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in-ground doggie waste disposal system

When we installed our in-ground waste disposal system, we had three dogs. One is large (about 65 pounds), one is small (about 15 pounds), and one was medium (she has since passed away) and had some digestive issues that resulted in what seemed like non-stop pooping! As you can imagine, backyard cleanup was a daily task. We filled a bucket to go in the garbage can pretty quickly. That’s when we decided to look into an in-ground system. *I should probably note that dog and cat waste cannot be added to your regular compost and cannot be used in your garden. Installing an in-ground system is actually pretty easy. The worst part is digging the hole!

Step #1: Choose your location and dig your hole.

We put ours in the back of our yard behind our shed. While the smell is somewhat contained, you’ll definitely be able to smell it if you’re close to it, so choose wisely. Most of the systems recommend digging three feet deep. That’s probably a great plan if you have just one little dog. If you have big dogs or multiple dogs, though, I would recommend going at least six feet deep. The good news is the hole doesn’t have to be wide, so don’t let a six foot dig scare you away! A post hole digger actually works really well.

Step #2: Add pea rock to the bottom of the hole.

The key to the system working is drainage (or lack thereof). The addition of the water and enzymes is what breaks down the waste. If you have sandy, looser soil, the water may drain too quickly to adequately break down the waste, so you’ll want to add water more frequently. If you have clay or harder soil, you may have a bit better luck since the water won’t drain as quickly. In any case, a layer of rock at the bottom of your hole will help to maintain the hole and regulate drainage. Pea rock is great, but any type of smaller rock will do.

Step #3: Place your lid.

There are plenty brands out there that make this “system.” All you’re really buying, though, is a lid. The hole does all the work; you just need something to cover it. If you’re handy, you could certainly make your own. The one we bought at the time isn’t actually made anymore, but this Four Paws one is pretty similar. When you place the lid over your hole, I recommend digging it into the ground a bit to keep it in place. Then pack your dirt back around it for security.

Now You’re Ready to Use It:

  1. Add waste to system as it’s picked up. (Resist the urge to fill it with everything that’s been sitting around for the last month! It will never catch up and break down.)
  2. Add water to the system daily. This often isn’t part of the actual instructions, but the moisture will help break down the waste more quickly. I add enough water to fill to the top once a day. This is an especially important step if you have looser soil that drains quickly.
  3. Add enzymes to the system weekly. I like the Four Paws Waste Manager tablets available here. You just add one tablet per dog per week with water.

Unfortunately, in-ground systems will only work in warm weather. If you live in a northern state like we do, you won’t be able to use the system over the winter. We typically stop using ours in late fall and begin using the system again in the spring.

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diy milk crate composter

A couple years ago, we bought one of those fancy (and expensive!) tumbling composters at one of the big box home improvement stores. While we are happy overall with the purchase, we also have a few complaints: 1) It’s an awfully big barrel. That means if you want the material to fully compost, you have to put only so much in it and then let it do its thing. You’d need another one to add new stuff to while the first one was composting. 2) It needs to be turned every couple days. That’s not a huge deal, but it can be a bit heavy and cumbersome to turn. 3) Despite the hefty price tag, they don’t hold up well to the elements. They have lots of springs, hardware, and tiny moving parts. Add rain, wind, and snow to those parts, and they just don’t last.

Usher in the DIY milk crate composter. If you look at my three complaints above, I’ll tell you why I love this one! 1) Each crate will be composting material in different stages. That means while two crates are busy doing their thing, you can add to the third. By the time all three are full, the first crate you filled should be ready to use. 2) You never have to spin these guys. When the the top crate is full, you just shift it down and cycle to a different crate. 3) The crates have no moving parts and are cheap (or FREE if you already had them lying around like we did), so you don’t have to worry about the effects of the elements. Ok, enough talking about it, let’s get making!

Materials Needed:

  • Three milk crates
  • Landscape fabric or other mesh or screen material (to keep the material from spilling out the sides while still allowing for airflow)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Wood for lid (we used 2x4s and 1x2s)
  • Nail gun and nails or drill and screws and/or wood glue (for the lid)
  • Old newspaper (to line the bottoms of the crates)

Make It:

  1. Cut landscape fabric to fit all sides of each crate up to the handles (12 pieces total).
  2. Use the hot glue gun to attach the fabric to the inside of the crates.
  3. Measure the top of your crate, and cut 2x4s to the appropriate length to cover. (We ended up using four pieces of 2×4, so the lid would hang over the edges of the crate a bit.)
  4. Cut two pieces of 1×2 to run the opposite direction on the underside of the 2x4s. Keep them short enough fit down into the crate. (These are optional but will help with stability of the lid and with keeping it on the crate.)
  5. Nail and/or glue 2x4s together.
  6. Nail and/or glue 1x2s to the bottom of your 2×4 lid.

Use It:

  1. Level an area of ground in your garden or other outdoor area 3-4 inches wider than the crates.
  2. Stack the crates on the ground. Check for levelness, and adjust your ground as needed.
  3. Place 2-4 layers of newspaper on the bottom of the top crate, and begin filling with your compostable waste.
  4. When the top crate is full to just below the handles, shift it down to the middle space.
  5. Place newspaper in the bottom of the new top crate before filling.
  6. Continue shifting crates down as the top crate fills.
  7. By the time your third crate is full on the top, you should be ready to use the material in the bottom crate (depending on how much you’re putting into the composter, of course).