First of all, my apologies for the state of my compost bin! I know it is not the prettiest thing in the world. It began life looking a lot nicer, it is just that as we are in the garden a lot we do end up tending to leave odd tools, buckets, mattocks and the like lying next to, or on, a full compost heap for convenience.
Ignore the slight chaos and I will teach you how to make a compost bin that will not rot, fall apart, or need re-building next year. I will also tell you how to make a compost bin in five minutes and for free as a quick alternative as well.
Please also bear in mind that although this can be a tidy way to make compost and relatively quickly, if you want to make compost in the most convenient manner possible then I suggest you read my best compost tumbler guide.
Materials To Make A Compost Bin
I will give you the quick guide for a free alternative later in this article but please read this carefully.
I have made a number of different compos bins and what follows are the only plans that have actually stood the test of time. It was built years ago and has carried on performing excellently time after time.
What You Need
A number of blocks or bricks. I recommend looking for them free in the local paper. People often want to get rid of old bricks or blocks and will let you have them for nothing if you collect. Otherwise they are very cheap at builders yards.
Sand and cement. How much depends on the size of your construction, but you should be fine with just a few bags from the builders merchants.
A few lengths of wood. Try to salvage some from somewhere. An old pallet works perfectly.
A day of your time.
What Mine Look Like
Get ready for some very messy photos! Yikes!!!
Make Homemade Compost Bin
So, slightly messy with random things lying around and the right hand one has not had a proper front fitted yet but the pictures can give you a real idea of the build process. Let’s take it one step at a time.
We are not building a house here so we just need to dig a trench a few centimetres in to the ground. Don’t tell your building buddies, they will have you digging proper footings and offer all manner of “useful” advice. Don’t listen to them. Dig the trench long enough for the size of your materials. Measure them first so there is no wasted effort. I use a mattock to do mine, they are the best digging tool there is.
My compost bin is two blocks deep and this is more than sufficient.
Ideally you would buy a few bags of builders aggregate and mix it up at a ratio of 6 parts aggregate to 1 part cement. If you only have sand then you can use that. Again, don’t tell any building friends, they will have a fit. But we are only building up 3 blocks or so high so it is not like we need to use rebar and reinforced steel in our foundations.
The Block Design
If you don’t have a handy stone terrace as I do then you need to mark out a square or rectangle based on the size of the materials you will be using and dig out the shape for the foundations. Make them a little wider than the blocks or bricks and put in the foundations.
The next day you can build the walls.
Half a meter or so is probably sufficient. But this is entirely down to you.
Building The Walls
Don’t worry about building a perfect staggered brick pattern. It is not going to look like this image. This is a minor construction so just stagger as best you can or if you just use a few blocks you can just lay them on top of each other.Total building sacrilege though!!!
You can always render over them in a rough way later if the appearance puts you off.
Whether you have done this before or not the build is easy. You just need a builders trowel and a mix of 1 part cement to 4 pats builders sand. Add water once you have mixed the dry materials together and make it a relatively soft mix.
Don’t be put off if you have never done it before, it does not have to be a thing of beauty and it is a great skill to learn anyway.
We need air to circulate so don’t make a solid front. Find some lengths of wood for this. I recommend using an old pallet and breaking it down to its lengths. You can build the compost bin based on these dimensions.
You can see in my photos that I have screwed two pieces of wood upright at the front of the compost bin. Leave a space between them so that you can slot lengths of wood horizontally. Screw the vertical pieces of wood to both inner sides of the blocks and then slot down the number of pieces of wood until you have the correct height.
This is entirely optional. It depends on if you get rodents or not.
Please read my stop animals ruining the garden post for a nifty way to get rid of unwanted pests. You may not need a lid then.
Again, you could just use a pallet placed on top for some protection or even an old rag or carpet. Or break a pallet down and then build a better frame.
For mine I was lucky enough to have some very light-weight tongue and groove lying around so I made a simple frame and it works perfectly.
An off-cut of wood acts as a prop to lever the lid up for when I add organic matter to the compost bin
Well, that is about it. It is actually very simple to do and the benefit is that it will last a lifetime. You can render it, paint it and make it as beautiful or rough looking as you want.
But please read my article about compost tumblers. To be honest they are a pretty much perfect solution. If you end up having to buy all the materials to make a compost bin you may as well just buy a compost tumbler. Plus they deliver a final compost in a much shorter space of time.
But if you compost on a large scale then making your own bins is the best solution. And certainly the most cost-effective.
A Quick Alterative.
Find 4 pallets and nail them together!
It won’t last forever but all you need are some screws or nails an it takes about ten minutes!!!