Having a compost bin for your home is a wonderful way to reduce waste and provide natural fertilizer for your houseplants and garden. So have you ever thought about building a DIY compost bin?
What goes in the bin is obviously the most important aspect of home composting. However, a decent bin can help speed up the composting process, keep your pile neat, and prevent critters from strewing last night’s kitchen scraps about your yard. While commercial compost bins can be very costly, a DIY compost bin can save you money and maybe even provide a fun family project.
Before you start building
There are a number of compost bin designs out there and so it is important to consider what works for you and your household. Some questions to ask yourself before you start building a compost bin include:
- How much green waste does your household produce? This will obviously reflect the size of the bin needed.
- Is it going to be used just for outside waste, such as leaves and lawn trimmings, or will kitchen waste also be added? This may affect how critter-proof the bin needs to be.
- How much room do you have for the compost bin? Again, this will help determine the size of the compost bin and whether you can afford multiple bin designs or just a single bin design.
- Will you be adding to it and taking from it frequently? Some designs aren’t very accessible so this is important to know beforehand.
- Where will it be placed? Will it be hidden at the far end of the garden behind a shed or closer to the kitchen where it’s more accessible to lazier members of the household? Aesthetic appeal may become a consideration if it’s near the house.
Making a compost bin without breaking the bank
You can build a compost bin out of chicken wire and cardboard, hay bales, recycled wood pallets or other reclaimed wood, and even cinder blocks. It will depend on your budget, your answers to the questions in the previous section, and also what materials are most accessible to you.
However, this is a design that likely fills the needs of most households and can easily be built for under US$50.
You will need: one plastic garbage can with a tightly fitting lid (a 30 gallon capacity would be suitable for most small households), a drill, and some bricks or a wooden palette.
Instructions: Simply drill a number of holes through the sides, bottom, and lid of the garbage can. Place the bin on top of bricks or an old palette to help with air circulation and drainage. Start composting!
Easy modifications: If you’re concerned about critters getting through the holes, you can affix screen on the inside of the holes using strong glue suitable for plastics. You can also add a compost turner, commercially available for around $20 which will help speed the composting process.
Other points to consider when making a compost bin
Whichever DIY compost bin pattern you decide to use, or even if you come up with something new, there are some standard rules to follow. For starters, the compost bin must be aerated, so be sure there are holes or gaps in your bin that allow air to get in. Place the bin in a shaded area as you don’t want the compost to dry out. Your compost doesn’t have to have a lid, but it can help regulate moisture, keep the compost warm, and keep critters out. If you decide to use wood in your design, it may be wise to stay clear of treated lumber as it often contains arsenic, which can leach out into your compost.
Lastly, remember it’s what you put in the bin that counts, so follow the rules for good composting and enjoy the benefits of healthy, active natural fertilizer for your garden.
Want to see building a DIY compost bin in action?