How can I Build a Compost Bin?

Kat Yares

Compost or nature's fertilizer is a wonderful way to recycle yard clippings and kitchen waste. Starting a compost pile is not hard and can be done very inexpensively. Waste deposited into a compost bin becomes usable as fertalizer within a year.

Compost bins contain a variety of organic waste.
Compost bins contain a variety of organic waste.

The simplest way to build a compost bin is with a length of wire woven fencing. Create a three to four foot (approximately one meter) circle and bend the cut off tabs of wire over the opposite end to hold it together. Begin by placing a layer of leaves or grass clippings into the circle. Daily add the kitchen waste such as eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, etc. Add more leaves or clippings as they become available.

Earthworms may help facilitate the composting process by aerating and providing nutrients to the soil.
Earthworms may help facilitate the composting process by aerating and providing nutrients to the soil.

A second method is using a fifty-five gallon drum. Use a drill to bore holes in a random pattern in the lower 12 inches (30 cm) of the drum. Fill with grass clippings, leaving and kitchen waste. If you can find a lid for the drum, the compost will cook faster and be ready to use sooner. This is also a good method for those who live in smaller spaces, such as neighborhoods, as the barrel would not be considered as unsightly as the woven wire method.

The third method takes more work and effort on your part. Call around to local manufacturers to see if you can locate wooden pallets. Many companies give these away or sell them for a reasonable rate. You will need ten pallets of approximately the same size. You will also need three hinges and enough screws to hold the whole bin together.

Begin by forming three sides of the first box by screwing three pallets together in the shape of a "U". For the second and third section of your compost bin, you would use two pallets each to attach the back and sides.

Attach the hinges to the open front of each compartment of your bin, and then attach the remaining three pallets to the hinges.

Start your compost bin by filling compartment one first. When it becomes full and has a month or so to "cook", you then shovel the contents into the second bin and begin using the first bin for new material. When the first bin is again full, transfer the second bin to the third and repeat the first procedure. This method works well in large spaces, such as country homes or if you are doing serious gardening.

During the summer months, your compost bin will work the hardest at decomposing the material. If you begin your compost bin in the early spring, by the following spring you will have the perfect fertilizer for your garden ready to use.

Compost can be used as a valuable fertilizing agent in gardens.
Compost can be used as a valuable fertilizing agent in gardens.

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Discussion Comments


I also do trash can composting. A nice advantage of building a compost bin out of a trash can is that you can just tip the can over on the ground and roll it to "turn" the compost. And the lid keeps pests away even if the mix of your compost isn't perfect.


The fifty-five-gallon drum is a good suggestion, but if you have a smaller household, it can take a long time to fill up. You can also make a compost bin out of a twenty-gallon trash can. I got a couple of nice solid Rubbermaids with lids and drilled drainage holes in them. I fill one up and then let it finish while I fill up the other.

With that size, you don't want the pieces to be too big. With larger things that take a while to break down, like fibrous vegetables, I cut them into chunks of just a few inches.

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