How To Guides

Building Guide: How to Make Your Own Compost Bin

wooden compost bins in garden setting

Creating Your Compost Bin

Making a compost bin can be a relatively straightforward DIY project, depending on the kind that you would like. A compost bin only requires an area that will allow for the proper decay of anything biodegradable that you would like to decompose. Ideally, you will be able to have a proper compost bin outside.

Designing Your Compost Bin

The design for your bin should allow for an opening at the top and the bottom and will be created to rest directly on top of the ground. While you can purchase a pre-made compost bin or compost tumbler, you can make one with a little bit of work.

The reason you want to build a bin is to allow your composting materials to stay together. The closer the material is together, the easier heat will build up and allow the material to break down faster. The size of your bin should allow you enough space to turn the compost with a pitchfork or a shovel. Doing this will enable you to aerate the soil and will help speed up the composting process.

The best compost bins should be covered as rain, and excess moisture can keep the composting process from working as efficiently as possible. In most cases, you will want to create your lid for your compost pile, but if you can’t, using a polyethylene plastic sheet will do the job as a cover.

Simple Types of Compost Bins

When it comes to constructing your bin, it depends on what types of materials you want to use. If you use a fairly simple design and inexpensive materials, you can have your compost bin ready to go in just a few hours or less.

  1. Wood Pallet Bin – For the simplest bin, you can start off with just a few wood pallets. These kinds of pallets are usually available for free from mailing and shipping companies, but you can also make your own. With your four pallets, you will stand each on their edge to make a square. The pallets will then be nailed together to make a ready-made compost bin.
  2. Recycled Materials Bin – If you are using recycled lumber to construct your compost bin, you will want to avoid using any plywood or any treated lumber. With plywood, one can expect the bin to delaminate rather quickly as the compost will be very damp.

home-compost-system-in-garden

The Materials

After you gather your materials, you will soon see how easy it is to create this kind of bin.
Our simple instructions will require you to have your wood cut into precise measurements.

  1. Start with 7 pieces of 2 x 6 wood that have been cut to three feet and 4 pieces of 2 x 2 or 4 x 4 wood, cut to three feet. Depending on what lumberyard or hardware store you shop with, most can cut the wood for you. Use exterior wood, similar to Western Red Cedar. If you use another rough type of wood, that is alright as well. Using wood that is untreated will make sure your compost bin last as long as possible.
  2. You will need to pick up at least 28 galvanized nails that are 2 ¾” long. If you want to use screws, choose coated decking screws.

The Instructions

  1. You will need to sharpen one of the ends of each 2 x 2 piece of wood—these will act like stakes into the ground. The best way to sharpen them is to use a hatchet. You can roughly cut into the wood as the idea is to only keep your compost bin rigid on the ground.
  2. After this, you will start nailing the 3’ boards into the 2 x 2’s. You will leave a space in between the boards to let the compost aerate. To make this job easier, try pre-drilling the nail holes. Pre-drilling helps to keep the wood from getting split. You will set the bin into place and then drive each corner into the soil using a heavy hammer or a sledgehammer.
  3. Based on how tall you want your compost pile to be, you may want to add a row of 2 x 6 boards. Your bin can be two boards or even three boards high if you like. You should try to keep the space between each stake at 3’ or less. If you would like to leave a bigger space for aeration, it is a good idea to staple ¼” hardware cloth or galvanized mesh on the inside of the bin. This barrier will help keep your compost from falling out of the large spaces.

Starting the Actual Composting

At this point, your compost bin should be ready to put into use. Assuming you have space inside your garden, it is a good idea to create two bins, one right next to the other. When your compost pile gets high, you can start turning it by shoveling the pile of compost in one into the other bin. Now empty, the first bin can now start another pile.

Next, you will need to activate your compost. Compost activators should be added to the compost to help get the process going and speed up the composting process. Activators you may want to use are grass clippings, comfrey leaves, chicken manure, young weeds or more.

If you notice that your compost is attracting insects like fruit flies, you can take some extra time to cover any exposed vegetable or fruit matter. You can also have a pile of small grass clippings right next to the compost bin, available to cover the new waste when you add to your pile. The grass clippings will keep your new waste covered as it starts composting and will help to discourage any interested insects. Additionally, add calcium or lime to your compost to keep flies away.

Are you noticing any unpleasant smells coming from the compost pile? This is a common issue in small areas in the city. Don’t let the fear of smelly compost dissuade you from starting a pile of your own. You can work to get rid of these odors by keeping meat and bones out of the compost and to make sure to cover the new waste in your compost pile with grass, lime or calcium. If your compost smells of ammonia, use straw, dried leaves or peat moss to neutralize the smell.

Another issue you may find with your compost pile is that it may start steaming. However, this is a good thing. A steaming pile of compost means that the process is working. If you are finding that your pile is soggy and too wet, you should add more dry materials into the compost. You should also add a drainage channel within your pile to make sure your compost bin has a proper way to remove excess water or moisture.

When you start a compost bin, you may also realize that animals are attracted to it. It isn’t uncommon the find raccoons hanging out around your new compost bin. The best way to deal with your raccoon issue is to create a barrier between the critters and the compost. A metal or wood lid is pretty much all you need to have to keep the animals away.

As you start your journey with your compost bin, you will realize the best ways to keep your soil composting correctly. The best thing about having a simple compost bin is the fact that it is rather mobile. It’s a very good idea to move your compost bin regularly, so you can continue to add enriched soil and nutrients all over your garden.

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