Recycling Materials on Hand for Compost Bin Plans
DIY Compost Bin Design Allows You to Use What You Have on Hand
There are endless compost bin plans available online. A basic understanding of what components a compost bin must have is essential. Composting is among the easiest, environmentally friendly things to do. Organic composting is an inexpensive way to produce organic fertilizer for your plants and conditioner for your soil.
Learning how to compost at home makes providing fertile, healthy soil for your garden possible. There are numerous commercial garden compost bins available on the market. However, making your own compost bin plans from materials you have around the homestead is a cheap and easy way to create your own garden gold.
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Upcycling for Compost Bin Plans
My favorite composting bin involves using worms for a fast and complete way to turn organic material into healthy, garden fertilizer. This is commonly known as vermicomposting. As a gardener, you know worms in the garden are a sign of healthy soil.
For worm bins, you’re going to need red wigglers and a large bin. Anything you have on hand will work. A local farmer gave us his used cattle feed tubs. We drilled holes in the bottom to allow for drainage.
You don’t want many or holes that are too large. You need just enough to let the water drain slowly. Too much drainage will make it hard to keep the compost damp and hard for the worms to thrive. Too much water held in the soil will drown the worms.
A few red wigglers quickly become a large population in the right environment. I have learned they love a mixture of horse manure and cardboard mixed in with your organic material. When I’m asked about how to compost chicken manure, I share how we do it with vermicomposting.
After running manure through the worms, it’ll be ready to add to your garden without any danger to your plant roots. Be careful not to use cardboard treated with harmful chemicals.
We’ve used an old boat and an old bathtub, which had been used as a feed trough, as a compost bin for red wigglers. You’ll want to put screen or bird netting over the top to keep the birds and other animals from eating your worms. Yep, it happens.
When you add new food to the pile, give it a light turning. You’ll see worm eggs and worms of all sizes. I always make sure the worms are covered with earth before I replace the screen cover. They’ll burrow themselves, but I like to help them in any way I can.
Using Wood Pallets
When starting a compost pile we scrape off the topsoil and lay down a tarp or some other barrier. This keeps the compost from combining with the subsoil. Not everyone does this. I know several people who just place the compost pile on the ground. They don’t mind enriching the soil there and losing some of the compost to the spot.
We then will build a three-sided fence from old pallets to hide the bin and keep the pile contained. You can build a few of these side by side. When you have one filled and you begin to see decomposition, you can start on another pile. This will keep compost piles going in different stages. Once a week, turn the compost over on itself.
It’s important to us to not use wood pallets treated with chemicals. To know how your pallet was treated look for the letters HS either branded or printed on it. This indicates the pallet was heat sealed and not sealed with chemicals.
Most of the fall leaves get mixed in with other organic materials for the compost pile. In six to 10 months, your compost will be ready for use. Vermicomposting cuts down on the time. Compost from your worm bin will be ready in three to six months depending on your worm population.
No Bin Composting
Like we said, some people select a spot and start a compost pile. I’ve done this myself. It was by accident the first time. We piled some leaves intending to come back and split them between the compost bins and deep mulching the garden. They were in an out-of-the-way place and we overlooked them.
When I came upon them, they had started decomposing and were full of critter life. I just added to the pile for a few weeks longer. Then I let it sit with an occasional turning. After several months, I used it in the garden to plant new seedlings.
This type of composting only requires a little attention for turning. You will lose some to the subsoil, but I don’t mind that. Soil enriching is our goal, no matter where it is.
What to Add to Your Compost Bin
Cardboard rolls (We don’t unless we know they are not chemically treated.)
Clean paper (We don’t because of chemicals involved in making the paper.)
Coffee grounds and filters (Not chemically treated filters.)
Fruit and vegetable scraps
Grass clippings, plants pulled from the garden, green leaves from trimmed limbs.
Hair and fur
Hay and straw
Shredded newspaper (We don’t because…you know.)
Composting in Small Spaces
Did you know there are even compost bin plans for indoor worm composting? I didn’t either, but how perfect is this for those who have limited space? Most of them say to add the necessary bacteria to speed up the composting process.
There are tumblers designed for patio and balcony spaces. They take up little space and require a simple turning of the handle to rotate the drum. In a few weeks, you’ll have healthy, composted soil.
Ingredients for Success With All Compost Bin Plans
1) Air – Is necessary for decomposing without rotting.
2) Moisture – Not wet, just moist.
3) Green Matter – Is considered the accelerant because of its nitrogen content.
4) Dry Material – Adds carbon to the mix.
5) Heat – Decomposition produces heat; up to 140 degrees F/60 C. Some people use black plastic to increase the heat.
Composting can be made as simple or as complex as you want it to be. We choose a simple approach. Provide the basics and let nature take its course.
Whatever material you choose for your compost bin plan, you’ve made a great start toward improving the soil on your homestead. Having a kitchen compost pail will make it easy to collect your kitchen refuse for composting and for feeding chickens scraps.
I can’t tell you how many people have told me they want to compost but are afraid it’s too much work and expensive. It can be confusing because there’s so much information out there. We keep things simple.
If I can give you one tip on compost bin plans, I would say simple is always better. Get ideas by looking at the variety available and then inventory what materials you have on hand. Then make your own bin.
If nothing else, just start making a pile. One trip to the local farm supply will shock you at how much healthy, composted soil costs. You’ll quickly realize you can make better compost at home almost free.
Be sure you provide variety in your pile. Too much of either green or dry material won’t allow for the right ingredients to create balanced compost. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Do you have favorite compost bin plans? Will you share your composting tips with us?
Safe and Happy Journey,
Originally published in 2016 and regularly vetted for accuracy.