or let the rim of the container hang on the top ring. Maybe the containers could be painted to resemble the trunks of palm trees or whatever design you like. Over time the container will sink into the silo as the material decomposes.

With some colorful perennials, or a fuchsia that hangs down added, the silos may become the centerpiece of that large area that needs some height, all while making wonderful, healthy compost for the next batch of plants to enjoy.

Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: mastergardeners@countyofnapa.org. or phone at 707-253-4143.  Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.

Visit our website: napamg.ucanr.edu to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.

Photo credits: Bob Niklewicz