Introduction: DIY Compost Barrel

About: Recently retired after 25 yrs. as a Navy contractor that involved the underwater repairs of US ships and submarines. Prior to that retired from the U.S. Navy serving 24 yrs. in 1996. Was a Navy Deep Sea Diver …

Composting......A mixture of decayed or decaying organic matter used to fertilize soil. Compost is usually made by gathering plant material, such as leaves, grass clippings, and vegetable peels, into a pile or bin and letting it decompose as a result of the action of aerobic bacteria, fungi, and other organisms.

Step 1: Compost Barrel Build

This instructable like all my others is dedicated to my beloved 16 yro daughter Rachael Marie.

How often have you received a set of instructions that only the one who wrote it understands it fully. I've ran across that and it is sure irritating. I've even had them being wrong and that causes a lot of rework. I was wanting to build a compost barrel so I like many of you went to YouTube and this site for help in building one.
The site where I got this one was from YouTube. A very nice man recorded the steps he went through and even supplied a link the gave us a drawing and list of materials. I will do the same and list the materials for you also. Even Though the YouTube video was good it was not detailed and I don't believe he intended it to be. In fact none of the videos I saw were. That's where I come in. Here I will give you detailed instructions with pictures (Don't you just love that?) I will do my best to show you how to build it while keeping it simple and fun.

Step 2: Parts and Pieces

So, You have decided to give it a go and build yourself a compost barrel. Good for you!. There's nothing like making a decision to build something, It always excites me when I start a new project. I've found that I get the best results if I take my time to analyze in my mind the steps involved to reach the objective, in this case a completed compost barrel. Here you see all the parts and pieces needed for the build. Listed below is the Bill of Materials. I'll give you some helpful hints when you go to buy the items. I use Home Depot even though I worked at Lowe's for over a year one time. 2006-2007 Plano Texas.

Bill of Materials for Stand and Barrel: QTY

2" x 6" x 34" Treated Lumber (uprights) Qty. 2

3" SCH 40 PVC Pipe, Qty. 1

2" x 6" x 33-1/2" Treated Lumber (side feet), Qty. 2

2" x 6" x 28-1/2" Treated Lumber (center braces), Qty. 2

1/2" x 3-1/2" Galv. Carriage Bolts, Qty. 8

1" Holes for Axles to Pass Through

1/2" Galv. Hex Head Nut, Qty.8

3/8" Holes Staggered 1-1/2" Apart

1/2" Galv. Flat Washer, Qty.8

3-1/2" Deck Screws (green in color) Qty.12

60 Gallon Food Grade Plastic Barrel, Qty. 1

3/4" Sch 40 PVC Pipe Cap, Qty.1 (drain cover)

3/4" x 30" Galv. Pipe Nipple, Qty.1

3/4" Galv. Threaded Pipe Cap, Qty.2

Bill of Materials for Internal Aeration System: QTY

3" Sch 40 PVC Cap, Qty 1

3" Sch 40 Closet Flange, Qty. 1

1-1/4" x 1-1/2" PVC Pipe, Qty. 2

These following notes are from the Sponsor, mine will follow

Note: The dimensions of the timber stand are dependant on the size of your barrel. The dimensions on the drawing will still work fine for a barrel that is 23" in diameter and 44" tall. If the size of your barrel differs, make your uprights half the height of your barrel plus 9". The feet will need to be about the same length as the height of your uprights. Make your center support as long as the diameter of your barrel plus 6". The length of the pipe axle will need to be the same as your center support plus 2" "All plans for this build are from Dixie Grilling unless otherwise noted.

My Notes:

I followed their plans and list of materials except I did not use 3/8" carriage bolts, instead I used 1/2" carriage bolts. The reason is I think since using 2 x 6's they deserve larger ones and I believe from experience they will hold the pieces together more securely> I recommend you do the same.

Step 3: Compost Barrel Plans

I want to make this as easy for you as I possibly can. This is why I'm posting these plans. This way you don't have to go to the site to see what I'm talking about. I recommend you go ahead and print the plan so you can have it in your workshop during the build.

