How to Build a Portable or Stationary Compost Bin

Easily improve the quality of your garden by building a compost bin in your own backyard.

By: Lynn Reynolds

Your first step in building your own composting bin is to decide what type of bin you would like. This will determine what materials you need to purchase to complete your project. Two common types of bins are the portable bin and the stationary bin. Many people prefer to use a rotating bin to save them the hassle of turning and stirring the compost. This type of bin is more complicated to build, so if this is the kind that you desire, it would be more efficient to purchase one already made.

No matter what type of bin you make or purchase, you must be sure to choose a fitting location for it. Choose a location in the shade. If it is in direct sunlight it will dry out too easily. Be sure to have a water supply available. Find a level area of your yard that has good drainage. Although your compost won't smell strong if everything is going right, a strong smell is a common problem if the bin has too much water or too many scraps. Although this problem can be solved, you might want to choose a location far enough from your home so you won't be bothered if the compost does begin to smell.

How to Make a Plastic Compost Bin
The easiest compost bin to make is made out of a plastic pail with a tight fitting lid. Get a pail that is at least 24 inches tall or taller. Drill eight to 10 small holes in both the bottom of the bin and the lid to aid with aeration. Start by filling an eighth to a quarter of the bin with dry leaves. Then add a layer of dirt so the bin is approximately half full. After that, you can add whatever kitchen and garden scraps you have to turn it into compost. Remember to only use plant matter. Don't throw any scraps of meat into your bin. Stir your compost every other day or so and you will have rich compost for your garden in about two to three months.

How to Make a Wire Compost Bin
Another popular design for a portable compost bin is to make one of wire. Although it is OK to use chicken wire, it is not good at keeping its shape. Use hog wire or 16-guage plastic-coated wire, if available. You'll need about 12 feet of this wire, wire ties and four metal stakes. Wrap the wire into a circle and fold back the wire to ensure there are no rough edges. Tie the wire together with the ties and use the stakes inside the circle for added stability. To aerate the compost, simply unwrap the wire from the stakes and turn the pile. When finished, replace the wire.

How to Make a Stationary Bin
If you want a larger compost bin, stationary bins are the way to go. To build this kind of bin, you'll need pieces of lumber and the tools and the supplies necessary to attach them to form your bin. When choosing your lumber, be sure to not get pressure-treated lumber. Pressure-treated wood has poisonous levels of chromium and copper that can leach into your compost.

There are several different plans for stationary bins. If you decide to build a stationary bin, choose a project that will fit with your levels of experience. They are more difficult to build than portable compost bins, but they are not too complicated.

Composting is a great way to improve the quality of your garden and reduce the waste that gets thrown away into landfills. Although there are many commercial composting bins available on the market, making your own composting bin can be a fun and rewarding experience. Choose a project that matches your experience level and enlist the aid of friends if you choose to make a stationary bin. In two to three months, you will have wonderful compost for your garden that is better than any store-bought fertilizer.

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