If you’ve been thinking about making a compost bin for sometime, like I have, then you’ll love this short tutorial on how to build a compost bin at home.
Compost bins reduce household waste and greenhouse gas – so you’re helping protect our wonderful environment. Compost bins also produce a valuable bi-product that can be used throughout the garden.
And, building a compost is really easy, and fun!
What is compost?
Think of a delicious recipe you whip together using whole food ingredients and a load of veggies full of goodness. At the end you’re eating a meal jam-packed full of nutrients that feed your bodies cells and fuel you to go about your days feeling great!
That’s exactly what compost is…
It’s a delicious recipe of natural organic ingredients that you collect together and as it breaks down over a number of months, you end up with rich humus to feed back into your garden beds so your veggies and plants get all the nutrients they need to grow big and strong.
How to build a compost bin
There are any number of ways to build a compost bin – you can use wooden pallets to build one, you can buy ready-made compost bins – tumblers, standard black bins, or circular baskets, or you can even use bits of tin or junk from around the yard – really there are lots of ways to go about it.
I decided to use star pickets and chicken wire – a super simple easy design.
One of the reasons I like this design is that a compost heap does well with air flow, so the chicken wire allows for some natural airflow to occur. It’s also easy to move down the track if you should want to.
What you need:
- 4 star pickets
- Chicken wire
- Cable ties or wire
Step 1: Hit the 4 star pickets into a square.
You can make the area as big or as small as you want. My area is about 1 meter square. My garden project is a pretty big one so I intend to make 3 to 4 of these piles over time, but at this size I can keep my compost piles manageable.
Step 2: Put the chicken wire around the outside of the star pickets.
We used a very small wire to ensure the added materials stay within the enclosure, and to keep pests out.
Step 3: Use the cable ties or wire to attach the chicken wire.
My ground was not level so the wire went out of shape at the top on two of the sides. We just doubled it over a little and used cable ties to secure it.
Step 4: Start making your compost pile.
Once that’s done, you’re ready to start adding your compost layers. That’s really how simple it is!
How to make compost
To make your compost, think of it like a lasagna, you have to layer it with the right ingredients.
Create first layer with dried leaves and twigs, like in the image below. Even if you’re using a standard plastic bin, make sure you do this directly on the earth below so that bugs, worms and all those creepy crawlies can climb up and get in on the action.
Next, add some green material, I used fresh grass clippings.
Add a sprinkle of manure and soil – I used dried chicken manure pellets, which adds nitrogen to the pile.
Add your bucket of veggie scraps and household kitchen waste.
Add another layer of dry ingredients, this time I used leaves and twigs and after you’re done, add some moisture by watering over the top with a watering can or hose. You need the compost to be moist, not too wet and not too dry. I will be putting a carpet or blanket over the top of this pile so it won’t dry out too much.
You’ll notice in this picture that my compost heap has a door. Over time as the pile gets bigger, it gives you access to the lower layers of compost that you can use on your garden. And you can also turn the heap to aerate it, which you need to do every 2 weeks.
And, that’s how easy it is to begin…
What are the materials that make up compost?
You basically have 3 categories – green, brown and manures.
- Chicken – dried pellets or bagged
While cow and sheep manures are okay to use, these are ‘cold’ manures that contain less nitrogen, whereas the above manures have loads more nitrogen and they are ‘hot’ manures so they will speed up the compost process.
- Diseased plants
- Glossy mags
- Pine sawdust
- Meat and dairy – it attracts the pests
Basically, after you make your first layer, you keep making lasagna – green, manure, brown, manure, and so forth – adding a little moisture at the end after brown ingredients.
When adding leaves, make sure the layer is no bigger 7-8 cms deep when fluffed up, add the manure pellets (nitrogen), then some green layer, before wetting down a little.
Aerate your heap
Turn your heap every 2 weeks to oxygenate it.
You can do this a few ways – use a compost turner or crank.
This is a long bar with a spiral or bar at the end. You stick it in the compost heap and turn it, just so it moves things around.
Simply use a pitch fork – spike it down and try to turn up a few layers.
Use some pipe and stick it right through the pile.
So, that’s the basics of building a compost bin.
Bench compost bin
To make this process easier, you’ll need to keep a bench compost bin handy for all your food scraps and household items that can go in there.
Any type of bucket with a lid will work well. You fill it first before carrying it out to the compost bin.
Compost Bin Questions
Where is the best spot to put a compost bin?
Your compost can go in the sun or part shade in an area of the garden or yard where it won’t bother you.
It takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months for the compost to break down so you want it in a spot that doesn’t really get used for anything else, or a spot you don’t mind sacrificing. 🙂
Can you use a garbage can compost bin?
You can make a compost bin out of a garbage can. You’ll need to cut off the bottom so that your compost content has direct contact with the ground below.
Drill a few holes in the sides of the bin, for some airflow. Then place the bin where you want it and start building your layers, placing the lid on the top at the end.
Can I compost coffee filters?
Yes. Coffee filters are a natural paper-type product so these will break down well.
Can you compost paper towels?
Yes. Paper towel, tissue and small bits of paper go straight into the compost bin.
Can you compost meat?
The two things that are best not to compost are meat and dairy – these attract pests. So put cooked food that contain these items, directly in the bin.
Can you compost bread?
Yes. Bread can go straight into the compost.
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