Step 4: Cut First, Paint, Then Assemble

This is what I alway do. I break out all of my supplies and put the project together in my head first. Then I plan different phases. Like this one I might call phase one. Cut all the wood pieces out for the assembly. Most of the time I always prime and paint the wood, This time I didn't because I was not sure what color I wanted them. I wanted to start the assembly so I started without the paint. Anyway, cut all the wood for this project first. I used a chop saw and orbital sander to round the corners.

Step 5: Assemble the Stand

Now it's time to assemble the stand. It should be pretty straight forward. Just keep in mind that you are going to be installing the wood screws into the front and back of the cross members. Make sure to use wood glue on the face of the boards before you install the screws. You also want to place the side 1/2" carriage bolts where the screws will not hit them when they are screwed in. For drilling the holes I used a 1/2' spade bit then tapped the bolts in with a hammer for a snug fit. Once the bolts are in place put the flat washers, locking bolts and then the nuts. I tighten them down nice and tight to where the wood is compressed. Then install the front and back pieces.

Step 6: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (the 5 P's)

Here you see that I have preserved the stand for the final assembly. Even though the wood is pressure treated I ll believe by priming and painting it you not only make it look good the wood will hold up better in the elements. I used Kilz primer and Home Depot Behr Gloss Battleship Gray. "GO NAVY"

Step 7: Internal Aeration System

Now it's time to start making the internal aeration system. The reason we do this is to keep the compost aerated. Since I didn't have a three in. hole saw I used an oscillating multifunction power tool. Now, if you don't have one of these I recommend you get one. They are excellent for what they say the can do. I used the one that says it cuts plastic. It worked very well. I also have one of the attachments that cuts grout. It also worked well but I recommend you use a vacuum cleaner with the hose near the cutting wheel or the dust it generates goes everywhere. I know this for a fact. haha, So cut the hole and insert the fitting. Do'n screw it down yet. See the next step.

Step 8: Screw It, Drill It and Drain It.

Now you can go ahead and screw the flange down and make the drain. Check out all the holes in this piece of 3 in. PVC pipe. These holes are going to be how we ventilate the inside of the barrel. There was a lot of drilling to do but it went pretty fast, I used a 4' straight edge and drew a line with pencil so I would keep the holes straight. A 3/8" drill bit was used to drill the holes. You will also need to put the 3" end cap on it. I did not use glue as I wanted to be able to remove it for cleaning.That keeps the compost out of the tube, some small particles go inside through the 3/8" holes but not much.

Step 9: Airator PVC Pipe Not a Giant Flute

This works as a way to circulate the air throughout the inside of the closed barrel. It is inserted into the recessed flange of the closet flange that is screwed into the bottom of the barrel. I can see that it might be quite effective.

Step 10: Alignment Tool

What I've done here is use a piece of scrap PVC conduit to align the holes in the aerator stand pipe with the sides of the barrel. I measured the conduit and it is 21" long. The idea is to line the ends of the conduit up with the inside of the barrel and mark where it touches. Try to mark it all around the conduit so that when you remove it you can see where you need to drill the hole through the barrel. This way everything is lined up so when you put the iron pipe through it there is no misalignment and the pipe slides straight through. You want to do the same thing for the wooden stand. It would be very frustrating if the iron pipe did not slide through the 6 holes nice and straight. There might be other ways to do it but this way was perfect. Something else you need to know. When you purchase the pipe it will not come in the length of 30 inches. It only comes in the length of 36 inches. Not a problem. If you buy it from Home Depot or Lowes have someone from that dept. cut it and re-thread it, they both have a machine that can do this. Piece of Cake :)

Step 11: Keep the Bugs Out

This is the inside of the barrel. On each side of it I drilled two one inch holes that allow the barrel to ventilate. The air is brought in through the bottom and out the aeration tube. These allow the air to move in and out freely. The one thing we cannot get rid of is those pesky little insects that like our compost. In order to keep them out of our barrel is to screen off the openings. I used some screen mesh to cover the hole. It was attached using a hot glue gun. The same went for the opening in the bottom of the tube and drain hole. Where the pipe passes through the barrel I ran a bead of caulking around it and the pipe still turns around it. Once you have completed all of the above steps it is time to make yourself some homemade compost. In the next section I will talk about the ingredients.

