When deciding how to build a backyard compost bin, you can find a way to use almost any material. Our favorite method of creating an easy compost bin is to use wooden pallets. Learn how to build Build a DIY Compost Bin From Wooden Pallets and how to create healthy compost.
Before You Build a DIY Compost Bin From Wooden Pallets
Before you build a functional compost bin, you should understand the basics of compost systems. Using a simple pallet compost bin to create mature compost is a great way to create organic matter for your small garden and recycle materials on hand instead of using new materials.
A DIY pallet compost bin is the easiest way we’ve found to make our own black gold. After you’ve added the compost to your soil, you can test the health of your soil quickly and easily by using a refractometer.
To practice organic composting, use organic green materials in your compost heap. These include garden waste, green waste from food scraps, kitchen scraps, and lawn clippings. By putting organic materials into compost containers, you will get an inexpensive organic fertilizer for your soil. This is an excellent way to enrichment your soil along with using deep mulch practices.
Soil-Nourishing Compost Requires 5 Elements
1) Air – Proper airflow is a must to create decomposition without rotting.
2) Moisture – A good compost is moist, not wet. A water source without chlorine or fluoride is best.
3) Green Material – The high nitrogen content of green material is the key to accelerating the composting process.
4) Brown Material – Things like brown leaves or dried wood chips, add carbon to create a healthy finished compost.
5) Heat – This is the result of decomposition and is required to get the process going. The temperature inside a great compost bin can be up to 140 degrees F/60 C. Some people use black plastic compost bins to increase the temperature since black absorbs heat from the sun.
Creating your own pallet compost bin can be as simple or as complex as you want the whole thing to be. As a general rule, we always choose a simple approach whenever possible. We just provide the basic components and let nature provide the finished pile of compost for happy gardening days.
Build A DIY Compost Bin From Wooden Pallets
Do not use wood pallets treated with chemicals. This will contaminate your compost with dangerous chemicals.
You can tell how a pallet was treated by looking at the letters on the pallet stamp. Look for the letters HT or HS either branded or printed on the pallet. Either of these indicates the pallet was heat-treated or heat-sealed and not sealed using chemicals.
Before you build your compost bin, it’s a good idea to choose the best place to put it. Choose a spot with enough space to allow for any equipment you plan to use for easy removal of the finished compost, for turning it, and for adding materials to it.
You may also want to choose a location where plenty of sunlight can get to the pile and for easy access to water.
Before we build a new compost bin, we remove the topsoil from the spot and place a tarp or some other barrier where the pile will be. We do this to avoid losing nutrients to the subsoil under the pile. Not every gardener with a compost pile does this.
Many people simply place the compost pile in direct contact with the ground. If you don’t mind enriching the soil under your pile and losing some of the nutrients to the area, then this is a simple way to just get going.
Once the spot is prepared, build a three-sided box using wooden pallets. One pallet creates the back panel, the side walls are created using a second and third pallet. A fourth pallet is used to create a removable front door for the bin.
We secure the pallets to one another using wood screws. If you don’t want to use a box of screws or want to use something else instead, some people use long zip ties to create the box.
As we said, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. You could use corner brackets, hinges for the front pallet, fence posts for the corners, on and on we could go.
To keep a compost supply on hand, it’s best to build a few of these side by side. One of the side panels of the first bin will be one of the side panels for the second bin and so forth. We like to keep 3-4 bins active.
When the first compost bin is filled, allow it to begin decomposing and start adding materials to the second bin. Once the second bin is filled, move on to the next until the last bin is filled with compost materials.
By using this rotating method, you’ll have compost bins at various stages of decomposition and ensure a steady supply of healthy compost for your garden, raised beds, and containers.
Remember to provide for the basic needs of any compost pile as listed above and turn each pile over onto itself once a week.
It will take 6-10 months for the compost bin made with pallets to produce compost ready for use.
What Can Be Added to A Compost Bin?
- Manure from homestead livestock
- Cardboard rolls that are not chemically treated
- Paper products including newspaper – We don’t use paper materials because of the chemicals used in making them.
