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Homemade Compost Bin

I am looking for instructions to make a homemade compost bin.

By Patti from Colorado Springs, CO


Homemade Compost Bin

We just researched this in depth for our home, and have our homemade compost bin up and running as of yesterday. So this is a question I can answer!


We came up with three basic options. I'll outline them and then tell you what we picked.

  1. No-cost made from scratch: we found directions for making a bin with poles sunk in the ground and chicken wire wrapped around and attached. It occurred to me that with a supply of flexible branches and vines from the gully behind our house, stripped of leaves, and poles from small pruned branches, I could weave a basket-style composter that would match the chicken-wire pattern, but not cost us anything. Benefit: no cost. Drawback: More work to move/turn the compost pile inside, as the whole thing has to be moved and the poles reset. (This is true for the chicken wire version, too.)

  2. Low-cost option: Get a large metal garbage can. Drill holes (or hammer a large nail through to make holes) every 3-4 inches all around the can, in rows about 3-4 inches apart. To turn the compost, you just tie the lid down with a bit of twine through its lid and the handles on the side of the can, tip the whole thing over, and roll it around the yard a bit. Cost for a new can in our area: $25. Benefit: Much less work to turn compost. Drawback: No one responded to my Freecycle request for a used garbage can, a damaged one would be fine, since it needs holes anyway. So we had to buy one up front. (I never got a clear answer on whether a big black plastic can would work as well as a metal can. The plastic was cheaper, and could be found larger, but some sites suggested that the heat generated inside could cause chemicals to leach from the plastic that you wouldn't want to end up in your vegetable garden.

  3. High-cost option: Buy a premade composter. The one I liked was like a sideways can on a stand, with two bins and handles for turning. It was expensive! Be wary, I also saw some premade compost bins that had lousy designs, based on what I read, and still cost more than a garbage can. Benefit: Easy. Drawback: Expensive.

We went with the trash can option. We bought a galvanized steel can at Lowe's. (Wal-mart didn't have a metal one.) It took about 20 minutes to drill all the holes, including setup and cleanup. I don't know if the same ad is in the paper everywhere, but this morning's paper had a Lowe's coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase, so if you're getting anything else along with the trash can, that might be worth knowing.

We use a big plastic coffee can to collect compostable waste in the kitchen, since it has a tight-fitting lid and is a convenient size. I printed out a list of what should and shouldn't go in it, and stuck this on the side of the container for reference.


The EPA and various state and municipal websites had lots of good information on composting and making a homemade composter. Google connected us to tons of details, not just how to go about making various composters, but what to put in it, how to know what to add to keep the ratios right for making high-quality compost, how to troubleshoot potential problems, etc. If you like, I can send you some of the information I saved while we were researching this. Just ask.

I hope this helps! (05/17/2009)

By sterghe

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