Composting is a great way to help preserve the environment while creating fertilizer for your garden and lawn.
Having collection services haul your green waste away to a dump site uses up energy resources and contributes to pollution and climate change.
Homemade compost bins provide an easy and inexpensive way of recycling your kitchen waste. Making your own compost bin will save you additional money and will help in recycling used stuff around your home.
Homemade compost bins are fairly easy to construct, and they do not require any fancy parts or tools.
There are a things to remember when designing and building homemade compost bins:
- Air circulation – Vegetal waste requires air to compost efficiently. You probably do not want to use anaerobic composting that does not require oxygen. Therefore, you need to ensure that there are at least air holes or other vents that will allow circulation into your bin.
- Portability – You may decide that you want a compost bin that you can easily move around from place to place. This can also be advantageous when it comes time to lay out the compost.
- Cover – You can decide to make either a covered or an uncovered bin. An uncovered bin could attract foraging wild animals along with pets.
Here are a few tips to help you develop an efficient composting pile:
- Add waste that is high in nitrogen including grass clippings and manure.
- Add carbon-rich waste in smaller amounts including items made of paper. If you add shredded newspaper, make sure that the ink is non-toxic and biodegradable. Paper, straw and similar material can help generate higher heat in your bin that will lead to a faster rate of decomposition.
- Add worms or grubs to the bin to aid in the process. Not only will they help break things down faster but their waste products add additional nutrients to the compost. In many cases, you might not even need to add these insects as they will find their own way into your bin.
- Moisture – Depending on the type of waste you add to the bin, you may or may not need to add extra moisture. However, if you live a hot, dry region, you should check the bin periodically to see if it needs some additional watering. Dry waste will not compost efficiently and your pile will become very large quickly. One trick is to dump your kitchen waste before it dries out to contribute as much moisture as possible to the compost pile.
If your compost has sufficient moisture, oxygen and nutrients, it will decompose quickly and even if you are dumping large amounts of waste the volume in the bin should be easy to control If you find the bin overflowing, you may want to add extra moisture.
Another trick is to use separate mulch bins for garden waste like leaves or twigs that can take a longer time to break down.
Now, here are seven ideas for constructing your own compost bin:
1. Old trash bin
Probably one of the easiest items to recycle into a compost bin is an old wheeled trash bin. You can easily move these around and dump the compost whenever it is ready for distribution.
The bin will already have a cover to keep critters out, so all you will need to do is add air holes for ventilation.
2. Rotating barrel composter
A rotating barrel is a good idea because it allows you to mix new waste easily and thoroughly with the already composting material. This mixing will speed up the decomposition process.
Simply use an old food grade drum mounted on a wooden frame with a metal axle going through the center. Cut out a opening for a “door” in the side of the barrel for adding and removing compost.
3. Wire composting bin
You can use chicken wire or wire mesh to make a simple and inexpensive compost bin. The easiest method is just to take a long section of wire, wrap it around and connect the ends to form a “tube” shape.
You can fit the tube of wire around three or four metals posts. You could also set up four metal or wood posts and attach the wire mesh to create a rectangular composting bin.
Use wire ties and pliers to attach the chicken wire or wire mesh to the posts. You can leave the top open for easy access or create a cover made of wire, wood or other material.
4. Cinder block compost bin
Stack up old cinder blocks to create a sturdy composting area. You can set up walls on three sides and leave the front open to access your pile easily.
The walls should be about two to four feet high depending on the amount of kitchen and yard waste you generate. Cinder block will last for a long time, and you will not have to worry about the bin getting blown over by the wind.
If you want to prevent access to pets and wild animals, use tarp, sackcloth or similar material to create an easy-to-remove cover. Make sure that the cover will allow air to reach the composting waste.
5. Wood pallet compost bin
Old wood pallets are easy to find for recycling. Simply take three or four pallets and stand them on their sides to create an open bin or or a gated bin.
Attach the pallets together with wire, nails or screws to form a box-like shape. If you want a gate, add a hinge and latch to the fourth pallet for easy opening and closing.
6. Wheelbarrow compost bin
Use an old wheelbarrow to compost your kitchen and garden waste. If you have an old barrel with holes in it, no need to worry as the holes will provide for air circulation.
If the wheels are still serviceable, you can use the wheelbarrow to distribute the compost when it is ready. Use a sack or tarp to cover the pile if you want to prevent animals or pets from scavenging for snacks.
7. Open compost pile
Actually you do not really need to build anything at all to compost your yard and kitchen waste. You can simply create an open composting pile anywhere in your yard.
Alternatively, you can dig a pit to keep the compost more out of sight. The only problem here is that the pets and animals will have easy access to the waste.
In one way, it is not such a bad idea to have pets urinating into the compost as this actually adds extra nitrogen from their urea!
However, if you would prefer to avoid this, you can use a tarp or sack cover for your composting pile. This will also help prevent the compost from blowing around when there are strong winds.
