Compost Bin

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 186 Projects

The byproducts of routine yard maintenance can pile up. Consider the waste generated by your landscaping during a single year: grass clippings, deadheaded blossoms, leaves, branches, and weeds. all this can be recycled into compost and incorporated back into plant beds as a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Compost is nature’s own mulch, and it effectively increases soil porosity, improves fertility, and stimulates healthy root development. Besides, making your own mulch or soil amendment through composting is much less expensive than buying commercial materials. Kitchen waste and yard refuse are all the ingredients you need. So how does garbage turn into plant food? The process works like this: organisms such as bacteria, fungi, worms, and insects convert compost materials into humus, a loamy, nutrient-rich soil. Humus is the end goal of composting, and it can take as long as a couple of years or as short as a month to produce. With the right conditions, you can speed up mother nature’s course and yield several helpings of fresh compost for your yard each season. This is called managed composting, as opposed to passive composting, when you allow a pile of plant debris and such to decompose on its own. The conditions must be just right to manage compost and speed the process. You’ll need a balance of carbon and nitrogen, the right temperature, good air circulation, and the right amount of water. By mixing, chopping materials, and monitoring conditions in your compost pile, you’ll increase your yield each season.


Cutting List

How to Build a Compost Bin

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    At most building centers and lumber yards you can buy cedar sanded on all four sides, or with one face left rough. The dimensions in this project are sanded on all four sides. Prepare the wood by ripping some of the stock into 1¾" wide strips (do this by ripping 2 × 4's down the middle on a tablesaw or with a circular saw and cutting guide).

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    Cut the parts to length with a power miter saw or a circular saw. For uniform results, set up a stop block and cut all similar parts at once.

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    Apply exterior-rated wood glue to the mating parts and clamp them together with pipe or bar clamps. Reinforce the joints with 3" countersunk deck screws (two per joint). Reinforce the bottom joints by drilling a pair of ¾"-dia. × 1" deep clearance holes up through the bottom edges of the bottom rails and driving 3" deck screws through pilot holes up into the stiles.

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    Clamp and glue the posts and rails for each frame, making sure the joints are square. Then, reinforce the joints with countersunk 3" deck screws—at least two per joint.

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    With the posts cut to length and oriented correctly, attach a door frame to each post with a pair of galvanized butt hinges. The bottoms of the door frames should be flush with or slightly higher than the bottoms of the posts. Temporarily tack a 1 × 4 brace across both door bottom rails to keep the doors from swinging during construction.

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    Join the panels and the door assembly by gluing and clamping the parts together and then driving 3" countersunk deck screws to reinforce the joints. To stabilize the assembly, fasten the 2 × 4 front spreader between the front, bottom edges of the side panels. Make sure the spreader will not interfere with door operation.

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    Use 1 × 2 cedar to make all parts (you may have to rip-cut cedar 2 × 4s for this, depending on availability in your area. Use exterior glue and 18-gauge brads (galvanized) to connect the horizontal filler strips to the vertical infill pieces. Vary the heights and spacing of the filler for visual interest and to make the ends accessible for nailing.

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    Cut to the correct length so each frame fits neatly inside a panel or door opening. Install the grid frames in the openings, making sure all front edges are flush.

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    Attach the top rails that conceal the post tops and help tie the panels together. Attach the sides first using exterior glue and galvanized finish nails. Then, install the back rail on top of the side rails. Leave the front of the project open on top so you can load, unload, and turn over compost more easily.

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    Line the interior surfaces of the compost bin with ½" galvanized hardware cloth. Cut the hardware cloth to fit and fasten it with fence staple or galvanized U-nails driven every 6" or so. Make sure you don’t leave any sharp edges protruding. Grind them down with a rotary tool or a file.

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    Apply a coat of exterior wood sealant to all wood surfaces—use a product that contains a UV inhibitor.

    TIP: Before setting up your compost bin, dig a 12"-deep hole just inside the area where the bin will be placed. This will expand your bin’s capacity.