Wooden Compost Bins: Buy or Build Your Own?

Some people prefer the natural look of a wooden compost bin. Although most of the commercial compost bins you see these days are plastic, you do see some wooden compost bins now that are already made.

Here are two wooden composters that I like that you can buy.

This cedar bin has two large sections so that you can keep two compost piles going at once and compost large amounts of materials. It’s a great choice if you like to compost leaves, which take up a lot of space. Cedar is very durable, and it’s also a readily available wood that is eco friendly.

This spruce composter is made from FSC certified sustainable wood. It has a really nice look, and the wood has been heat treated for extra durability. The lid is nice, and the extra large spaces between slats allow good aeration.

But what if you want to build a wooden compost bin yourself? You still have a lot of options.

I really like this booklet that has a bunch of different plans for compost bins that you can build yourself. There are a lot of ideas for different styles of bins, and the instructions are clear.

You can also find plans online to build a wooden composter yourself, if you’re the handy type.

The University of Missouri Extension has free plans for several types of compost bins, including a cedar wooden compost bin.

Any other good sources for wooden composter plans out there that I might have missed?

Compost Containers for the back yard

So you desire a compost container for your backyard. No problem. It’s important to determine what sort of compost container you are looking for. Do you want a spinning or rotating bin, an open bin in the backyard that you just throw stuff in, or do you even want to venture down the homemade route? Well, let’s take a look at the different styles of bins/compost containers to help you come to a decision you are happy with, shall we?

Tumbling/Spinning/Rotating Composters

Photo found on Flickr.com courtesy of Clean Air Gardening.

These composters are nice because they make compost in little to no time, by comparison. They are typically above ground, and you place the compost in, spin it, and in anywhere from 3-8 weeks (depending on the composter), you have some rich, luscious, black gold for all of your gardening aspirations. That’s nice. These bins work in such a fashion that it’s easy to load compost in, keep it covered (so you don’t have to work extra hard to keep pests, animals, and rodents out), and you can reap the benefits of great compost in the end.

Multi-Bin Compost Systems

These compost bin systems are really nice, especially if you are looking to producing large amounts of compost. The basic concept is to have a few different compost bins that can be representative of the different stages of compost. Because of this, you can have multiple compost piles going at once. If you so desire (and have a lot of waste – and we mean a lot) then you could essentially have a few compost piles going at the same rate. In any case, a multi-bin system is perfect if you have a lot of work to do, and know for a fact you will need large amounts of compost.

Wire Compost Bins

Photo found on Flickr.com courtesy of LAJ2006.

The wire compost bin can be easy to make – all you need is wire, wire mesh, and some stakes. The bin is just what it sounds like – a wire mesh area that sits in the lawn and you make compost with it. Since it is wire mesh, it keeps the compost aerated. It is easy to construct, and simple to maintain. If you are worried about animals, however, there is a greater chance that they may be able to get into the bin and mess with any of the compost. If that is a risk you are willing to take – these bins can be quick and easy to getting you on the way to making some compost. There is a great book, titled Basic Composting: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get StartedA that shows you how to construct this style of bin with ease.

Home-made Composters

Photo found on Flickr.com courtesy of Katxn.

These can be fun, and you can use your imagination – you can make a compost bin out of anything – from wood, to a trash can, wire mesh (as mentioned above)…the possibilities are endless. Just remember this – you need to make sure your bin is properly aerated, and when placing stuff in the composter, just make sure there is an ideal Carbon-Nitrogen ratio. Basic Composting also has some good insight to other styles of bins, so do websites mentioned in an earlier blog post, titled “Make a Compost Bin.”

Worm farms. How to compost with worms.

Photo courtesy of maudieshah at Flickr.com.

Farming with worms is a simple way to turn food scraps into organic fertilizer. Worms are quick workers, and they don’t sleep. They work 24 hours a day, and don’t take any holidays. Worms breed faster than rabbits, plus their birth rate is boosted even further because there’s no need to kill them to harvest their work. As worms eat vegetable scraps and fruit rinds, they turn trash into soil. Their worm castings are rich in healthy bacteria, as well as worm cocoons that each contain 2-50 baby worms. Worm castings can be harvested simply by sifting the soil from a worm bin.

When composting with worms, you can use either a compost trench or a compost bin. Compost trenches are simply holes in the ground full of compost. These compost middens can be difficult to dig, especially if you make them deep enough to keep animals from burrowing into the trash. To control odor, compost trenches should be dug at least 6 feet into the ground. This is the perfect depth for Nightcrawler worms (which are also known as Common European Earthworms, Tiger Worms, or Angleworms). A hole that’s one-foot in diameter will hold about 5 gallons of compost, and a 12 ounce tub of earthworms will be able to process that compost in 1-2 months. A shallow trench can also be used within a fenced garden or any area protected from rats, badgers, and other scavengers. Dig the trench 6-8 inches deep, and then add Red Wiggler worms. These worms work close to the surface and will generally stick to the area that you’ve dug up for them, because the loose turned soil is easy to tunnel through.

Digging compost trenches is hard work, and compost bins are an easier alternative. Instead of digging a new hole every time you have compost, you can simply lift the lid and add compost to your vermicomposting bin. Worm farms will not only protect your worms from predators (such as birds and snakes) but they will also keep the worms from wandering away into your neighbor’s yard. Worm bins come in many different sizes and designs; you can make one yourself, or buy one and protect your thumbs from stray hammer blows.

When choosing a bin, the size you pick often depends on the number of people that live at your house. An average person produces about 2 square foot of organic waste per week, so your worm bin should have at least that much space per person living with you. Choose a bin with enough capacity to meet your peak needs, and maybe a little bit more. For example, if you have 2 people living in an apartment, an ideal size for a worm bin would be 4 or 5 square feet. If you often host relatives at your house for Thanksgiving dinner, there’s no need to count them towards your total, but if you have guests over for dinner every wednesday, you may want to get a slightly larger worm bin.

After you’ve picked out a worm bin, it’s important to put a biodegradeable lining into it. Worms don’t like the feel of plastic, wood, or metal against their skin, and extreme temperatures can stress them out. So, you should insulate your worm bin with shredded paper, strips of cardboard, peat moss, or coconut fiber. These materials will soak up water and help maintain a steady humidity level. They are also rich in carbon, while most food scraps have high levels of nitrogen. When worms need to snack on some carbon rich materials, they will nibble at the lining of the worm bin and choose a diet that meets their needs.

It’s important to add a thick layer of soil to your worm composting bin along with food scraps. Worms need soil in the same way that fish need water. They need it to ‘swim’ through, and it makes them feel comfortable. Soil will help buffer the acidity of any organic waste that you add, and it also provides a pathway for worms to burrow through. Soil also contains healthy organisms that will help the worms digest food scraps.

Photo courtesy of mdelemos at Flickr.com.