Sunday, July 12, 2009

Welcome Stoddart Avenue Community Garden’s Second Compost Bin

We built our first compost bin at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden during a hot Memorial Day weekend. I was helped by two neighborhood boys in sawing the lumber down to uniform sizes. Within days, we realized that we wanted to build another one, but of a different design. I was leaning towards using chicken wire (similar to the one at my own home), but put it off until I completed other projects and bought some more chicken wire. At the end of June, Gardener Barb emailed me, indicated that she had an old wood storage pallet in her backyard that she did not need and suggested that we get a few more and build the new compost bin out of pallets. My initial reaction was – ugh more hot work. Then I was concerned about finding more pallets and, of course, how aesthetic this bin would be in the neighborhood. Pallet bins are pretty big and not what most people want right outside their backdoor. I had seen pictures posted on the Columbus Community Garden website of the Master Gardening class at OSU spending a day constructing pallet compost bins. However, Barb convinced me that the pallets would not be that big and so I gave the idea more thought.

About two weeks ago, Bill Dawson (from Franklin Park Conservatory’s Growing to Green Program) stopped by and I mentioned we were thinking about building a pallet compost bin next to the current compost bin. He suggested that we dig a trench to stabilize the pallet bin.

The next evening, I was biking along the Alum Creek bike trail and noticed that there were a number of pallets by the trash bin behind Crimson Cup (on Alum Creek Drive). The next morning, I also noticed some discarded pallets next to the Mr. Tire auto repair store on East Main Street and went inside to ask if I could have the smaller one. Sure, they said, and I dragged it four blocks back to my garage. I then called Crimson Cup and asked if we could have the discarded pallets to build a compost bin. Sure, he said, but I had to act quickly because other people liked to take them, too.

I called Barb and she said her husband, Frank, agreed to pick them up in his truck (as well as the one behind my garage). When I got to the Garden on Wednesday, they had stacked them on the west end of the Garden. The pallets were a nice size, very clean and new looking and freakishly heavy. (Solid, new wood will do that).

I researched ways of building pallet bins and settled on a design that seemed relatively simple. All that was needed were four corner brackets (which cost about $3/each) and some screws (which I already had). I had planned to build it when youth volunteers were scheduled to visit on Friday, but they cancelled and we already had scheduled to pick-up some compost on Monday to put in it. Volunteers or not – we had to build the bin this weekend.

Barb and Frank wanted to help build it, but couldn’t be at the Garden until around noon on Saturday (when it was supposed to start storming). Luckily, Dwain is almost always up for hot work, heavy lifting, digging out bricks and using power tools. Even though he thinks I’m a little odd, he understands how important compost is to help the Garden next year. When I showed up at the Garden on Friday and explained my plans, he graciously agreed to help. Then, not to be outdone, Lawrence agreed to help, too. Dwain carried the pallets from the west side to the northwest corner of the Garden. He dug a six inch deep and wide trench out of solid brick with his rock hammer. I handed the guys the brackets and screws and loaned my screw driver. Lawrence and I debated whether the holes needed to be pre-drilled: I said yes, he said no. Ever the diplomat, Dwain alternated drilling techniques while Lawrence and I held the pallets upright. (The corner brackets were attached inside the bin corners).

The project took less than an hour (including digging out the trench). Dwain suggested that we add a top brace because he knew that I was concerned about the bin bowing out when it was full.

Unfortunately, Lawrence left before I passed out brownies and took pictures. (However, his mother and nephew got brownies on his behalf). The picture I took is of Dwain enjoying a brownie after building the bin. (On Wednesday evening, SACG gardeners will be viewing a nearby gallery of Dwain's art work).

We have five more pallets left. Three of them will be used to build a storage bin for the wood chips (which line the Garden’s paths and fences) on the southwest corner of the Garden. The fun of building it will either go to Barb and Frank or the youth volunteers who are scheduled to come next Friday (or maybe both if Frank and Barb are able and willing to do it next Friday afternoon). Since we will have two extra pallets left, I’ve suggested using them to construct a similar compost bin for the Bexley Community Garden, but I’ll need help transporting the pallets to Mayfield Place and in finding a third storage pallet. (Of course, if someone gets two extra pallets and two large hinges, we could also put a door on the empty side of bin. We are talking about Bexley, after all.)

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