Pallet Compost Bin

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Posted in WorkshopPallets

Introduction: Pallet Compost Bin

Going green and creating your own compost bin isn't as hard as you might think. All those grass clippings, plant prunings, and other yard stuff is easily recycled into compost. The project is simple.
You need pallets, wire (to bind them together), some simple tools, and any extra hardware you would like to add for ease of use.

Step 1: Getting It Together...The Lay Out.

Your going to need 4 pallets minimum. If you decide on a slanted base (floor), you'll need another pallet. Some people may choose a slanted base design to catch the "tea" that your composter produces when watering your compost. The "tea" can be diluted and sprayed on your plants.
We don't have a slanted base in this design. Simple is easier. We're going with 3 sides and a door.

Choose your lay out. I don't need a huge bin, so I opted to stand the sides up to narrow the bins depth. Plus, it gives me a 2x4 side to attach my hinges to.

Step 2: Piecing It Together.

I've purchased 14 gauge wire, hinges, and a latch for my bin. If you want to pass on these items, you can still get by with just the wire to bind the pallets together. A make-shift hinge can be made from the wire.

Start with cutting the wire to a workable length, roughly 18", and strap the side and back pallets together by twisting the wire tight. Be careful not to over do it. Too much tension and the wire will break. Two lengths twisted on each corner should be plenty.

Step 3: Adding Some Stability....

I've opted to add a landscape pole to the hinge-side of the bin. These pallets are not light and I wanted the hinges to support some of the weight of the door pallet. I had originally thought I was going to put pole in both side pallets, but figured I only need the hinge-side to be supported. I hammer into the ground about 12".

Step 4: Adding the Hardware

Once you've finished tying the pallets together. It's time to add hinges. My hinges were about $6.50 from the Depot. A little better than constucting wire hinges.

Now, we're ready for the door.

Step 5: The Door.

Before adding the door to the bin, I added a spacer to the bottom by using the left over scrap from the landscaping pole and attaching it with screws. This will provide some ventilation for the compost since all other sides sit on the ground.

Next, attach the door.

Step 6: Optional, More Hardware.

In most cases, you would be done. I, however, need more bling for my bin. I've added a latch to keep my 2yr old out the bin.


AND YOU'RE DONE....Or are you.

Step 7: More Stuff.

If you live in a climate that has good to mild humidity, you would be done at this point. However, I live in hell, Phoenix, AZ. Mesa to be precise.
We don't have much humidity and moisture is what helps to break down the organics in your composter. To effectively do this, we need to add some heavy duty plastic to the bin to help keep some of the moisture in the bin. Moisture and heat are a compost bin's best friend.

Step 8: Start Your Compost.

I've left the plastic off the door. I will have to experiment to see if it works with or without it.

My wife has already been starting a compost bin with a large storage bin from Walmart. Its done a great job. Just not big enough for our needs.

Good luck. I hope this helps you in your green endeavors.

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    45 Comments

    i would have turned all flat sides to inwards so the content has less chance nesting into areas where it needs advanced efforts to be removed again.
    else - pretty cool idea!

    I have a couple of questions. (1) i live in new york and its pretty humid and it rains occasionally. would it help to put a tarp over it to keep out the rain? Because ive heard that it (the rain) can drain nutrients into the soil. (2) would the compost decompose the pallets?. (3) would it help to staple tarp or plastic to the out side? Thanks

    6 replies

    No, you want your compost to be wet (think of a moist sponge). The drier it is, the longer it will take to break down, so it's best to keep it moist, and allowing it to be rained on is a great way to do that. Don't worry about any lost nutrients... there are plenty more! And the water filtering down into the soil beneath your bin will encourage worms to move up and help break it down, so that's a good thing, too. And nailing or stapling on some wire mesh (like 14" hardware cloth from Home Depot) on the inside of the bin will help keep the critters out. The pallets are made from treated lumber and will last for years. My only concern about using pallets is that the chemicals used to treat the wood might leach into the compost. This is why I bought a "Soil Saver" compost bin.

    Pallets are NOT made of treated wood. They aren't made to last, so why would they?

    Pallets are usually treated with either heat or chemicals. There is a stamp the bottom that will tell you which one. If there is an HT in that code, Then it is heat treated. I made a pallet garden which is when I learned that.

    Pallets are normally never treated. Why would they? They are made for mainly indoor use (factory, trucks, warehouses) with the occasional move in light rain, and many are one-time-use as well. Actually I've never seen a treated pallet before.

    Pallets wouldn't generally be treated with wood preservatives, but they can be treated with insecticides to kill off wood boring insects. Since many pallets cross state and international borders, this is sometimes done to prevent infestations. Some are heat treated to kill insects, others have no treatment at all.

    That should've said 1/4" (one quarter inch) hardware cloth, not 14".

    Looks great (and very good instructions), although you can actually start a compost bin using something as simple as an outdoor garbage can. Poke holes in the bottom (be careful - ask why I'm saying that, LOL).

    Thanks for the instructions! It looks great. I left off the plastic because I love in an awesome state. And we couldn't find the right size hinges, so we just used latches on both sides of the door. I'm sure it will work well for us.

    temp_-1316967503.jpg

    Has anyone experimented with a mesh-type floor for the finished product to fall thru? I really like the idea here. Am very new to this gardening thing and need all the help and suggestions I can get. I have an acre and a third yard, and my garden is 50 ft by 40 ft so I have lots to compost. Also live in the Dairy State so the weather is favorable and there is plenty of manure to add. What else do I need to know?

    2 replies

    Haven't seen any 'mesh' type bottoms. However, there are plans for a slanted 'hard' bottom to catch the drippings from the compost. Also, known as 'Tea'. This liquid is used on your plants. To complex to build on a budget. You definitely need something sturdy on the bottom so you can turn your pile. Good Luck.

    Build a catch tray into a fifth pallet, use on the bottom. You'll need some 2x4s or metal corner joiners to attach the base.

    my neighbor was a docent at the zoo. To keep neighborhood cats out of her garden, she applied straw that had been used as bedding for the lions. It worked! It seems like this would compost well, and for you people in urban areas, your zoos might be really happy to get rid of this stuff....just a thought.

    2 replies

    That same straw would probably repel deer as well.

    My Bushmaster repels deer VERY well.

    if thats what I think it is, I would worry more about what looks to be oleander around the left side of your bin..... I heard a story while living near Tucson about hikers taking branches to cook hot dogs on a fire from an oleander bush and it killed all of them.... its has digitalis (a cardiac glycocide heart stopper) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerium_oleander great instructable though.... we moved to "ugh humid" NC so I think I can skip the plastic and might use chickenwire or hardware cloth instead

    1 reply

    You mean that everyone in the country that has oleander needs to now start worrying about hikers using them for hot dog sticks and killing themselves?

    simple & use full give praise

    Ive been useing ground cloth( very cheap ) on the sides and a piece of old rug for a lid. I wrapped the pallets with chicken wire, which acts as a hinge at the corners. These work great. Remember to balance your browns and greens and keep it moist but not wet. Mulch happens!