Intro: How to Build Cheap Compost Bins
For those of you who are interested in little monetary investment with a lushous garden amendmant as the result look no further. I am here to show you how to build a super cheap compost bin system! This 3-bin system is great for people who have a little bit of extra space in their yard to spare and want easy access to their compost for turning. The result is an efficient, easy to make, and most importantly inexpensive compost system. If you have a little room in your yard and you want to take the initiative to create your own compost, continue to step one.
Step 1: Materials
The only materials you need for this project are seven wooden palettes, a pair of needle nose pliers, and a little bit of wire. You can find wooden palettes for free in most cities and even some rural areas. I got my palettes from a shipping business just two blocks from my house. This short distance is great if you do not have a vehicle that can haul them. Essentially, you can carry them to your house one at a time. (This is how I did it.) There are almost always businesses in town that do not reuse their wooden palettes. You can either cruise around your city looking for palettes that have been left in front of business, (In this case please ask the owners of the business if it is ok that you take them), or you could use the yellow pages and call a few random businesses to see if they have any free ones. This usually results in references for other businesses that may also have free palettes. Wire is pretty inexpensive and truly any type will do. You could get truly creative and reuse a plethera of old produce wire wraps. If you string them together you will have enough wire. If you don't have needle nose pliers you can essentially use anything that will cut the wire. This includes your hands which you can use to twist the wire repeatedly in a circular motion until it breaks. If you get free palettes, reuse old produce wire wrapping, and use your hands to break the wire, you have spent 0 dollars on this compost bin system. Happy supply hunting!!
Step 2: Assemble Your First Bin
Before you start assembling your 3-bin compost system choose an area that is roughly 2 1/2 feet to 4 feet wide (depending on the size of palettes you found) and 8 to 10 feet long. Preferable a little ways away from any doors of windows as their are times your compost will smell! Now your ready to start. Take your first palette and set one end up against your second palette to form an L shape. Then simply wrap your wire around the wood to connect the two palettes. Here I have chosen to make two wire wraps and each one wraps around the two palettes twice for added durability. One connects the palettes at the top and the other at the bottom. (A variation would be to use nails to attach your palettes). Next you will want to place your third palette next to your second one, having it parallel to your first palette. Wrap your wire as above and you have successfully created your first bin! Congratulations!
Step 3: Assemble Your Second Bin
This step is just as easy as the first. Simply set your fourth palette next to your third alligned with your second. (Is that really as confusing as it sounds? The pictures here really spell it out better than I can!) Now wrap your wire and connect your fifth palette the same way that you did your third. Now you should have two three-sided boxes sitting next to one another. The third palette acts as a wall for both bins. Hooray, you are almost finished!
Step 4: Attach Your Third Bin
This is your last step before you are completely finished building your 3-bin compost system. Once again you are going to add two more palettes in the exact same fashion ,(for the most part, exact might be a little strong), as you did in step three. Tadah, you are done and ready to begin composting! Nicely done!
Step 5: Tips and Resources
In case you are someone who has never actually composted before, here are a few general guidelines for a succesful compost. First off you want to stay away from putting meat, dairy, and lots of heavy oils into your compost. You can use eggshells, but not the eggs themselves. No meat really, but if a tiny bit sneeks in that's probably fine. When I say LOTS of heavy oils, that's truly what I mean. You can put your left over stir fry you didn't get around to eating, which you cooked in lots of olive oil, but I wouldn't make my own dougnuts by deep frying them in oil and then toss the left over oil into my compost. Too much oil can smother microbes, affect beneficial insects well-being, and create anaerobic areas in your compost. This is the opposite of a healthy compost which is your goal. Anaerobic essentially means areas that have little or no oxygen flow. Good aeration is essential in creating a livable environment for the bacteria, insects, and fungi that break down organic matter. Good aeration also leads to a faster composting process and enables all of your organic matter to break down equally due to the fact that you are continually turning your compost. This brings me to why we have three bins, in case you were wondering. The reason that we have built three bins here is to seperate your constant supply of table scraps and other organic materials from a mature pile of compost. Essentially you start adding table scraps, grass clippings, leaves, and other yard debris to one bin. Here is a great website that elaborates on the carbon /nitrogen ratio of different organic matter (organic matter being the things listed above like leaves, table scraps, etc...), and why this is important to understand: http://www.composting101.com/c-n-ratio.html Here is another great website that talks about what can be composted, what types of nutrients it is rich in, and what should generally be omitted from the home compost bin: http://www.the-organic-gardener.com/garden-composting.html When you have a significant sized pile that essentially fills an entire bin, and you have visited these websites to learn how to construct your piles, you can toss the whole thing into a wheelbarrow and move it into the next bin. As this pile breaks down because you continue to turn it regularly for increased aeration, you may add a bit more organic matter as your pile will begin to get smaller over time. When you have filled the second bin yet again, you can then toss it all into the wheelbarrow and move it to your third bin. Here you will completely stop adding any additional organic matter. Continue to turn until compost!! There is one more important factor in composting that I think you should know. This is moisture content. For the same reason that you want to turn your compost to increase air flow, you also want to regulate the moisture levels. The amount of moisture in your compost will effect the lives of the bacteria, insects, and fungi that process organic matter into compost. Here is a great link that can teach you more on the subject of moisture content in your compost: http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/fundamentals/needs_moisture.htm Easy ways to control moisture are plastic coverings for your bins and misting your compost with a hose when you turn it for airflow. Good luck future composters and thanks for reading!!