Build Your Own Compost Bin – A Simple Step-by-Step Winning Guide

Written By Jennifer

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By building your own compost bin, not only do you save money, but you also contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Composting is an environmentally friendly way to recycle organic food scraps and waste while creating nutrient rich soil for your garden.

The key to choosing the right design to build your own compost bin, is finding one that allows for proper aeration and decomposition of organic material.

Materials such as untreated wood, plastic trash cans, or even repurposed pallets can be used to build a functional and affordable compost bin.

We will explore different DIY compost bin designs that are both easy to construct and maintain.

Types of Compost Bins – Stationary Bins

There are several types of compost bins that serve different purposes and can be built from various materials. In this section, we will focus on two main categories of compost bins: stationary bins and tumbling bins.

Stationary bins are a popular choice due to their simplicity and affordability. These bins can be constructed from materials such as wooden pallets, slatted wood, or even repurposed materials like chicken wire or cinder blocks.

They typically have an open top and bottom to allow for air circulation and easy access to finished compost.

Some advantages of stationary bins are:

  • Easy to build and customize to fit specific needs

  • Suitable for large amounts of compostable materials

  • Good for hot composting if the size is right (around 3’x3’x3′)

1. Build Your Own Wire Mesh Compost Bin

Building a wire mesh compost bin is easy to make and inexpensive. 

Another positive, is that depending on the size of your yard, you can make one bin or several bins in different locations. 

Convenience also comes into play here as you can locate and make your bin exactly where it will be situated, for example, near the deciduous tree and the huge leaf pile, near the garden beds or vegetable garden. 

To build a wire mesh compost bin you will need:

Method

Outdoor Compost Bin, 2Pcs Large Expandable Garden Wire Compost Tumbler Bin for Composting Yard Waste, Kitchen Scraps, Grass Clippings(24in)

  • Hammer the garden stakes into the ground in either a circular or square shape. Bear in mind that the square or circular shape will be the finished size of the bin.

  • Wrap the chicken wire around the garden stakes to form the shape of the compost bin.  It would be useful to have another person to help hold the wire, while you are wrapping, as the chicken wire can be difficult to handle. 

  • Secure the chicken wire to the stakes with some twist ties. Use metal twist ties if you are using star pickets or T posts. You will need some pliers for this. It is always a good idea to wear protective gloves.

If you desire, overlap the wire when you have completed the circle once, to create a door.  This way you don’t necessarily have to move the bin to a different location when it is time to turn the compost as you can pull the wire back giving access to the contents, thus creating a door.

If you decide not to make a door, follow these steps when you need to turn the compost. Lift the wire mesh compost bin over the top of the compost, fork the contents, place the bin in the desired location and return the contents to the bin.

TIP: Don’t make the wire sides too high or it will be unwieldy to lift over the compost.

By the way, if you don’t want or are unable to fork the contents (it can be a tough job) you can purchase a compost turner as they help to make the job of turning the compost, easier.

wooden diy compost bin and DIY worm composting bin

2. Build Your Own Wooden Pallet Compost Bin

To build a wooden pallet compost bin you will need:

  • wooden pallets – a minimum of 3 or 4 pallets. Watch the video to see the number or pallets used and whether you need more.

  • wire ties or wire coat hangers

  • pliers

  • gloves

Method:

  • Some impressive compost bins have been built from simple wooden pallets. Using wire to fasten four of these together can build your own compost bin that can last for many seasons. Wire coat hangers can be used as the fasteners.

  • A gate can be made in one side of this bin in order to allow you to reach inside and fork through the mixture with a pitchfork or other gardening tool.

This super quick video below shows just how easy this is to build. It will last for years but can also easily be replaced or rebuilt elsewhere. Keep a look out for wooden pallets that have been discarded.

A three bin compost system as shown in this image below is a good way to use the pallet idea for compost bins.

Start with fresh composting materials in the first bin, partially decomposed organic materials in the second and finished compost in the third.

Then rotate the bins as each one becomes full.

