How to Make a DIY Compost Bin

Making compost is good for your garden, wallet and the environment! It’s a simple way to practice organic gardening since you will reduce, reuse and recycle waste to maintain a healthy, beautiful garden. Adding compost to your garden can prevent plant diseases, reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizer and revitalize soil to encourage growth of your plants and flowers.

The easiest compost bin that any emerging DIYer can construct is one made from simple chicken wire and a few wood or metal stakes.

Step 1: Choose the Composting Location

Choosing a good location for your compost bin is crucial. Look for a level, well-drained area that is close enough to your home to be easily accessible. It should not be overexposed to wind, and not left in direct sunlight. The ideal location is a spot that is sheltered, in partial sunlight and in close vicinity to a water source.

Step 2: Build the Compost Bin

Roll out and, using wire cutters, cut a piece of galvanized chicken wire to measure 10 feet long and 3 feet wide. Fold back the 3″ of wire at each end of the cut piece to provide a strong, clean edge that will be easy to attach. Form a circle with chicken wire and attach the ends with 5″ pieces of easy-to-twist wire. For additional support, place 3 or 4 wood posts or metal posts around the inside of the chicken wire circle and pound them firmly into the ground with a hammer.

Helpful Tips

To keep moisture in, line the bottom of the area with 2 garbage bags.

To dissuade wildlife, cover the top of the bin with additional chicken wire and secure with wire. Place a tarp over the wire cover to keep the rain out.

Step 3: Add Composting Materials

Food scraps ready for composting

You can collect waste generated from in and out of your home to begin composting. The first type is green debris, such as grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and plant trimmings. These are key composting ingredients because they provide nitrogen. You will also need brown debris, such as dry leaves, finely chopped wood and bark chips, shredded newspaper or straw. The brown debris provides carbon. To ensure an even composition, alternate layers of green and brown materials. Ideally, you should have much more carbon than nitrogen in your compost; the perfect ratio being 30:1.

Helpful Tips

Do not add animal waste, meats, oils, dairy, diseased plants, weeds that have gone to seed, or plants treated with pesticides or herbicides to your compost.

Break up materials before layering to make organic materials heat up rapidly, decompose quickly and produce uniform compost.

Step 4: Maintain the Compost Mix

To prevent odor and other unpleasant side effects when composting, make sure you properly care for your compost pile. Once a week, turn the compost with a pitchfork or shovel to move material from the edges to the inside, allowing necessary aeration. Make sure the compost stays damp, but not soaked. It should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. If the material is too dry, add water. Keep track of its temperature as well. If it is warm or hot, everything is working properly. If it is similar to the outdoor temperature, you’ll need to add more nitrogen or green materials to the mix.

Helpful Tip

Whenever you turn the compost, add water if necessary. Locating it near your water source is helpful.

Step 5: Use the Compost

Side view of open compost bin

You’ll know your compost is finished when it is no longer hot, and you can’t identify any of the materials. It should have a dark brown, moist and earthy consistency and smell. It will take up to 2-3 months to fully process, if you consistently maintain. Once your compost is ready, spread it in your garden or yard to improve the quality of your soil.

Congratulations! By making a simple compost bin, you have made effective use of organic wastes, which helps the environment and creates a fresh batch of fertilizer to beautify your lawn and garden.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.