The Different Types of Compost Bins

If you choose the right design for your experience level and budget, making a homemade compost bin will be easy.

Pallet Compost Bin

Pallet Compost Bin

Composting breaks down organic materials into a rich fertilizer that can benefit any garden.

Photo by: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo by Mick Telkamp

Composting is a great way to transform kitchen and landscape waste into a rich product that feeds plants and improves the soil. Some methods of composting are intensive, with precise measurements and a strict schedule. Other techniques are more laid back.

Just as the methods of composting vary to accommodate a composter’s interests, availability, experience and circumstances, there are homemade compost bin plans for different situations, budgets and levels of expertise. Building a compost bin doesn’t have to be difficult if you pick the right design for your experience.

Simple Compost Pile

Arguably the easiest, least expensive way to create compost is to mound ingredients in a pile somewhere in the landscape. One good thing about this system is that the dimensions of a container don’t limit the size of the pile. However, this system is not enclosed, which makes the pile susceptible to being rifled through by dogs, rodents, raccoons and othercritters.

Moveable Compost Pens

Compost pens are handy if you need a quick bin to hold excess materials or if you want to create a temporary compost pile on top of an unplanted garden bed. Pens are the least expensive way to compost within a container. Cost and ease of moving varies by technique. Although wire mesh pens are lightweight and easy to move between cycles, they can be more expensive to build than pens made from repurposed shipping pallets. Pallets provide sturdy temporary structure, but disassembling and moving can be tiresome.

Stationary Compost Bins

Attractive wooden bins that have one or more compartments are fairly popular among composting enthusiasts. Rectangular bins that have two or three compartments can hold compost at multiple stages of development or provide storage for extra brown materials like wood chips or autumn leaves. Designs for DIY compost bins are available in manuals and online that work for different situations, depending on budget, needed space and levels of containment from rainwater or critters.

Compost Tumblers

Tumbling compost bins provide the most control over moisture levels and containment from rodents or raccoons. Compost is discreetly stored in a repurposed trash can or plastic drum. Compost barrel plans range in cost and complexity. In the simplest designs, rolling the bin on its side around the yard mixes the contents, and the bin’s lid is secured with bungee cords.

Small Systems

Folks who live in an apartment or who don’t generate a large amount of landscape waste may prefer a smaller composting system. Composting worms are happy to consume mostplant-based kitchen waste while working in a 10-gallon vermicompost bin. If you want to compost all your kitchen waste – not just the plant-based materials – Bokashi composting is the system for you. Bokashi composting is a relatively quick method, but you will need to buy or make your own bacteria inoculant and some space to bury “pre-compost” outdoors.

Kitchen Collection




Kitchen waste is an important ingredient for just about any composting method. Collection pail styles vary depending on the amount of food your household generates, how frequently you want to walk to your compost pile, and how attractive you want the pail to be. Compost pails can be made from repurposed airtight plastic yogurt containers, ceramic jars or ordered online.

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