Picture of Milkcrate Composter (vertically stacked)

How to make a vertically stacked composter using milkcrates. 
This instructable is based on Terracotta home composter by artworker
and the creators of the terracotta composter, Daily Dump (http://www.dailydump.org/ )

When I saw the terracotta composter, I though it was the most brilliant composter I have ever seen.  It was also absolutely beautiful.  I saw some problems however.  First, the price for terracotta pots this size is expensive (my favorite budget is 0$, so that didn't quite work...).  Second, the amount of work to find the pots that will stack well, make the holes without breaking the pots, the fragility of terracotta, and the weight of it was against this lovely project. 

Then I though of the perfect substitute, a milkcrate!  It stacks perfectly, has plently of air circulation, is sturdy, has handles to lift them easily, light weight, low cost.  All you needed is 3 milkcrates, mesh/screen, newspaper, a lid, and a base if it's not resting on the earth directly. 

The only down is the aesthetic of it, the terracotta pots are so beautiful.  But the milkcrates has their own charm, especially in my urban surrounded garden.

So here's my milkcrate composter!

Step 1: You will need

Picture of you will need
materials needed:

-3 milkcrates

-plastic or metal mesh/screen, or weed barrier fabric
-hot glue gun

-screws (preferably rust proof)
-old drawer handles

-and organic waste to start your compost

To make this project, all the material I used were either found, reused, or I had it already at home, so the total budget was a wonderful 0$!
DavidS554 months ago

Walmart had some of these crates beginning of the school year for

kids going back to school

spainmary5 months ago

WHERE are you finding the crates? have asked around recently and was told by convenience store clerk that they have to pay for each crate they use and if broken they return to vendor to be replaced said this practice of vendors charging a price per crate started couple years ago. I live in s.w. part of Virginia

amyincluj5 months ago

i'm a balcony gardener and had been composting with a large container for awhile but now I am using that for a shrub - I have collected some vegetable crates from a local store that was throwing them out so will use them in place of milk crates - thanks for the great idea

jean v5 months ago

Mike McGrath has an interesting take on composting worth taking into account

joyoney15 months ago

I hate to be dense, but from your written instructions, are you only adding kitchen scraps to compost? Where do you add leaves and such? I really want to do this!!

BTetlow made it!5 months ago

I thought I would give this a try as I hate waiting for years for the big compost heaps to make dirt!

My milk crates had one side that was open so I lined three sides with thick black plastic (with holes punched in it) and the front open section I lined with an old flyscreen,

I mix them once a week and try to get a good blend of dry leaf matter and kitchen scraps.

It's in the garden, hopefully doing it's thing!

Garden Composter I.jpgGarden Composter 2.jpg

I have wanted to compost for awhile now, but my husband is afraid of the smell. I have never done this and it would make sense there would be a smell. Is it a really bad smell and if so is there a trick to keeping the smell at bay as well as the flys?

A well balanced compost pile should not smell bad. There are tons of resources online to guide you in what to compost and getting a compost balanced and working efficiently.

jltjr1 year ago
It gets the job done. Thanks for the instructable.
LosingAmy4 years ago
First off, let me say how great this instructable is. Perfect for a small space and/or small budget. I'm going to be making two of these myself and it'll run me about $12 since I don't have the weed barrier fabric on hand. I figure I'd need one for myself and one for my husband since we tend to produce a good bit of vegetable waste.

I'm personally probably going to use a little more of the fabric to line the bottom of the bed, or omit this step. I only say this because some holes on the bottom of milk crates can be small, and if so, who cares if that little bit of compost from Bin A goes to Bin B. It's all getting mixed up anyway. Also, I've been reading about some of the colored inks in newspaper can contain metals. Since I'm using my compost for vegetable gardening, I rather not take this chance. So if the holes are big, I'll line with a little extra of the weed barrier.
a_abbond (author)  LosingAmy4 years ago
Yes, good point about the newspaper! You have to be careful that it is made with vegetable inks. Good luck with your composters :)

As far as I am aware, all newspapers printed on regular print paper (your average hometown papers and not the "glossies") in the US, use vegetable based inks. There may be exceptions, of course. But, I am not aware of any. It was a big selling point on one of those "As Seen on TV" tailgate collapsible grills.

