Today, I’m going to teach you how to make a very easy and inexpensive bin in which to make and store your compost!
*IF YOU HAVE PREVIOUSLY READ THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE SEE THE EDIT CONTAINED IN THE DIRECTIONS BELOW, UPDATED ON 2/27/19.
We’ve had a few warm days over the last couple of weeks here in Western Pennsylvania, and it really got me in the mood for spring! I took advantage of one of those warm days to create two of these DIY compost bins! (I put rocks on top so they wouldn’t blow away when they were empty.)
I’ll give you some tips on composting in a minute, but first let me show you how I made these. (It was very simple!)
All you need is a drill with a 1/4″ bit and a 1/2″ bit, or something similar to these sizes. They don’t need to be exact.
Begin by getting your curious puppy out of the way! 😋
But for real… Start by using the 1/4″ drill bit to drill holes toward the top of the container, all the way around. Compost piles need good air flow to aid in the decomposition process.
Next, using the same drill bit, drill drainage holes in the bottom of the container (as pictured below) to allow excess moisture to drain out. You want your compost pile to be moist, but not waterlogged.
Finally, use the 1/2″ drill bit to drill holes in the lid of the container to allow the rain to seep in. The rain will moisten the compost, making this a pretty self-sufficient process. If it rains too much, the excess moisture can drain out of the drainage holes in the bottom. Now the only time you should need to water the pile is during times of extended dry weather.
*EDIT: A FRIEND TOLD ME THAT IN PREVIOUS YEARS, SHE HAS HAD TROUBLE WITH MAGGOTS IN HER COMPOST BIN. THE MAGGOTS WILL ACTUALLY HELP TO BREAK DOWN THE COMPOST FASTER, BUT IF THEY GROSS YOU OUT, SEE THIS ARTICLE FOR SOME WAYS TO PREVENT THEM. (Hint: One method is covering all of the holes with screens so that the adult Soldier Flies cannot get in to lay their eggs.)
I piled up my brown matter* on the ground next to my containers so that I can easily add it to the compost each time I add more green materials. It’s going great so far!
(*You will learn more about brown matter and green matter later in this post.)
Leaving the brown matter out in the open is unlikely to attract any unwanted animals. It will also expose the brown matter to rain so it will already be moist when you add it to your compost, saving you the step of watering your pile.
The last thing I did to secure the lids on these containers was to hook bungee cords over the top.
I’m hoping this will discourage the raccoons, possums, foxes, deer, coyotes, and the plethora of other woodland creatures that scour our property at night. You can also put heavy rocks on top as an additional layer of protection, but since I empty my countertop bin into this one just about everyday, I don’t want to be bothered to move and reset all those rocks everyday. It’s been a couple of weeks with just the bungee cords and so far, so good!
Let’s be real, though… If a bear wants to get into this bin, it will, and no amount of rocks or bungee cords will stop them! I put my bins in a place that our pack of hunting dogs frequents, so hopefully their scent will keep the unwanted guests away!
Speaking of my countertop bin, though… I actually just use a large plastic storage container. I almost bought a countertop compost bin that uses special decomposable bags, but then I thought, “Why?” My plasticware does the job just fine!
Each day after I dump my greens into the compost pile, I just rinse out this container and set it back on the counter to gather the goodies for the next day. There really is no need for a fancy or expensive countertop compost bin.
Now, there are an infinite number of ways to build an outdoor compost bin, but I’ll tell you why I like my current setup the best.
1. It’s Inexpensive.
These bins are very large, and I got them for under $10 a piece at Walmart.
2. It’s a One-Person Job.
I was easily able to complete this whole project on my own without having to ask others for help (which made my husband very happy!)
3. Setup Is Fast and Easy.
All you need is a drill. This whole project took me under an hour to complete!
4. It’s Easy To Maintain.
Compost piles need to be turned regularly. Having it in a container like this makes it really easy to toss around. You can just flip the container over or rock it side to side. No shovel or pitchfork required! I can also just throw some rubber gloves on, reach in and toss it around with my hands pretty easily, too.
5. It Keeps the Animals Out.
We live on 65 acres, much of which is forested, so we have to animal-proof EVERYTHING that we keep outside!
Composting is something that I’m really excited to get into this year! Because I’m just trying this out for the first time, I have been doing extensive research about how to make a successful compost pile.
Of course, as with anything else, different sources gave different directions on the correct way to do things. There are, however, a few things that ALL of them had in common.
A compost pile should have all of the following in order to produce the “black gold” that you’re looking for:
- Brown Matter (carbon-based)
- Green Matter (nitrogen-based)
- Oxygen (air flow)
Brown matter can be dead leaves or grasses (not chemically treated), untreated wood chips, sticks, twigs and similar materials.
Green matter can be fruit and vegetable waste (banana and orange peels, apple cores, broccoli stems, veggie peels, etc.), manure from vegetarian-fed animals (no carnivore manure), coffee grounds, CLEANED egg shells, and similar items. (You don’t want to put the actual eggs in the compost pile or they will stink and attract unwanted pests and rodents.)
DO NOT USE anything oily or greasy, dairy products, meat products, bones or similar items in your compost pile!!! (Basically for the same reasons as not using eggs, but there is more info about that in the two articles below.)
Another thing to remember when composting is that the smaller you chop or grind your brown and green materials, the faster they will decompose and become “black gold.”
The weather also plays an important role in how long it takes to decompose, or “cook,” as some people say. The process goes dormant during the frozen winter months.
Many people also use Red Wiggler worms to aide in the composting process. (You can buy them online if you don’t have a source near you.) Google “composting with red wiggler worms” for more info about that.
In addition, there is a certain ratio of brown to green matter that you will want to use in order to achieve the best results. Every source that I researched had a different ratio listed, so I decided to go with the information on the Penn State Extension website. Penn State has a HUGE agricultural program, so I trust their judgement on such matters. They recommend 25 or 30 parts carbon (brown matter) to 1 part nitrogen (green matter.)
To learn more about composting, check out these two articles:
Please feel free to email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments that you may have.