Introduction: Home Compost Bin - Clean Up Yard Debris
Some of us may have some extra wood laying around that is rotting away. Some of us may even run around collecting free wood we see on Facebook or what have you. Me, I have a bit both. I have been collecting wood to make planter boxes and other small projects out of. Now that my son is a bit older and walking around the back yard I wanted to get it clean and organized so he can have a safe path exploring. I decided to take some of the wood and turn it into a home compost bin. This would also give me a place to put all our yard debris to give me rich soil to put in my garden.
For this project, I use some 4"x4" post I had along with some 2"x6"s I had gathered to make grow boxes. The 2"x6"s I got from a fencing company that posted them on Facebook. They are used as shipping crates to hold the vinyl fencing together. Most are about 46 inches which will work great. Compost bins should not be less than 3'x3'x3'. This allows the compost to heat up and break down quickly. My bin is 46"x46"x40". Almost 50 cubic feet, or 1.81 cubic yards, or 3.66 standard US bathtubs.
27 - 2"x6"x46" (You could also use 1"x6" to reduce the weight of the bin . Make sure you are at least 36 inches long.)
4 - 4"x4"x40" posts (I used some old ones I found in my back yard)
2 - 2"x4"x40" (Once again I used what I had collected)
4 - 2"x2"x40" (Had some laying around as well)
1lb of #8 2 1/2 " Outdoor deck Screws
1 - Philips #2 Bit
1 - 7/64 drill bit (Used for pilot holes)
1 - Drill
1 - Saw
1 - Tape measure
1 - Speed Square
I used two drills. One with the bit for the pilot holes and one with the bit for the screws.
Compost Supplies (optional)
I wanted to make sure I could get the compost going quickly after the bin was built. So I gathered some coffee grounds from a local gas station and some manure. I ask if I put a 5-gallon bucket in the back the clerks would put the coffee grounds in it. They agreed to and I now get 5-gallons of coffee grounds a week. Way more than I need. The manure I got by going to a local dairy and asking if I could have a 5-gallon bucket full. They simply said yes. It worked great. I had some leaves that I didn't get raked up before the first snowfall laying around my yard. I like to hold on to bags of leaves just to make compost or mulch with. I had straw and hay mix that I scavenged for a no dig garden as well. If you don't live near a dairy or a stable. You could reach out on Facebook Market Place for anyone with chickens or rabbits. Often people are willing to try and get rid of pet manure. Just don't use dog or cat poop, as they eat high protein foods with lots of oils and fats. It won't break down as quickly and cause a stinking mess.
Step 1: Gathering Bin Materials
Get whatever material you want to use. I had lots of 2"x6" on hand so that is what I used; even 1"x6"s would be fine. You may still want to stick with the 4"x4"s for the corners. This will give it a nice strength in the corners. I also made sure I had my drills fully charged ready to go. I made sure my miter saw was big enough to cut anything I needed.
Step 2: Layout
I wasn't sure how long to cut the 4"x4"s to, I just knew I wanted the bin to be at least 36" tall. I chose 36" to ensure that my bin would be at least 3x3x3. This will help the compost to get hot and breakdown faster. I also knew I wanted a gap between each slat to allow air could move in and out of the pile. The airflow is important for bacterium and fungi growth. If the airflow is restricted the compost pile will begin to stink. I figured an inch and half was good enough to allow air to flow.
As shown in the first picture, I laid slats down on the ground and used the thickness of a similar board to gage my separation. I did this till I had at least 6 2"x6"s on the ground. I then took a tape measure and measure the whole length of the layout. It measured at just under 40" and I decided 40" would be good enough for this project. I then cut the 4"x4" down to 40 inches. I was able to get four 40" post out of two 8' 4"x4". I was happy that the 4"x4"s weren't rotted to the point that I couldn't use them.
Step 3: Building the Sides and Back
For the two sides. I laid the 4"x4"s on the ground like rails. This is shown in the first picture of this section. Next, I then placed one of the slats on top of the rails and made sure that it was flush on all sides. Placing two screws, one on top and bottom on each side of the slat, I fastened the first slat to the rails. To keep the 1-1/2" gap between each slat I used the thickness of one of the slats as a gage as I placed the next slat. On the second slat, I only used one screw in the center on both sides. I determined that I could do this because the screws were long enough and strong enough to hold. On the top slat and bottom slats, I used two screws as described above. Using two screws on the top and bottom will keep the sides from going out of square as it is moved around.
For the back, I did similar to the sides but this time I used two 2"x4" cut to 40" for rails instead. I did this to make it easy to assemble, and to move with three main sections.
Step 4: Front
For the front, I wanted to make it so it would hold in the compost as added more kitchen scraps and yard waste. I figured removable slats would be the best way to achieve this. As I fill the bin with more material I could add slats. When the compost was finished, I could remove the slats and dig the compost out as needed. I have seen bins without a front so this is kind of optional as well, but I like the look and feel.
I used the 2"x2"s that were laying in the back as well for the rails that slats would slide in to. I cut them down to 40", to match the big rales. I then used the thickness of the slat to gauge the spacing on the slat. I add about 1/8th of an inch to make sure the slats would freely slide between the two. With this part, you want to make sure you put the rails on the sides that you want to be facing forward and in. This is so they lineup right.
Step 5: Putting It Together
For this step, you may need a friend. I had the help of my wife and little boy, though he was just there for moral support. I found a spot that was semi level. I had to do some leveling but I wasn't overly concerned with it. I then placed one of the sides and had my wife hold it while I got the back piece. Next, I lined the corners on the outside as flush and as square as possible. I then placed one screw at the bottom going through the 2"x4" rail into one of the side slats. Making sure the top was still in line, I then placed a screw at the top. After the top and bottom were secure, I then went and placed screws into every slat all the way down the 2"x4". I then repeated this for the second side.
For the front, I paced one slat in and slid it to the bottom. I fastened it in through the front rail with two screws on each side. I tend to fasten every 3rd or forth slat in this same manner to ensure the bin doesn't spread as stuff is added to the bin. To finish up the front I tested all the boards I would be using for slats just to make sure they would fit right.
Step 6: Getting Ready to Start Composting
I have started a number of bins, most of them made out of pallets. With this one, I really wanted to do something that can hold up better and look better. The one thing I like to do to start them all off is place cardboard on the bottom. I do this to mainly prevent any roots from nearby trees from growing up into the bin. I wet the cardboard down and place two to three inches of compost from another bin on top of it. If you don't have any trees or bushes nearby I recommend you omit these steps. Compost piles tend to do better when in direct contact with the ground. I add the old compost to just help jump-start the new one since it isn't touching the ground.
I took two bags of leaves I had saved and placed them over the top of the compost. It is important that compost be moist for it to decay and heat up, so I sprayed the leaves down with water. Manure tends to be very clumpy. These clumps are harder to break down. To speed the break down up, I put the manure into a larger tote then added the coffee grounds. Using a spading fork, I mixed the two together trying to break up as many clumps as I could. This mixture was then added to the compost bin and mixed in with the leaves and compost. I then added a layer of hay and straw, sprayed it down with water and mixed it again.
Runner Up in the
Spring Cleaning Challenge