The concern about metals in colored inks is outdated, especially in newspapers. Newsprint ink is the cheapest possible and has to be recyclable, which means it is made from soy. Heavy metal inks are expensive! (And dangerous, which is another reason they don't use them any more.) These days, the only inks you have to worry about are the ones which are fluorescent or metallic - they're usually found in advertising supplements or packaging materials, not the general news sections. Anything else is compostable, even on glossy papers.
CliffC1 year ago

Hmmmm. I have a "Can O' Worms" worm farm and think that your brilliant idea could also be adapted to that.

I have a ton of milk crates I used for book shelves in my classroom, I can make several! Thank you!

Gregbot2 years ago
prismcat3 years ago
Brilliant! This totally solves my problem...I've been after my husband for years to make a "proper" compost bin. We've always just piled the vegetable matter in a certain spot and let nature do it's thing. Then he plants something in that spot the next year and starts a new pile somewhere else. While his method actually does work for us here in the hot and humid Southern US, only one spot each year gets compost With this plan, I can actually make a few of these myself and put it where ever I want, yay!!! Thank You!
porpor12343 years ago
Has anyone discovered whether the bottom crate has really turned into compost by the time it runs out of space or does it need to be shifted into another place to complete composting? The daily dump instructions also say to keep adding accelerator every 15 days to the hold-it pot. is this necessary? Do the milk crates compost better than the terracotta pots and don't leave the contents of pot c incompletely done? I would like to try this as I've had various plastic compost bins in my yard that don't seem to work very well - it takes a long time to get the contents to decompose fully.
a_abbond (author)  porpor12343 years ago
In my experience, the compost at the bottom was ready before I filled the other ones. We are two and I use it to compost kitchen food scraps. the only thing you have to do is go through the earth and remove the big pieces that did not decompose in one shot, such as big corn cobs pieces or avocado seeds. I just dump them back in the first bin. I don't use hold it pots since I use my compost before that. I would say the process is taking longer that regular compost because you don't have the heat of a large pile, and since I live in Canada, it stops completely once it's too cold. And I haven't used the terracotta either because of freezing that would make the pots break.

If you want to speed the process, cut your compost material in small pieces of no more than 1 inch, add a handful of dried material (leaves, dry grass) for a handful of kitchen scraps, mix it well often, and check so you have the best humidity (not soggy, but not dry)
Genuis! My old garden on 1/3 acre had giant open piles in bins made from pallets, but the curren tiny urban yard needs something scaled-down that I can hide behind a tool shed. The holes in the crates will be perfect for air circulation and draining excess water during the monsoon season. Two green thumbs up!
blckbuster5 years ago
how bad does something like this stink? could one get away with using it in backyard of a dense city?
a_abbond (author)  blckbuster5 years ago
This compost method was develloped to be used in Indian cities as an alternative to composting for dense city dweller. They can be used on balconies. If you maintain the right amount of dryness/moisture, the compost should not smell. A compost that is too wet will stink, you have to add dry stuff - leaves, shredded paper, sawdust -, a compost that is too dry will take longer to decompose, so to be on the safe side, keep it more dry then wet.
a_abbond (author)  a_abbond5 years ago
Some more details on composting that I didn't add earlier. A compost that has plenty of air will not smell. A compost that has not enough air (for example if it is soggy and all packed together - hence the problem with wetness) will decompose, but in a process that will generate bad smells. This is why it is important to mix your compost often to allow the pile to be well aerated and to check the moisture level.
artworker5 years ago
Brilliant! Your Garden is very beautiful. 5*