Composting is great, but if you leave your pile to just sit, it can take over a year to break down. Wanna speed things up? Use a compost turner.
I wasn’t going to do it. Not again. For once in my life I was going to be that person who walked into a store, pulled out her wallet and bought something that was fully assembled, ready to use and did not require an up to date tetanus shot.
Although of course my tetanus shot is always up to date because what kind of colourless life are you leading if you aren’t regularly coming face to face with the risk of tetanus? I mean, ‘cmon. But back to my earlier point, I wanted this particular thing – a compost turner – and I didn’t want to have to make it. I wanted to stroll into a store, hand over lots of money and buy it. It’s the sort of thing I could imagine a lady of privilege doing. (Or ordering her underpaid, illegal servant Svetlana to do on her way home on the bus.) For once in my life I wanted to be that privileged, servant ordering lady.
I was not that lady.
3 weeks ago I went to a small talk on composting. I already know a fair amount about composting (hot composting is my favourite method and can be completed in 1-2 months which you can read about in this post here but I figured you can always learn something new from any kind of course. Betty taught me that. Actually Betty manages to work that into pretty much any conversation.
I learned 2 important things at the composting talk. The first thing was that if you’re going to an hour long talk that’s outdoors in the middle of a pile of dirt, you should always bring a chair. The second thing I learned is that compost turners exist AND THEY WORK.
This is how happy such a discovery makes me. Which is pretty good evidence that I’m more servant material than lady of privilege.
The guy who this belonged to told me it was a gift he got years ago but it was from Lee Valley Tools. Nope. Not anymore it isn’t. They have a compost turner (also called a compost aerator) but it’s a different style.
In the United States you can get something called “The Compost Crank” which is the same corkscrew design, but it has plastic handles, not wood. I might be made up of servant stock but I’m a servant who has enough class to know a wood handle is nicer than a plastic one. Besides the $54 Compost Crank isn’t available in Canada.
I had two choices. Buy the one from Lee Valley that was a different design, or make one in the style I liked.
A bottle of Windex, some cleaning cloths and an apron to whoever guesses which route I took.
I made one. After thinking about a few different materials and designs I came up with this, the easiest and least expensive route.
But before I show you how to make one …
Why Do You Need to Turn Your Compost?
You don’t. Scraps, weeds and whatever other matter you put in your compost pile *will* eventually break down even if you just leave it there to sit. But it’ll take over a year to turn into compost. (which is why I choose to use the hot composting method)
Using a compost turner incorporates air into the compost pile which “activates” it, enabling it to heat up and break down more quickly. Much more quickly in fact.
Turning your compost also gets your compost pile to decompose at a more even rate. This means instead of having one blob of useable compost at the bottom of your bin, the entire bin will be ready to use at the same time.
If you like composting but never seem to be sure if it’s done you can read this post that outlines how to test your compost by planting it with radishes!
The $2 DIY Compost Turner.
- Spiral tomato stake ($2 at dollar store)
- Broom handle (I bought one for $4 but most people have old broom handles around. Don’t they?)
- Cut two pieces off of your broom handle, each around 5″ long. You can also use a large dowel.
- Drill a hole that’s 2 bit sizes larger than the size of your tomato stake through the centre of each piece of broom handle.
3. Slip one of the handles over your tomato stake.
4. With the bottom (untwisted part) of the tomato stake in a vise, bend the stake so you have an L shape.
5. Remove the stake, reposition it like you see below and bend it again.
6. Bend the stake again by positioning it in the vise like you see below.
7. Make your final bend to complete your handle.
*It took me FOREVER to figure out the bending angles in the vise so make sure you follow the photos.*
8. Put your last wood handle on and secure it by screwing on a nut. The tomato stake won’t be threaded, but if you use a wrench to screw on your nut, it will dig into the stake and remain tight.
I did absolutely nothing in terms of sanding or bevelling the edges of the handles, but feel free to pretty it up.
10. Finally put the end of the spiral into the vise and muscle into a tighter spiral. I just kept it in the vise and bent and hammered it until it was squished. Again, not pretty but effective. You can also heat the metal to bend it more easily and pretty-like if you want. I didn’t want.
The reason you have to smash up the bottom spirals like that is you need something that “grabs” the compost at the bottom of the bin. With the loose spirals nothing catches in them so you’re just aerating the compost, not turning it.
To use the compost turn just screw down into the bottom of the compost and pull up. It brings part of the bottom layer right up with it. Do this 6 or 7 times and the pile will be completely turned.
See? You really do always learn something new.
→Follow me on Instagram where I’ll be showing this compost turner in action later today!←