Look out for recycled timber that could also be used to build the compost bin in place of using wooden pallets.

three compost bin system

Concrete blocks or wooden logs could easily be substituted for this type of compost bin construction. The dimensions of 4ft x 4 ft are workable but will depend on your needs

A plastic tarp can be used for a cover, and as long as the contents are fluffed and turned on a weekly basis, a seemingly simple compost bin can produce a great deal of compost.

3. Build Your Own Compost Bin From A Trash Can

To build a trash can compost bin you will need:

  • A lidded, outdoor trash can or rubbish bin between 30 and 40 gallons in size.

  • Anchor stakes to anchor the bin to the ground

  • Drill and a paddle bit

Method:

  • Remove the bottom of the bin. Once the bottom of your chosen container has been removed, anchor the container into the ground.

  • It’s a good idea to drill some holes, using a paddle drill bit, around the perimeter of the container to assure the flow of oxygen to the compost.

Layer the materials to be composted in the compost bin. Put the lid on the container.

The compost bin may degrade in sunlight over time, however it is lightweight, relatively easy to construct, and cost effective.

4. Build Your Own Worm Composting Bin

To build a worm composting bin you will need:

  • A plastic bin with a lid

  • A drill

Method:

  1. Drill several small holes in the top and sides of the plastic bin to provide ventilation.

  2. Add a layer of shredded newspaper to the bottom of the bin. Moisten the newspaper until it is damp but not soaking wet.

  3. Add the red wiggler worms to the worm bin. You will need about 1 pound of worms for every square foot of surface area in the bin.

  4. Add food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, and eggshells to the bin. Avoid adding meat, dairy, or oily foods.

  5. Cover the food scraps with another layer of damp shredded newspaper.

  6. Cover the bin with the lid, but leave it slightly ajar to allow for air circulation.

  7. Store the bin in a cool, dark place such as a basement or garage.

  8. Every few days, add more food scraps and shredded newspaper to the bin. Avoid overfeeding the worms, as this can cause odors and attract pests.

  9. After a few months, the worms will have turned the food scraps and newspaper into nutrient-rich compost that can be used to fertilize plants.

Remember to keep the plastic tote worm bin moist and well ventilated, and to avoid adding any materials that could harm the worms.

5. Build Your Own Stacked Plastic Buckets Worm Tower

To build a stacked plastic buckets worm tower you will need:

Method

  1. Drill holes in the bottom of one of the buckets using an electric drill with a 3/16″ or 1/4″ drill bit. Make sure the holes are big enough for worms to crawl through but small enough to prevent soil from falling out.

  2. Fill the bottom of the bucket with a layer of paper bags or newspaper. This will provide bedding for the worms.

  3. Add some soil on top of the bedding layer.

  4. Add red wiggler worms to the bucket.

  5. Cover the worms with another layer of soil.

  6. Drill some holes in the bottom of a second bucket and place it on top of the first bucket. Make sure the holes in the second bucket line up with the holes in the first bucket.

  7. Fill the second bucket with soil and add more worms.

  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with the third bucket.

  9. Cover the top bucket with a lid to keep out rain and pests.

Add food scraps to the top bucket regularly, and the worms will move up through the holes to eat the scraps and leave their castings behind.

worm composting

6. Build Your Own Straw Bale Compost Bin

To build a diy compost bin from straw bales you will need:

Method:

  • Stack the bales to create three sides of a single-layer, open-sided bin.

  • The rectangular interior composting area should be about 3 feet wide x 4 1/2 feet long x 14 inches high.

To use the compost bin, fill it with fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, garden clippings, egg shells, leaves, twigs, and other yard waste.

Once you’ve filled the straw bale compost bin, pull a black plastic bag or tarp over it to cover the compost pile.

7. Build Your Own Stacked Brick Compost Bins

To build a stacked brick compost bin you will need:

  • Bricks

  • Mortar

  • A shovel

  • A level

Method:

  • First, choose a location for your bin that is level (or prepare a flat surface) and receives some sunlight.

  • Then, create a base layer of bricks, using mortar to hold them in place.

  • Continue stacking bricks to create a bin that is about 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep by 3 feet high.

  • Leave gaps between the bricks to allow air to circulate through the compost.

Once the bin is complete, fill it with organic waste such as vegetable peelings, yard waste, and leaves and grass clippings.

