There are many different brands of compost bins available for purchase on the market. Each of these are designed to help dispose of organic materials, keeping it out of landfills while helping you pack your garden’s soil with nutrient-rich plant food each growing season. The compost bins gardeners can purchase range in price from $20 (for a small kitchen compost container) to $1,400 and up (for large outdoor composting setups).
Though many of the composting systems available on the market are fully loaded and designed to get the most out of your kitchen and garden scraps, most of them are simply containers with added holes for aeration and drainage. Why spend that much money on something you can make yourself out of materials you could find in a junkyard?
Drilling a couple holes in a large Tupperware container is pretty boring, though, especially in comparison to other options, such as compost bins or heaps made out of hay bales, pallets, buckets, or garbage. In this article, we showcase some brilliant do-it-yourself alternative compost systems that may give you some ideas about making your own models.
So, in the name of creativity and innovation, let’s review some compost bin ideas others have suggested and discuss their pros and cons and the practicality of each option. Perhaps even reading this article will spark an idea or two and have you creating your own original compost bin design. If so, send us some pictures, and let us know what you came up with.
Wire Fence and Hardware Cloth
Use a wire fence to create a circular wall for the compost bin, using hardware cloth to create the top of the compost container and adding a fine mesh cloth for the top to keep bugs and other pests out of the compost. Use zip ties or cable ties to connect the edges together and as hinges for the lid of the compost bin.
Check out this link for more details on how to build this simple outdoor wire compost bin:
Repurposing Two 20-Liter Earthen Pots
This one is super simple. Do you happen to have a couple of large pots laying around or know where to purchase them for a small price? If so, this method is all you need to turn kitchen waste into usable compost with very little hassle. Put a pinhole in the bottom of each pot and a small bowl underneath each pot for drainage. Put a few holes in each lid as well. Over time, fill the first pot with kitchen scraps. When the first one is full, move on to the next pot, and allow the other to decompose and turn to compost. By the time the second pot is full, you should have fully developed compost in the first pot.
This YouTube video teaches you how to repurpose two earthen pots into a fully functional composting system and shows how to use them in an easy step-by-step guide:
Weaved Wooden Branches Compost
Weaving your own compost bin out of long branches you find around your property is not only an exciting way to repurpose some lawn scraps that would otherwise be considered trash. It’s also a cool and artistic new eye-catching way to make your own composting system.
First, collect some long and slender branches (the page’s creator calls them rods) that are similar in length and diameter as each other. For a more attractive bin, try finding branches with different colors. Soak the rods for at least 24 hours to make them more flexible. Arrange the form of the circle using straight sticks that are the same height, and stick them into the soil where you want the outer edges of the bin to be. Next, weave the soaked rods through the vertical poles, moving upward until you reach the desired height of the compost bin. Then you’re ready to fill it with dirt, sawwood, worms, and kitchen scraps, and let the decomposition begin.
Check out this link for a more detailed description of how to weave your own compost bin. The creator is actually making an elevated garden bed, but the design will function perfectly for a compost pile container as well.
Trash Can Composter
Any old, used 33-gallon trash can you’ve got lying around out back or in the garage can be repurposed into a composting bin with just a few simple steps. Drill plenty of holes for aeration on the bottom, sides, and lid of the trash can. According to the blog’s author, the more holes you drill the better, but she advises drilling 20 holes on the bottom of the can, spaced out about one to two inches apart, with 15 to 20 holes on the sides of the can and six holes on the lid.
Now you’re ready to fill the can with dried leaves, dirt, and kitchen scraps and let it work its magic. Keep the balance of carbon and nitrogen even throughout the bin, and remember to stir the mix at least once per month to speed along the process, as composting in a large container (such as this 33-gallon garbage can) means it needs a little help every now and then.
Check out this blog post for a step-by-step guide with pictures of the process to get a better idea of how to make the trash can composter.
Shipping Pallet Compost Pile
One of the more affordable ways to build your own compost pile system is to use old shipping pallets to create the structure of your compost container. Most large businesses have more pallets lying around than they know what to do with. You can probably get the pallets for pretty cheap, or maybe even free, if you ask the right folks. Once that’s done, all you need to do to build a compost heap out of pallets is to gather the pallets themselves and use a few tools to fasten them together (and the stuff you’re composting, of course). It’s not the prettiest option for a compost pile—but whoever said composting was supposed to be pretty?
This compost bin method is not only a money saver with construction costs. It will save you money come planting season as well, as you will have plenty of composted soil to add to your garden beds.
Follow this link to learn how to build a compost pile out of pallets for next to nothing.
Or try out this stackable pallet compost bin method from YouTube channel Silverline Tools TV.
Rubbermaid Compost Container
This is probably the easiest way to compost at home. Just grab a new or used large Rubbermaid storage container, and drill holes into all sides, the bottom and lid. These holes are for aeration and drainage purposes. Add in a layer of dry brown stuff—such as twigs, dead leaves and plants—then add in a layer of fresh green stuff, such as freshly cut grass, plants, or kitchen scraps.
Stir everything up, and add another layer of dry brown stuff on top to keep the pile from smelling. Each time you add more fresh kitchen scraps or lawn trimmings, stir the mixture well, top with a layer of dry brown stuff and a little soil, then add about two to three cups of water.
For a quick and easy tutorial of this process, watch the following YouTube video.
Spinning Compost Bin
This one is a bit more on the complex side of DIY composting, but it’s totally doable—so if a spinning compost bin is what you have in mind, don’t stress. You can do this. You’re going to need to make a trip to the hardware store before you get started. There are two different methods to show you here, so you’ll want to base your shopping list on one of the examples that we link to below.
The first one is a blog post from Instructables that uses a spinning plastic barrel, which hangs vertically, sits in a wooden frame, and manually spins using PVC pipes. The YouTube tutorial uses a plastic barrel as well, but the barrel sits horizontally on a wooden shelf. Check out both the examples, pick the one you like, and head to the hardware store, list in hand.
Composting is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of organic materials while preparing to feed your garden for the upcoming planting season. If you do a lot of work in your garden, you know firsthand that each growing season, your crops decimate the nutrients in your soil. Instead of buying tons of bags of potting soil every growing season, why not compost year-round and replenish your soil’s nutrients yourself by recycling household waste? Now that you know what you need to do, you just need to pick which method is right for you and get to work.
Matt Gibson is the Sales Director and Project Manager for Russell Gibson Content. He is also a freelance writer, poet, lyricist, rapper and composer. His gardening expertise is centered around herbs, cacti, succulents, and carnivorous plants.