The following how-to on building your own dog poop composter comes from HOMEGROWN member Joan, a nine-to-fiver who moonlights (and daylights and twilights) as a fearless mom and sustainability guru in Southern California. Thanks, Joan—and please keep the good ideas coming!
Making a dog waste composter was just one more step in my urban family’s slow crawl toward living a more sustainable and less wasteful lifestyle. In our consumerism-driven culture, we produce so much trash that we simply put it on the curb and wait for it to become someone else’s problem. The trash disappears on trash day, and we have nice empty bins to fill up once again. My family started making a concerted effort to decrease the amount of trash we produce, with the idea that anything we brought in had to be used, composted, repurposed, upcycled, et cetera.
Which leads me to dog poop. We’ve always had dogs and we’ve always had two, ’cause we never want them to be without a buddy. But two dogs produce a lot of doggie doo doo. Pictured are our two doo-doo makers, Maggie and Charlie.
What to do with all that doo has been a quandary, and all of our previous solutions were pretty gross—namely, just throwing it in with the rest of our trash. Plus, I was worried about what we would do if we ended up succeeding in our quest to produce no trash: If we didn’t have any trash, what would we do with all the doo doo? I had seen ads for dog composters in the past and had kept the idea in the back of my mind for a while, but it wasn’t until I came across City Farmer that we finally decided to do it. The website offered step-by-step instructions, and I fell in love with the cute lid!
This composter works by breaking down the dog waste and allowing it to harmlessly and odorlessly leach into the soil. One important note: Dog poop is not recommended for use as plant fertilizer; this post from the University of Minnesota Extension explains a couple of key reasons why. In fact, your town or incorporated area may even have restrictions against the use of dog poop in gardens. (Rabbit poop, however, is another story.) But letting the poop break down naturally seems like the next best thing.
Making the composter was actually very easy, inexpensive, and took very little time. (That’s easy for me to say since my husband actually did the work!) The hardest part was digging a hole big enough to bury a 32-gallon trashcan—and in the hard, rocky soil of Southern California, this was no easy feat. Without further adoo (yep, spelling intended) . . .
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
» 32-gallon trash can
» Saw or knife to cut out the bottom of the trashcan
» Several rocks
» Septonic, a.k.a. septic tank enzymes
» Artistic skill (or not)
1. Dig a hole deep enough to bury your trash can up to the rim but not so deep that you can’t put the lid on your can.
2. Prepare your trashcan by cutting out the bottom of the can and drilling holes all around the outside.
3. Put some rocks in the bottom of your hole to aid in drainage, place your prepared trashcan in the hole, and—tada!—you have a dog poop composter ready to receive its first donations!
I also saw variations in which no trashcan was used, just a deep hole with rocks at the bottom, but you would need to improvise a lid or cover. After you have made a few deposits, you can put some of the Septonic enzymes in there; City Farmer recommends once a month, along with a little water.
As for the artistic part, well, my husband finished the project, and before I could intervene, he spray painted “POOP” across the lid—no cute doggie or flowers but, hey, he dug the hole! We’ve been using our composter, which we put in a far corner of the yard, for a couple of months now, and it's clear that we will never fill it up. There's no odor, and the poop is breaking down as fast as we add it. It works fantastically, and we have no more stinky dog poop in our ever-dwindling trash. Now, the next step: What to do with our kitty’s poo? Any ideas?
Got a tip on what to do with kitty poo? Or a question about Joan's doggone composter? Or another method of disposing of pet deposits? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling. You might also be interested in the Build Your Own Compost Bin 101, the Composting 101, the Build Your Own Bat House 101, and for approved poop-as-fertilizer, the Raising Rabbits 101. You can always find more things to make, craft, cook, preserve, plant, grow, and scoop in the HOMEGROWN 101 archive.
ALL PHOTOS: JOAN ASCHOFF
Great topic. It's been bugging me for some time to watch my mother wrap her pet poop in plastic bags, tucked inside another plastic bag and then put all those bags inside another trash bag for garbage pick up. The poop will live longer than the pets!
Cool idea! You could put cat poop in there too, no?
Wow - so happy to have the real scoop on doggy doo disposal! Thanks!