Mix in some soil or finished compost to help start the composting process. Keep the compost moist by watering it as necessary, and turn it regularly to aerate it.

Over time, the organic matter will break down into usable compost that can be used as a rich garden amendment.

build your own compost bin

8. Build Your Own Galvanized Metal Compost Bin

To build a galvanized metal compost bin you will need:

Method:

  • Drill several small holes in the bottom and sides of the metal trash bucket to provide ventilation and drainage.

  • Place the trash can in a sunny location that is easily accessible.

  • Add a layer of browns such as leaves or shredded newspaper to the bottom of the can.

  • Add a layer of green materials such as vegetable scraps or grass clippings on top of the brown materials.

  • Continue adding layers of brown and green materials until the can is about three-quarters full.

  • Use a garden fork or shovel to mix the materials together.

  • Put the lid on the can and secure it with a bungee cord to keep animals out.

  • Turn the compost every few weeks to aerate it and speed up the composting process.

After a few months, the compost will be ready to use in your garden.

Remember to keep the compost moist but not too wet

9. Build Your Own Tote Compost Bins

The instructions to make a compost bin from a plastic tote and are very similar to the instructions to build a galvanized metal compost bin,

To build a tote compost bin, you will need:

Method:

  1. Drill several holes in the sides and bottom of the tote bin using an electric drill with a 1/4″ drill bit. The holes will provide ventilation and drainage.

  2. Place the tote bin in a sunny location on level ground. If desired, place bricks or blocks under the tote bin to allow for better drainage.

  3. Add compost materials to the tote bin, alternating between green materials (e.g. fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings) and browns (e.g. dry leaves, sawdust).

  4. Mix the compost materials together using a pitchfork or shovel or compost aerator.

  5. Close the lid of the tote bin and secure it with bungee cords or rope to keep out pests and animals.

  6. Mix the compost materials every few days.

  7. Add more compost materials such as food waste, as they become available.

  8. Wait for the compost to decompose, which can take several weeks to several months depending on the materials used and the climate.

  9. Once the compost is ready, remove it from the tote bin and use it to fertilize your garden or potted plants.

wooden-compost-bin

Types of Compost Bins – Tumbling Bins

Tumbling bins offer an efficient and accessible composting experience. These bins are designed with a rotating drum that makes it easy to turn and mix compost materials.

They can be purchased as a pre-made unit or built using materials like plastic barrels, drums, or sturdy wire mesh.

The benefits of using a tumbling compost bin include:

  • Easier to turn and manage the compost

  • Faster decomposition due to improved aeration

  • Less prone to pests

10. Build Your Own Plastic Barrel Tumbling Composter

To build a plastic barrel tumbling composter you will need:

  • a sturdy plastic barrel that has a tight lid and preferably without handles. 

  • a drill

Method:

  • Drill some holes (approx 1/2 inch) into the sides of the bin for ventilation.

  • Choose a barrel that has an opening at the top wide enough to comfortably place your garden and your kitchen scraps and waste.

  • Ensure that the lid is able to be tightly secured.

  • Once completed, you may start adding layers of kitchen and household waste, alternating layers with dried leaves, shredded paper or other organic materials.

  • With this type of composter you will need to roll it along the ground to simulate the same action as a purchased rotating composter.

The container does need to be strong so that it won’t buckle as it is rolled. The ’roundness’ is a factor to consider as the barrel may not roll in a straight line.

11. Build Your Own Compost Tumbler

To build your own compost tumbler, you will need :

Method:

  1. Cut two pieces of 2×4 lumber to the length of the drum and two pieces to the width of the drum. These will be the base of the tumbler.

  2. Attach the four caster wheels to the base pieces using screws.

  3. Cut two more pieces of 2×4 lumber to the height of the drum. These will be the legs of the tumbler.

  4. Attach the legs to the base pieces using screws.

  5. Cut a circle of plywood to fit the top of the drum. This will be the lid of the tumbler (optional).

  6. Cut a small door in the side of the drum for adding compost materials.

  7. Drill holes in the drum for ventilation.

  8. Place the drum on the base and attach it using screws.

  9. Add compost materials to the drum through the door.

  10. Close the door and roll the tumbler to mix the compost materials.

  11. Roll the tumbler regularly to mix the compost and speed up the process.

  12. Once the compost is ready, open the door and harvest finished compost from the drum.

wooden-compost-bin-idea
Note the wire mesh to keep out small animals and keep the compost in!

