Making your own compost is fun, easy, and frugal. Transform your garden and kitchen waste into rich compost that supercharges your gardening success. If you have lots of space and lots of material, a good, old-fashioned compost heap or even a compost pit can serve you well, but for those of us with smaller gardens, a compost bin offers a tidy and compact solution.
You can buy compost bins at garden and hardware stores, and some of the designs are pretty nifty, but you can also make your own bin with cheap or upcycled materials. Use these ideas to get your creative juices flowing and your composting project underway!
1. Mesh Cylinder
I love this idea because it’s so simple that even a DIY neophyte who’s all thumbs can get good results. It’s also great for composting because it’s ventilated all round. Remember that you need heat to build up inside the compost. For fairly rapid breakdown of organic material, you need it to be at least 1m in diameter and 1m in height. That’s still pretty compact and should fit in just about any garden.
Wire galvanised mesh bent into a tube offers an easy solution, or you can plant supports and use old shade netting. Use a couple of cable ties to bind everything together, and you’ve got your tube. Making a cover for the top is optional, but easy enough to do.
2. Plank or Upcycled Pallet Compost Box
Do you happen to have some old planks lying around? Pallets offer an even easier solution since they’re already nailed into uniform-sized squares. Although you can use the wood just like that, it will tend to rot, so extend its life by coating the inside with a sealant. You can also pretty up the outside with a coating of your choice. Once again, a top is optional, but it does make for a tidy appearance.
3. Vertical Drum Composter
You’ll see quite a few DIY plastic drum composter ideas online, but I notice that some of them consist of sealed plastic containers. That won’t make good compost. The “good” bacteria that make compost need air. Too little air, and you get anaerobic bacteria and a stinky, slimy mess. But that’s not to say you can’t use plastic drums if you happen to have one lying around. Use a hole saw to drill ventilation holes, and you’re good to go.
Some folks get smart by setting their drum composters onto a framework that allows them to be rotated. The alternative is stirring or turning your compost by hand. I don’t find the latter task too onerous, but it’s still a nice idea.
4. Horizontal Drum Composter
You can get a rotating composter without building a framework for it to turn on. Simply lay your drum down horizontally, and roll it about to mix and turn its contents. I’ve even seen one with old tyres fitted on either side to make rolling easier. It’s a simple and fun solution.
5. Milk Crate Compost Bin
Stack milk crates on top of one another for one of the simplest compost bins ever. Ventilation is great, and although it’s a bit small for my liking, and may take rather long to break down compost, you should get some pretty good compost in the end.
6. Cinder Block Bin
Let’s not forget cinder blocks as a good construction material for a compost bin. Lay the blocks sideways so that the voids in each block can serve as ventilation holes, or lay each block so that there’s a gap for aeration.
7. Binless Composting
I’m still a huge fan of binless composting, so let’s touch on that. All you need is a space about 2m wide. If you pack your compost well, you can get up to 1.5m high. It’s always best to alternate layers of brown and green material plus some soil in between, and compost activators are nice for speeding up your results. If you like doing everything at home, you can even make your own compost activator with common kitchen ingredients.
The Many Methods of Composting
To put it bluntly, any heap of organic material will eventually break down and form compost. However, for your compost to be good for your plants, some moisture and aerobic decomposition are key. Turning your compost every two or three weeks will help to get air through the heap. If you’re building a compost bin, remember that you’ll need to get a fork in to stir things up or else have a bin that you can turn over.
Do you have some smart ideas for building compost bins? Share them with us! We’ll pass your idea forward to our community of gardeners!