Homemade Compost Bins

Although there are many types of composting bins on the market, you may still choose to

make your own compost bin.

If so,  here are five low-cost styles you may wish to consider:

Style 1:  Extremely Simple And Easy

Your own system may be as simple as a circle of chicken wire, or a bottomless barrel with air holes in its sides. Just lift it away from the pile, set it up again nearby, and put the newer layers back in, leaving behind the finished compost.

When I first settled in Oshawa, I marvelled at the way my neighbor, an older Ukrainian lady, would create her compost.  In the fall when she was cleaning up her garden for the winter,  she would simply pile up all garden debris up against a wire fence that had been set up between her land and the public park on the west side of her property.  Since we were on a short dead-end street and she had the last house next to the park at the end of the street, she of course had no problems with neighbors.  Besides, during the winter there would never be any odor from such a small pile of decomposting material.

In the early spring she would spread this half decomposed material all over her garden and plow it in.  Then she would add mushroom compost bought from a  mushroom grower.  When it was time for seeding, everything had pretty well thoroughly decomposed.  This lady had the nicest vegetables in the neighborhood.

(Please Note:   If you decide to buy mushroom compost from a grower, first find  out what the farmer uses to make his mushrooms grow.  Things have changed a lot since the 1980′s.  Today’s compost may be full of chemicals.  So beware!)

Style 2: Pens

Compost pen made of snow fence materialOne of the simplest structures for a compost bin is a circle of snow fencing or wire mesh supported by posts or stakes. At turning time you unwrap and remove the fencing, set it up in a new location nearby, and fork the compost back into the pen.

It’s true that this requires a little more space and some lifting effort, and it leaves the compost in full view. However, it is inexpensive, strong enough, and very easy to construct.

Style 3:  Homemade Bin

Now let’s take a look at the third type of compost container for hot composting– the home-made bin. Bins are sturdier and more discreet than pens. They may require a little more skill to build but are still inexpensive.

The four sides can be made of almost anything: wire screen stretched on wooden frames or old pallets standing on end. Three walls are normally fixed permanently together but may be hinged, hooked or tied.

compost bin with concrete walls and movable front panelOne design has three walls of concrete blocks, stacked without mortar, and a fourth wall of removable boards.

I’ve seen where the composter had stacked up square bales of straw to create the walls of his bin.

To turn the pile, the front of the bin is removed and the compost forked out onto the ground. Then the pile is rebuilt in the bin.

The disadvantage to this type of bin is that you do need the extra ground space in front of the bin for turning; however, the advantage is that  you don’t have to lift the compost over a wall to get it back in.

One variation calls for the bin to be set over a pit, to provide extra insulation. Although this encourages the presence of helpful earthworms, it does mean reaching down below ground level to turn the compost.

Style 4: Composting drum

Homemade compost drumA rotating barrel composter can be made from a large drum with aeration holes punched in it. You can also have fins inside the drum to lift and mix the compost materials. A hinged loading door in the side allows wastes to be added gradually.

Home made turning tumblerSome you must roll on the ground to mix the contents. Others are mounted horizontally on stands with crank attachments. All you need do is turn that crank every day or second day. Various commercial models are available.

If bacteria is introduced with a good amount of garden soil and the barrel is turned every few days, compost can be made in a few weeks this way with little physical effort.

Style 5:    A New Zealand Box

New Zealand Box

A New Zealand box is a bottomless wooden box with ventilation spaces between the wall boards, and its face is easily removable to facilitate turning. Since the compost rests directly on the ground, a lid is normally added to prevent nutrients leaking from the pile during heavy rains.

This one is not very big as you can see. There are still some people who prefer this wooden type to the plastic ones you can buy at a store or sometimes from the municipality. The lady who owned this one had three of them in all around her yard.  They are light, make nice compost, are easy to make and easy to move.  In this picture you see an aerator leaning up against it.

A New Zealand box, or something similar, can be made at home with a minimum of skill. It can be moved to a new location fairly easily if required, and it keeps the compost neatly out of sight.

Variation of the New Zealand Box

A popular variation has two or three compartments in a row. The compost is turned from one box into another, and the empty box is then used to accumulate the material for a new batch of compost.

It is ideal for people who use kitchen and yard wastes as they accumulate and can’t save up enough materials to make a really big pile.

As you can see, the possibilities are limitless.

Although I have focused on homemade compost containers for hot composting, there are commercially sold containers which can work even faster at making the compost.  We’ll focus on those in another post.

For now,  rest well, eat well, stay healthy!

Take care


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3 Responses to “Homemade Compost Bins

  • 1
    December 13th, 2015 03:34

    I like the circle of mesh fencing idea. Over the mild winter I have access to tons of veg trimmings from a local market s many truck loads of leave as I care to gather, a several hundred pounds of coffee grounds from several Starbucks, 10 to 20 crates of squeezed lemons from a place I eat at frequently. The lemons break down very quickly. A local horse facility welcomes me to take as many hundreds of tons of a rice hull/horse poo mix as I care to load. So a dinky little set of three 4 x 4 x 4 foot bins is way too small. Six foot wire fencing is very low cost around here. Doubled over and bent in the circle you describe makes a nice 6-07 foot side bin. I can layer fill the first bin in a week, adding several pitch forks full of riper material to seed it.
    Our winter showers keep things moist. After a week or two it get pitched into the next bin. When that bin is full and ready then into the third bin. And so on. $30 or $40 of wire mesh and a lot of sweat and I have a lot more compost than I need. But I like the exercise. I give barrels of the stuff away.

  • 2
    December 13th, 2015 03:38

    I really do not need to bother composting. The city has a composting operation to deal with city park and other waste materials. Free if you drive up and load it yourself. I checked and it passes all local, Stqte, and Federal bio and chemical standards. Have more nitrogen then my own stuff.

  • 3
    January 9th, 2016 04:37

    Gee what a good idea! That’s what I call thinking outside the box. You’re helping yourself and others too grow healthy vegetables. Congratulations.

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