All You Need To Know On How To Make A Compost Bin

Compost is the key to thriving plants. Instead of throwing food leftovers in the garbage can or having a compost pile in the garden, you can have a compost bin to make your own. You can buy a garden compost bin or a compost tumbler, but it will cost a lot. So instead, you can make a compost bin using wood or a plastic bin, depending on the space you have to keep it.

A compost bin made of pallets filled with food waste

It’s a very easy process. It’ll take you about 2-3 hours to complete your project. Curious about it? Then it’s time to have a look at this guide and see how to make a DIY compost bin in very simple steps!

What is composting?

Composting is a natural way to reduce food waste. It’s the natural process of breaking down any organic material, like food waste, lawn trimmings and other garden waste. During the process, bacteria and fungus develop in the soil and form compost, nutrient-rich soil. In simple terms, it is the recycling of yard and food waste to produce food for plants.

Anyone can compost. In the kitchen in indoor composting bins, in the garden in compost piles or even at offices in external composting facilities.

How to make your own compost bin step-by-step

You can make a compost bin either by pallets, a plastic bin or hardware cloth. Depending on where you are going to place your composter, make the one that suits your needs. It’s literally up to you. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make your own compost bin of both wood and plastic bins.

Pallet compost bin

A compost bin made of wood is probably the best choice to have in your backyard rather than in the kitchen. It’s big enough so you can turn the compost with a pitchfork and provides the needed aeration to the compost heap.

To make your bin, you are going to need:

  • A spade or rake
  • 4 wooden pallets
  • 6 sturdy wooden stakes
  • Sledgehammer
  • Bow saw
  • A wire
  • Chicken wire

A pitchfork in a pallet compost bin

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary items, follow the below steps:

Step 1: Clean the area

As in all DIY projects, the first step is to prepare the area you are about to work. For this project, you need to clean the area where you plan to locate your bin. Next, use the spade or the rake to level the ground because the bin should stand on bare soil. Finally, if you’re afraid of unwanted visitors like rats, add a layer of chicken wire. After you finished making your bin, you can find out more details on how to get rid of rats in your garden.

Step 2: Make the compost bin

Once the area is ready, you can start making your bin.

  1. Take a pallet and stand it on its longest edge to form the bin’s one side.
  2. Then, push 2 stakes through the two layers of each end.
  3. Using a sledgehammer push the stakes into the ground about 20-30cm deep.
  4. Place the other two at the angles of the first to make the sides.
  5. Use a sledgehammer and do the same as No. 3.
  6. To ensure that the bin is stable, use wire to tie them together and trim the stakes’ tops with a bow saw.
  7. Finally, tie the last one with a wire onto the front side one to make the bin’s door.

Step 3: Fill your bin

Now, you are ready to fill your DIY compost bin with garden and kitchen waste, dry leaves etc. Keep your bin warm by covering it with a carpet and regularly check its moisture. Water it if needed, especially during warm months.

Plastic compost bin

You can also make a composter in a plastic bin. The bin’s size depends on where you intend to place it and what you are going to compost. If you have the compost bin indoors, you can use a trash can or a storage container.

You’ll need:

  • Drill and sharp drill bit
  • Plastic bin
  • Wire mesh or hardware cloth
  • Kitchen scraps, vegetable peels, yard waste, shredded newspaper and other food leftovers.

A grey plastic bin filled with food waste in a vegetable garden

Now, follow the below steps to make your composter successfully:

Step 1: Select and prepare the bin

Choose a 70-litres bin with a lid and drill holes throughout the surface to boost airflow. The holes should be 2.5 to 5cm on all sides of the bin, the bottom and the lid. If you have larger holes, you can line the bin’s interior with wire mesh to stop rats.

Step 2: Fill your bin

Like you would do if you had a compost pile, you can throw any garden waste in your compost heap. Dry leaves, fruit peels, vegetable scraps, eggshells and the list goes on and on. Just remember: Before adding any organic matter, you should chop it into smaller pieces. Chop your fruit and vegetable with a knife or a blender or food processor. When it comes to leaves, you can crush them by running a lawnmower over them a few times.

Whether you have made a wooden bin or a plastic one, there are some things you need to do to maintain the compost.

  1. You need to aerate the content. Use a shade or a pitchfork to stir the content in the wooden bin and give a shake to the plastic bin to encourage airflow.
  2. If you notice a strange smell coming out of the bin or that the content is wet, you’ll need to add shredded leaves, newspaper, or sawdust to dry the garden and food waste and restore the ratio of greens to browns.
  3. In case the contents are very dry, moisten them with a spray bottle or add some fruit and vegetables to restore the moisture.

The compost in both cases takes about 2-3 months to be ready for use. Use your finished compost as mulch or potting soil for your garden beds. You can also sprinkle it over your grass.

What are the benefits of having a compost bin?

Making compost yourself benefits the environment, your garden and your pocket. Why? Because:

  1. Composting reduces kitchen and yard waste.
  2. It’s a great soil amendment and helps retain moisture and suppress diseased plants and pests.
  3. It reduces the need for chemical fertilisers.
  4. Composting encourages the development of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down the waste and create a rich nutrient-filled material called humus.
  5. Composting at home can save you money. It helps soil to soak up and maintain water which is then released to plants slowly. Plus, you can use compost as a mulch.

As you can see, compost is a great food for plants and gardens. There are two “compost types”: Aerobic and worm compost which are both great for your garden!

For aerobic compost

Aerobic composting is the recycling of garden and food waste using bacteria and fungi. It’s beneficial because it:

  • Increases organic matter in the soil.
  • Helps plants absorb nutrients already in the soil and provides some extra nutrients too.
  • Makes clay soils airier and helps them drain better.
  • Makes clay and other soils easier to crumble and dig in.
  • Helps sandy soils retain water.
  • Helps balance the pH of the soil.
  • Can extend the growing season by moderating soil temperature.
  • Can even help control soil erosion.

A manual lawn mower next to a pallet compost bin in a garden

For worm compost (Vermicompost)

Conversely, worm composting uses worms to recycle food scraps and other food waste into nutrient soil amendment called worm compost or vermicompost. This type of composting is beneficial as it:

  • Provides lots of nutrients.
  • “Tea” from the worm bin can be used as a mild weed killer.
  • “Tea” can also be used as a fertiliser.

What to compost?

You can compost almost all organic materials. Here’s a list:

  • Fruits and vegetables (uncooked and peelings)
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Teabags
  • Nutshells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and wool Rugs
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes

2 wooden pallet compost bins filled with yard waste

What not to compost and why?

However, some organic materials cannot be composted. Let’s see which are those and why:

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs. They release substances that might harm your plants.
  • Coal or charcoal ash. It might contain dangerous substances to plants.
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yoghurt) and eggs. They create odour problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies.
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants. Diseases or insects might survive through composting process and be transferred back to other plants.
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils. They create odour problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies.
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps. They also create odour problems and attract pests.
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat faeces, soiled cat litter). They might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans.
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides. They might kill beneficial composting organisms.

3 wooden pallet compost bins in a garden

Make sure you place your bin in an easy to access area and out of direct sunlight. Use it in garden beds, pots, your grass or as a seed starting mix and your plants will thrive. Remember to stir the content in the bin to help food and yard waste to decompose easily. It’s an easy DIY project. Anyone can do it!

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