DIY Compost Bin

by Jenny Peterson on November 15, 2011

in Gardening Tips,Urban Farming

Now, I’m the first one to admit that this compost bin won’t win any beauty pageants, but it’s a compost bin, for heaven’s sakes. Plus, it’s free, so that makes up for it. We’re on a roll at The Hunky Foreman’s house to slowly turn it into an urban farm, and it’s long been in our plans to trade in the open pile for an actual bin. You can do yours in an afternoon, too, and here’s what you need:

One bin–3 wooden pallets

Two bins–5 wooden pallets

Three bins–7 wooden pallets

bailing wire and/or “L” brackets

Get the pallets from your local grocery store or home improvement store–we just asked if there were any we could take. They don’t have to be in perfect shape, but avoid ones that are really broken or messed up.

Take two pallets and stand them upright in an “L” shape:

We fastened them together at the top, middle and bottom where the pallets join, using heavy duty wire. You can also use “L” brackets for more stability. I told The Hunky Foreman, “We can use ‘L’ brackets for more stability.” He laughed and said, “These pallets don’t deserve ‘L’ brackets.” Guess we didn’t pick the best pallets.

Add a third pallet, fastening together at the corner as you did previously, to make one completed bin:

If you want one bin, you’re done. If you want two conjoined bins, add a 4th bin to the back:

And then a 5th pallet to close in the side:

We started running out of daylight, so we stopped here, but we’re planning to add two more pallets to complete our three bin system. If you’re handy, you can do it all by yourself. For example, I took pics while The Hunky Foreman did all the work. I’m a smart girl.

As you can see, some of our pallets have seen better days. That one on the end had two broken boards, but we turned that side to the outside and it should be fine. Another bit of advice–maybe I don’t need to say it, but do construct your bin(s) in their final resting place. You don’t really want to get the whole family out there to move this 5 feet over, do you? The Hunky Foreman thought ahead, otherwise I would’ve had to put down my Nikon and break a sweat.

Have you made your own bin, or do you use one of the prefab ones? Would you add a door or cover on this? One of our friends asked if the open piles would attract rodents. All the reading I’ve done indicates that if you have rodents in your yard, they’ll find the compost bin, but an open bin shouldn’t attract new ones to the area. Don’t put in anything like meat or rotten eggs into the pile (known materials that lure rats in droves) and when you add your kitchen scraps, add brown material on top so that your scraps end up more towards the middle of the pile.

I’d love to know what other kinds of DIY bins you all have come up with!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Abbey November 15, 2011 at 9:05 am

You’re smart to have three bins so that you can house materials in different stages of decay. We only have room for two bins. Around the end of November, we stop adding material to one bin so that all of the stuff in it can finish composting and be ready for use in early spring. Here’s the set up we have. http://downtoearth-abbey.blogspot.com/2011/04/spring-tour-backyard.html The smaller bin is made of pallets and the other one is regular lumber. In our small yard, we need the doors to keep the materials contained but if you have the space to let the leaves spill out, it will be easier to access the bins and bury your kitchen scraps. I do recommend a lid to keep the moisture in. We use an old kiddy swimming pool to keep ours covered.
Happy composting!

Jenny Peterson November 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Hi Abbey! Thanks for the link–I love to see what other people are doing in their gardens! That’s a good tip about the lid keeping in the moisture–we discussed doing that but haven’t made up our minds yet.

Theresa November 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm

The pallets last much longer than you would think. I put mine together at least ten years ago and they are still on the job. Hint: reuse those pesky wire coat hangers – if have misplaced your bailing wire. The addition of a few old t-posts add stability to the front of my bins.

Jenny Peterson November 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Wow, Theresa, I wouldn’t have thought they’d last THAT long! The wire coat hanger is a good tip, thanks!

Linda Lehmusvirta November 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I made my first compost bin with pallets left at KLRU for printing materials (back when we printed stuff!). Mine wasn’t as fancy as the three-ring one, but this is recycle/reuse at its best. Thanks for the tips!

Rachel Mathews November 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm

That’s pretty much exactly how I do mine! Not remotely beautiful – then I screen it will willow sticks to make it a bit more attractive!

Nice job you and the Hunky Foreman – say hi to him for me :o)

katherine November 16, 2011 at 8:17 am

Great idea!!! Oh my gosh- we have SO many pallets- I try and get rid of them on Craigslist all the time. If you ever need more come by the nursery and I can load you up. I have some that are nice/look new and others that are your typical pallet. I love this idea though. Might have to snag a few and try this out there! (oh and this is Katherine from Vivero by the way).

Cyndi November 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Oh! These type of ideas make me tick. Great idea- bookmarked!

Nicky @dirtandmartinis November 16, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Ooooh, I need to make this to tidy up my compost heap! Good stuff Jenny.

Jenny Peterson November 18, 2011 at 11:17 am

Thanks, everyone! I love reusing common items, both inside the house and out in the garden. And there are ways to perk it up if you want–paint the outside of the pallets a funky color, for example. I was actually thinking about planting the pallet itself, but someone on twitter told me that pallets might have some chemicals in them. I’ll check this out and let you all know what I find!

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