Location and Size

Placement Considerations

When selecting the perfect spot for the compost bin, we need to consider a few factors to ensure we make the composting process efficient and convenient.

Firstly, we should place the new compost bin in a level and well-drained area, to prevent water from pooling around it.

At the same time, we should ensure that the compost bin is situated in an area with partial sunlight to help maintain an appropriate temperature, as this contributes to the breakdown of organic matter.

Secondly, we should also consider accessibility.

We want our compost bin to be close enough to our garden or kitchen so that it’s convenient to use, but also far enough from our living areas to avoid attracting pests or emitting unpleasant odors.

Lastly, the compost heap and/or bin, should be placed near a water source. Maintaining the right moisture level in compost heap is essential for successful composting.

Having a water source nearby will make it easier for us to regulate the moisture levels in our bin.

two compost bin under shelter from trees
Compost bins under some shelter

Frequently Asked Questions

Explain the difference between a compost bin and a compost pile

A compost bin and a compost pile are both used to create compost, but they differ in their structure and method of use.

A compost bin is a container that is used to hold organic material and turn it into compost over time. Compost bins are typically made of plastic, wood, or metal and come in various sizes and shapes.

Compost bins are enclosed, which helps to retain moisture and heat, and also keeps pests and rodents out.

Compost bins work by hastening the process of decomposition through adequate aeration and moisture retention.

A compost pile, on the other hand, is a pile of decaying matter, often exposed to the weather.

A compost pile can be made in a variety of ways, such as by layering organic materials or by simply dumping the materials on the pile.

Compost piles require more space than compost bins and are typically used for larger amounts of organic waste. However, compost piles can be more difficult to manage, as they require regular turning and monitoring to ensure proper decomposition and a good quality finished compost.

What materials can be used to create a DIY compost bin?

A DIY compost bin can be made from may different materials.

Common materials for a DIY compost bin include wood, wire mesh, plastic or metal barrels, and plastic storage containers.

The choice of material for your compost bin depends on your budget and preference, as well as the available space for the compost bin.

Which design is most efficient for a homemade compost bin?

The most efficient design for a homemade compost bin depends on the size of your own yard, the amount of waste you generate and your composting needs.

A wooden pallet compost bin is an easy project that works well.

Some popular designs include the classic wooden three-bin system, wire mesh enclosures, and rotating barrel or tumbler bins.

It’s essential to consider good air circulation and easy access for turning the compost when choosing a design.

How can I start composting in my new DIY bin?

Once your DIY compost bin is set up, it’s time to start composting.

Begin by adding a mix of nitrogen-rich materials (such as your kitchen scraps and grass clippings) and carbon-rich materials (like dried leaves, straw, and small branches).

Keep your compost moist, but not soggy, and turn it regularly to speed up the decomposition process by providing oxygen to the bacteria.

Are there any items to avoid adding to my compost bin?

Yes, there are certain items that should not be added to your compost pile or bin.

Avoid materials like meat, dairy products, fats, oils, and pet waste, which can attract unwanted pests and hinder the composting process.

Items like glossy paper, plastics, and treated wood should also be left out, as they won’t break down effectively and could contaminate the compost.

What are the benefits of using a pallet compost bin?

Pallet compost bins are a budget-friendly and sustainable option for DIY composting.

By repurposing used wooden pallets, you can create a durable compost bin that’s easy to assemble and allows for excellent airflow.

It’s also easy to scale up by adding more pallets if you need additional composting space.

How does a DIY compost tumbler compare to stationary bins?

Both DIY compost tumblers and stationary bins are effective composting methods, but each has its own advantages.

Compost tumblers are rotating containers that make turning the compost easier and help speed up the decomposition process.

They are enclosed, which keeps pests away and retains moisture more effectively.

Stationary compost bins, on the other hand, can be simpler to construct and require less physical effort to maintain.

The choice depends on your specific needs and preferences.

vector - composting worm
If you think I can eat wait till all my friends are here!

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