- Coffee grounds and filters – be sure they are natural fiber filters or non chemically treated
- Cotton rags like flour sack material – not clothes or other articles which may be chemically treated
- Fireplace ashes
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings, plants pulled from the garden, tree limbs with leaves on them – any plant material except toxic plants
- Hair and fur
- Hay and straw
- Fall leaves
- Nutshells – except walnut shells which contain a plant toxin called juglone which could actually kill some garden plants
- Sawdust and wood chips from wood not treated with chemicals
- Teabags – same as coffee filters, be sure they are not made with synthetic materials
- 100% Wool rags
I guess it would be easier to say what should NOT go into a compost bin:
- meat scraps
- dairy products
- dog and cat feces
- glossy paper
- Plastic of any kind
Build Your Own Compost Bin With What You Have On Hand
Using building materials you already have on your homestead or can obtain free is a cheap, easy, and efficient way to create your compost bin from wooden pallets. Some of the things you may have on hand to use include concrete blocks, chicken wire, plastic storage containers, wire mesh, door hinges, or old pallets. Your imagination is the limit!
Our favorite way to convert food waste and manure into compost includes using worms. We find this is the fastest and most efficient way to black gold from organic material. You’ve probably heard this called vermicomposting.
To create your own worm bin, you’ll need red wigglers and a bin of some kind. You can create the bin from anything you have on hand.
We were given large tubs used for cattle feed by a local farmer. By drilling drainage holes in the bottom of the bin, we allowed for airflow and for proper moisture levels.
Be careful not to drill more than 4 or 5 holes and make certain they are not large enough for worms to escape through. You can staple hardware cloth over the bottom of the bin to avoid the worms escaping.
The goal in any vermicomposting bin is to let the water drain slowly. You can collect this for use as fertilizer as well.
If too much liquid is allowed to drain, you will have a hard time keeping the compost moist enough for decomposition, and dry soil is difficult for the worms to survive in.
On the other hand, if too much water is retained, the worms will actually drown.
Just a few red wigglers will quickly create a large population given the right environment. Experience has taught us the red wigglers enjoy a mixture of horse manure and cardboard. We do not add cardboard with any ink on it. This avoids killing the worms and prevents toxins from being in the compost we intend to add to our gardens and containers.
You will need to put some sort of a lid over your worm beds. We’ve used old window screens, rescued screen doors, and reused bird netting.
Other animals, including your chickens, will want to eat them!
Every time you add new food scraps to the bin, turn it lightly. Don’t be surprised when you see worms of all shapes and sizes and their eggs.
Don’t worry about them being exposed, they will burrow back down. If you’re like me and want to help them out, cover them lightly with some of the composted soil in the bin.
Other Options for Creating Compost Bins
We’ve created vermicomposting and composting bins from an old boat, feed troughs, water troughs, an old bathtub, and latticework we rescued from a junk pile.
Wrap to Building a Compost Pile From Wooden Pallets
So many people have told me how they would like to start a compost bin but they are afraid it’s too complicated, too much work is involved, or that it’s too expensive. There is a lot of information out there and if you try to learn it all, it can be confusing.
We like to keep things as simple and easy as possible. If we could share just one thing with you about how to build a DIY compost bin from wooden pallets, it would be to keep it simple.
Make an inventory of materials you have on hand, gather ideas, and build it! It may be an empty bin to begin with but you’ll soon have it filled with healthy compost.
No matter what you build your compost bin from, you’re on the way to improving the life of your soil and so improving your own health.
We have often told people to just start by making a pile. Add variety to it to keep a balance of green materials and brown materials. Keep the basic needs of any compost in mind, provide for those, and let nature take its course! Happy Composting!
Kent Bredbenner says
Not using cardboard with any ink on it, is silly. As all ink used in printing for the last 30 years is made from FDA approved soy base.
One other thing I noticed was you stated to fill ALL your composting bins, with material. You don’t leave any empty bins for ease of turning?
I built a 4 bin composter filled the first, second empty start filling the 3rd while the first is cooking and leave the 4th empty. When it comes time to turn the piles, just flip it over the side into the empty bins. Back and forth, back and forth. Gives you a much better remix than just trying to turn within a single bin.
I’d love to try the vermiculture, I just don’t have the spare indoor space required to keep one ATM. Plus I’m still trying to find the best heaters for keeping the beds warm on cold winter nights.
Kent, I appreciate your opinion and many people do use it. But soy is GMO and we don’t use anything like that. Also much of the ink is a product of China and we personally don’t trust it.
Your idea of a fourth bin is excellent. Thanks for sharing the tips. As for vermicomposting, we are blessed to be able to keep ours outdoors and don’t require heating. Good luck and let us know how it works for you if you get to try it.
Thanks again for sharing with us.