Make sure that the cover can “breath” to allow oxygen to reach the decomposing material.
Here are some more ideas for you… 23 DIY Compost Bin Ideas.
I drive 4 metal fence posts in a square and wrap small opening fencing around the posts then fasten the ends together with dog chain clips. Come time to turn the compost, I remove the clips and fence and run my tiller over the pile back and forth in several directions. Once done, I rake it back in between the posts and put the fence back. No back breaking compost turning for me!
Wendy Pearce says
I’m actually going to make a composting bin from the outer casing of a broken clothes dryer. I thought I’d leave the back open and put it on top of the ground then using the door I can open and close it. I’ll also drill holes around the side for ventilation. Thought I can then use the drum as a planter.
Interesting. If you paint it black it won’t even look like an appliance.
Wanda Gordon says
My compost pile is in the corner of my chicken run!! They are very happy to turn it for me again and again!!!!! Interesting for them!! Helpful to me!!!!!
Do you think an old spa could be used?
I guess it could as long as you can get in there and turn and remove the compost easy enough. But it would have to have lots and lots of drain holes in the bottom, probably at least one inch in diameter.
Susan Mayberry says
We are going to give it a try.We poked holes in bottom.Before we add anything,we are going to poke holes in sides too.I would love to know how yours turned out.Did you have any hiccups along the way,that you could share.Thanks.
Philip McMahon says
Can you use fence paint on a wooden compost bin
As long as it’s latex I don’t see why not.
Hi, I am new to gardening and am starting my first attempt to make compost. Can I spread compost directly on top of the mulch in my garden, or is compost supposed to be added to the soil below the layer of bark mulch? Any feedback is appreciated!!!
Finished compost is nothing more than really nice soil. You can use it to amend a bed before planting or use it when planting plants, or you can till it in to a garden. You can use it for a mulch if you want. But because it is so rich, weeds will grow in it. Mulch is better at keeping weeds at bay.
Nasseem Alkhoury says
thx 4 da info..im using plastic bin w/plastic cover…is it good idea??one other thing sir,should i add water to my compost?? i check it every now and then its always having water in it although i never add…
Sounds good just make sure it stays moist, but I would also put some drain holes in the bin so excess water can drain out.
JEAN ANDERSON says
Mike, I think it’s time to descibe “Kitchen Waste” in greater detail. There are many no no’s in order to keep it from smelling and drawing the wrong critters.
I agree. I didn’t write this article, it was contributed by one of our subscibers so I’d love for you or somebody else to provide more info on “kitchen waste”. I add very little kitchen waste to my compost bins because I most certainly do not want to attract rats.
Garry Craig says
I use kitchen waste solely for the worms. No fatty material which prevents them from breathing through their skin. They are happy and as a gardener I’m happy with the pure worm casting. They turn it back into soil in the form of worm casting. Magic.
I have a homemade barrell tumbler. Have only had it a few month so far. It seems to be working great. Not too sure how long it is supposed to take but hopefully I will have good compost by next spring? I’m thinking maybe I need two? What do you all think?
Garry Craig says
Hi Renee I use a compost tumbler and have done so for many years. A Sutton compost tumbler. It’s on a stand the barrel 418 litres. I can make great compost in 2 weeks. I use fresh grass clipping and wood shaving or sawdust. Shredded leaves and the like. First couple of days I break up so the grass gets well mixed with the sawdust turn 5 times once a day no lime added as it’s comes out with a neutral PH and the worms love it. Place on the soil about 100mm works as a mulch and the worms will eat it up and take the worm casting into the soil. Plus if stored in a wooden frame compost bin keep a cover over to keep moist the worms get into it and once again turn into pure worm casting. The Best Soil conditioner and the best fertilizer there is. Enjoy.
Penny P says
Hello fellow gardening friends,
When my daughter got her first place, she wanted to start gardening but, didn’t have a lot of space for composting. While on a walk in her
neighborhood, we noticed some workers removing belongings from vacant house
and putting them on the curb for trash removal. In the pile was a metal tub
from a washing machine. I told my daughter the metal tub may make a good compost container and would be ideal for her limited space. The workers
were happy to give it to us and we rolled it home. The tub made a great compost container. The holes in the tub are small, keeping the materials
in side yet, large enough to allow good air flow. Her dad built her a simple stand out of wood so, she could excess it easier for turning and a
small piece of ply wood held in place by a brick, for a cover.
Penny P says
CORRECTION…. OMG, don’t know what I was thinking! The metal tub my daughter used for composting came out of a DRYER unit, not a washing machine!
Hi Penny , we use a dryer barrel also and wanting to start another soon.
I am going to try to post a link to the picture .
Mike I Love your newsletters and blog !
peace and happy gardening ,terica
jerry baker says
I drive steal fence posts in ground about 4 ft circle then wrap chicken wire around post. fill with garden waste and leaves. worms will break it down.
