I made a compost bin, and it cost me nothing!

I will be the first to say that there are many things that I hate, but one of the top contenders is people billing things as stuff they’re totally not.  “Totally FREE DIY Compost Bin!!! – All it took was 16 pallets, my contractor husband, several sets of hinges and 14 hours of backbreaking labor!”  This was closer to “I have minimal carpentry skills, and some scrap lumber that I’ve been trying to come up with an occasion to burn, plus some random lengths of wire fencing I had hanging out around the yard from previous compost bin experiments.

So when we got the house, my mother in law had an old compost bin sitting around her work that she gifted to me.  It was the type that’s basically big flexible sleeve with some holes in it, and then a round cap for the top and bottom.  Theoretically that type of compost bin may work OK, but in my experience, you can not adequately stir it, it doesn’t get much aeration, and it’s very difficult to get the actual compost OUT of it.  I’ve made cylinders out of 2×4″ welded wire mesh.  Those worked about as well as the big cylinder, however using more narrow ones resulted in them toppling over on the relatively light slope we have in the area of the yard that I choose to compost.  Forsaking all of the bin methods, I most recently switched over to a “pile” which has bee fine, however it looks very messy, and the dogs start going through it trying to find high-value kitchen scraps, like watermelon rinds and corn cobs.  It’s not a pretty situation.  With the recent education I’ve had on just how messy ducks are, I learned that I would be needing additional capacity to get all of the poo-soaked bedding rotten enough to safely use in my vegetable beds.

compost bin

Knowing that I’d need a 2-stage setup –  one stage for “maturing” compost, and the other to have an active pile that is being added to regularly, I figured I’d just build a sided bin.  So I did some figuring, and looked around at the random pieces of welded wire mesh I’ve had cluttering the back yard, and figured out my dimensions.  The bin would be 3x3x6′, with a divider in the middle.  And I got to planning it.  It’s certainly not the most elegant solution, but for the first time ever, I didn’t have to go to the store for ANYTHING to make this operational.  We have a pile of 2x4s leftover from the duck pen project and from removing the pantry a year and a half ago, so I just used those for my 3′ sections, and used the 6′ pressure treated 2x4s leftover from the first iteration of raised bed trellises.  Besides the wire and lumber, the only other things I needed were screws and staples.  Staples I had leftover from the duck pen, and screws I have hundreds of.  Every time I have a project, I buy a box or three, and now we have hundreds of mismatched wood screws.

After monkeying with the bin a little, I have decided that I probably will want to get some U-channel or something similar to make an easily removable wall for the front to hold up the compost (this will also help keep the dogs from collecting treasures out of the bin). This will require a trip to Lowes, and probably some money also, but the compost bin is currently fully functional as-is.

compost bin

Here’s the materials list
3x – 6ft 2×4
12x – 3x 2×4
3x – 3x3ft wire mesh
1x  – 3×6′ wire mesh
30-40ish hammer-in staples
25-30 outdoor wood screws

*I started by making squares out of the 3ft 2x4s.  I made 3 squares, and then stapled the wire mesh into each of them.
*When they were done, I stapled the wire mesh into each of them and then set one aside.
*I screwed the 6ft lengths to 3 corners of the squares, then measured and stuck the third piece in as a divider, and screwed that in. Then it was just a matter of stapling the last 6ft piece of wire mesh on, moving the bin to its final location, and filling it with what had been in my existing heap.

compost bin
Since each of the sides is 3x3x3 (aka a cubic yard), doing the math on just how much magical soil I have to use will be pretty simple!

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