Step 12: In Goes the Goodies ( Meet the Greens)

Now it's time to make us some beautiful rich earth smelling compost that will make your plants thrive. I will tell you how I make mine and if you read that there are other ways to do it I will believe you . Like the old saying goes "There's more than one way to skin a cat" That's catfish not kitty cat. I love animals. Anyway, What Peaches (my companion) and I do is save all of our organic scraps, Examples of organic ingredients are all vegetable and fruits, coffee grounds and the filters, tea bags, corn husks, avocado skins, not the seeds. There are to many items to list but you get the idea You can also use grass clippings, Check out the images I took for you of our waste. Why put this gold into the garbage disposal when you can give it back to Mother earth and benefit from it too.

Step 13: In Goes More Goodies (Meet the Browns)

Meeting the Browns by far is a lot easier than meeting the Greens and it smells a lot better too. I have a John Deere self propelled lawn mower with an upgrade mulching kit on it. As you can see the leaves are pretty fine. I could have spread them on the ground and made another pass and they would be even finer. When I had collected a bag full I dump them in the barrel then add the greens and about a gallon of water. From what I have read you should keep the compost moist like a squeezed out sponge. Also what I have read it that you want to mix your ingredients following the guidelines of mixing 1 part greens to 1-2 parts browns. Also as a starter you want to add about half of shovel of healthy soil, compost or horse manure. This will give the batch a boost to start it cooking. You'll want to do this with your first couple of brews. In between batches don't clean out the barrel.the left overs will help activate the next one.

Step 14: The Final Goods

Well folks, here you have it, what you all have been waiting for. THE GOODS. I was very pleased with the outcome of this first time ever try in making compost with household garbage and leaves. When I held it in my hand and held it up to my nose it smelled earthy. Just as I hoped it would. This batch went into one of my raised beds. At the end of this instructable I'll show you the proof in the pudding.

Step 15: One Is Good But Two Is Great

It didn't take me long to figure out that once I had my compost ingredients in the barrel to the level it needed to be that I had a little problem. Care to guess? The problem was what would I do with all my household waste while my compost was brewing? The immediate solution was to bury it in the garden and let my friendly little earthworms help me along with whatever else was in the soil that helped with the decomposition of the greens. The long term solution was to build another compost barrel. And that is exactly what I did. I made it identical to the first one. Why mess with success. It really didn't take that long it seemed. I made it mostly before I went to work. Which means I get up kinda early so I can get some treadmill and project time in. I call this bonus time. I have to be to work at 0700. Sorry about the side bar. Anyway, It turned out great, now I have two. I forgot to warn you about something. Whatever you do don't put in too much ingredients. If you do you will not be able to turn the barrel over. I do this a couple of time before and after work. It might be pretty cool if I could figure out how to put it to power and just flip a switch to turn it. Maybe more could be added to the barrel also. We'll see. My last page is the best page, check it out.

Step 16: The Harvest

Here I present to you images of some and the hottest peppers in the world and according to Guinness World Record the hottest pepper in the world. The first one three are Ghost peppers, Red, Yellow, and Golden. They are crazy hot coming in at 1 Million scoville units (shu) and the world record holder for now "THE CAROLINA REAPER, what a scary name and believe me it is scary especially when you are doing a pepper challenge with other pepperheads or beginners. I once compared eating these peppers was like putting hot Lava in your mouth. On Pinterest I have a board titled Hot Peppers vs Hot Lava, check it out if you get a chance. Now where was I, Oh yeah. I bet you'll never guess where I put the batch of compost I made? You guessed it. Right under these plants. As you can see these plants a thriving . I didn't clip them but let them grow. Right now they are taller than me and I'm 6 ft. so I guess they like their home. As a bonus I present to you a beautiful fluttering Monarch Butterfly taking a sip of nectar from this lovely bright showy Zinnia flower growing among the towering pepper plants. It doesn't get any better than this. The Monarch rounds out and closes this instructable on a high note. Hopefully you will like this Instructable as much as I enjoyed writing it. I plan on making more of these but I stay really busy with my projects plus I still work full time. Someday I'll retire and have more time to make things. Take care of yourself and treat your neighbors well.


Step 17:

Backyard Contest 2016

Second Prize in the
Backyard Contest 2016