John Hurley says
Have a barrel composter have tried most of things suggested but can’t seem to get it hot enough only about 80-95 degrees
Garry Craig says
One of the most important things is to make sure you have the right amount of moisture in the content of your bin. Plus if it’s a small volume bin the size my be to small. I use a 418 litre barrel about 1m in length or just under with the right materials and moisture it will cook.
I like to use my garden as a worm composting site I don’t use a bin because I don’t think it’s right to keep the worms against they’re will. I just throw or burry the garden and kitchen scraps that I know they like example coffee grounds ,bananas,scraps from a salad I’m making and so and in return they supply me happily with the castings I know where to find them.
Hey what happened to pictures? It’s ok, I can look up and get more ideas on the internet than I possibly have time to do. Use peppermint in the compost piles because they naturally discourage vermin. Unless like Fred you want them to turn the piles for you. Still, don’t they add to disease? Just wondering. Thanks for another great article.
I use the pallet setup for my yard in Colorado. I do get visitor looking for grubs. I was going to run em off and then I realized the little varmint is turning the soil for me. Waging war on animals around here can be a lot to chew off.
Lynn McMillen says
My husband made me several wood tomato frames – big ones, about 2’x2′ by almost 4′ tall. They worked fine – until the dog died. Then the bunnies tunneled up underneath, and the deer reached over the top. Anything they left, the woodchucks ate. I finally gave up on vegetable gardening, but I still have a flower bed with herbs tucked into it here and there. I now use the wooden frames covered with chicken wire as compost bins. I have one behind the house for kitchen compost, and a couple out by the garage in back to put in grass clippings, shubbery cuttings, etc. Rain keeps them watered, they get lots of air. I may have to put more nitrogen stuff in, as they are not composting as fast as I had hoped the would, but they’re getting there. Between that and the commingled recyclables we have, and a newspaper recycling bin there as well, I put very little into the actual garbage dump. Makes me feel quite virtuous. 🙂 LYnn
Simply used (hardware cloth) wire hooked onto metal stake supports.
Has worked well for many years. Made two bins side by side. One for
new additions,while the the other pile was percolating for use.
Also made a DIY compost screener with folding legs to fit at an angle
(like an easel) right over a wheelbarrow. Shovel the compost material onto
the screener, allowing residual material to drop to the ground. The
‘black gold’ is deposited and ready to wheel away. Then just return the rest
to the compost pile for more ‘marinating.’ Beautifully friable, enriched
what type of screen material do you use?
I use old truck bedliners. Several different,,,one for leaves and grass,,,one for horse manure,,, and one for chicken manure.
My husband made me a compost bin with three bins from 2×8’s and posts. He attached the bins to the garden fence using the pig wire from the fence as the back. He then built a frame with the 2×8’s. He used chicken wire for the sides and between the three bins. Then he created a space between two posts for short 2x8x2’6″ boards to slide in and out of the front as needed. The second bin is for transferring the initial compost after it has begun to decay and the kitchen waste is turning. We shift it into the middle bin until it is perfect compost and then we move it to the third bin which is what we use in the garden and for amending the soil when we plant trees etc. We cover the top with weed cloth so it can breath, but it does help keep the pets and some critters out. We did not add any worms to the compost, but currently have giant worms at least 8-10 inches long. I add all of our coffee grounds and tea bags,cutting the string and staple off each tea bag before throwing it into the compost and the worms are thriving! We also tear up the cardboard tubes from our empty paper towel rolls. (switching to rags little by little but the paper towels compost as well) By the way, we didn’t put a bottom in any of the bins. We also have a water hose handy at all times right at the compost bins. My husband dug in and installed a spigot next to the bins, comes in handy for rinsing out the coffee cans after dumping the kitchen waste from them). Wish I could be as smart as my phone and I would post a picture or two or three of my set-up. We also have a couple of bales of straw sitting next to the bins on a wooden pallet and keep it covered with a tarp and bungee cords. The straw is quite useful for the compost and for the laying boxes for the hens. Have issues with black ants in the straw, but they don’t eat much! LOL! FYI, I grow all my own useful herbs and place fresh herbs in the hen’s laying boxes. The hens love it. I read it calms them when you use the correct combo as well as aids in controlling insects. Hope y’all have a visual in your heads about my wonderful and most useful compost bins. Oh! nearly forgot! I can add and remove the 2×8’s when the compost is not so deep and as it gets deeper. I found a “good” pitchfork is a must when turning or working with the compost. Don’t try to save a few bucks when buying a pitch fork. It is the most useful tool on our property! First most useful tool is the tiller! Third is the wheel barrel and a children’s red wagon. Happy composting everyone!
I would like to know what herbs you use in your hens boxes this is a great idea. thank you sheiliah
I have a two section bin made from pallets and it works well. I have also seen one made from a round garbage can, some holes drilled around in the can to let out moisture and let in air, top held on with a bungee cord. Fill halfway, tie down lid, turn on it’s side and roll it around.. Nifty idea! Thanks Mike, love your ideas..