It may be cold and the garden is asleep BUT this is the perfect season to plan for and fantasize about what incredible plants and supremely useful tools you are going to need in your garden and yard next season. There is a level of satisfaction in being able to grow your produce as organically as possible with little to no pesticides or herbicides and home “cooked” compost. Making your own compost can be back breaking work. Collecting kitchen scraps is the easy part. It’s the turning, watering, mixing and shoveling that can make you question your decision to garden organically. Oh, how easy it would be to sprinkle fertilizer out of a can, but would you feel good about it. There is a product that not only makes this process easier it’s attractive AND easy to move!
When you think of Toter you may already know them for their garbage and recycling bins. If you don’t, then look around next time you go to the mall, price club or big box store – you are sure to find a Toter trash can some where. Well, now they’ve come up with a tool which will make the organic gardener, and those aspiring to be organic gardeners, grin.
Thanks to the Toter Corporation I received a Toter Composter for the purposes of review. My first thought when I saw this baby was how pretty it was. For a glorified garbage can on wheels it is really good looking. The composter is the size of a typical garbage can like what you’d take out to the curb on trash day. The large sturdy wheels are placed in such a manner that even when fully loaded it is easy to tilt and move the bin wherever you need it – even across a bumpy yard. Just like the Toter trash bins this has a large hinged lid with a handle running the full width of the mouth.
It’s what’s inside that makes the Toter composter impressive. When you open the lid the first thing you see is a turnstyle type handle inside a tapered, perforated cone. These sit on a wide grid metal grate that has a sturdy broom like brush underneath it pointing upwards. The composting material sits on the grate above the collection area. The tapered perforated cone allows aeration of the mix. The handle is attached to the brush and turns it so it scrapes the completed compost from the bottom of the “pile”.
Beneath the lid is instructions on how to use the composter from day one. The measurements are made for the included little compost collecting bucket* for use indoors. The recommended ratio of brown (carbon rich) items and green (nitrogen rich, ie. organic, non fatty, non citrus kitchen waste) items is 3:1. When I first started using the composter I was really, really, really tempted to use it as a sifter for my already made compost. I thought though I should be fair and use it as it’s intended. I followed the instructions filling it with a 3:1 ratio of brown to green and waited for 4 weeks before I touched it. It’s at this point that the process starts to feel like traditional compost making. There is no easy way to turn compost; it has to be done by hand with a spade or a fork. Since the composter has a metal grate at the bottom of the composting compartment I didn’t want to use a garden fork that would get stuck in the mesh and possibly pull it out. Instead I opted to use one of my daughter’s little spades to pull and turn the compost until it was well mixed again. After this I had to wait another 2 weeks before trying again and seeing if any compost was ready to be “swept” into the collection compartment.
Upon my first loading of compostable materials to the bin I chose to use shredded newspaper. This turned out to be a mistake, not because of the type of material but because of the process I chose to follow. As in traditional composting I layered my items instead of mixing them all up. What this did was allowed the strips of paper to become compressed together essentially blocking the grate from allowing any compost to fall through. I was disappointed, but I learned my lesson. If I use strips of paper again I’ll make sure to mix them well with the rest of the organic matter to prevent the matting from occurring. Since then I’ve been using my little girls child size garden spade and hoe to turn the compost on a regular basis to make sure everything top and bottom gets evenly mixed. It’s still a bit of work, but a lot easier that trying to bend over to turn a big pile sitting on the ground. After I remedied this situation I was able to start collecting and using home made organic compost from the bottom compartment. The locking, hinged door in the bottom of the bin allows for easy access.
I was able to take it to the garden behind my house, the flower beds in front of my house and all around the property without much effort. Now that cooler weather is coming the compost is probably going to stop forming. It would probably be best to empty the movable bin before the winter and put it in a garage or outbuilding for storage. You can put that right on the garden and the freezing and thawing will take care of breaking it down completely before spring comes. If there is still some organic matter in the bin you want to keep that from freezing and expanding inside the container. Bring the bin inside a heated garage or at least one that stays above 35 degrees Fahrenheit – if your pipes don’t freeze then the bin won’t either. This is probably what I’ll do since I do continue to collect compostable materials through the winter and the thought of trudging through snow and ice to get to the stationary bin at the back of the property does not sound very appealing.
You can order your own Toter Composter with countertop unit directly from Toter Corporation or from Home Depot, Lowe’s or Amazon.