My husband and I were searching for an easy DIY compost bin when we moved into our first home last May. It’s cheap, portable, you can make it in 10 minutes and it’s easy to clean out. You can secure the lid to keep animals out and it’s easy to turn and mix up the compost with a small pitchfork. Once the compost is ready you can add it to your garden for great fertilizer!
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You can make any changes you want to this project. For example, you can use any container including a smaller or bigger metal trash can, a plastic trash can, or a plastic tub as long as it has a lid. We went with this size trash can because we are a family of four with a decent amount of food scraps. I like the look of a metal trash can over a plastic one and think it’s more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Materials you will need to make this cheap & easy DIY compost bin:
Get your drill and insert your 1/4” drill bit. If you don’t have this exact size you can go a little bigger or smaller. You want to make sure the holes are big enough to allow aeration but not too big where food will be spilling out.
If you don’t have a drill you can also use a large nail and hammer to puncture holes manually. A hand drill will just speed up the process and make it a lot easier.
Drill holes evenly spread throughout the bin, including the bottom to allow drainage if the waste gets too wet. I added about 100 holes including the bottom.
Place the compost bin on top of two cinder blocks in a shady area that is easily accessible. This will allow the material to aerate and allow liquid to escape through the bottom if it gets too moist. To secure the lid, you can attach a bungee cord to one handle and feed it through the opening on the lid, and attach it to the other handle. Make sure you get a short enough bungee cord so you don’t have too much slack and it is tight.
What a compost NEEDS to be successful:
For organic matter to breakdown successfully it needs a balance of nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, & moisture. If you have too much of one or the other it won’t be successful. The measurement we stick to is 30 parts nitrogen to 1 part carbon. If your pile is on the stinkier side, you are probably lacking carbon. If you add too much carbon your pile won’t be breaking down successfully and you will need to add more nitrogen.
For quick fixes, I add grass clippings if my pile is lacking nitrogen, and dry leaves for carbon. I only add a small amount of water to my pile about once a month since it stays moist enough already. We turn our pile everytime we add to it to introduce oxygen.
Items that are Nitrogen:
- Food scraps
- Garden waste (don’t include weeds)
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags
- Grass clippings
Items that are Carbon:
- Hay & Straw
- Small wood chips
- Cardboard (not glossy or dyed)
- Brown paper bags
Items you SHOULDN’T compost:
- Milk products
- Citrus (including orange peels)
- Garlic or onions
- Avocado skins and seeds
- Pet Manures
- Processed foods
- Diseased plants
Most of these items aren’t good for your compost pile because they take a very long time to breakdown or they will attract unwanted animals to your property. Items like diseased plants can spread throughout your pile and infect it. Processed foods aren’t good because they won’t add good ingredients to your compost and will also take longer to breakdown. It is easier to remember the things you shouldn’t add to your pile then the ones you can.
When to know when your compost is done:
Some signs that you can look for are when your pile shrinks and stops producing heat. There shouldn’t be big pieces of food in it and it should look like dark, rich, crumbly, soil. It should smell earthy not like rotting food.
Thank you for reading & let me know if you have tried this DIY in the comments below!
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Until next time,