Cheap, easy, DIY compost bin [tutorial]


We compost a lot at our house. Anything that is acceptable to compost, we make sure it goes in the pile. I usually have a medium to large sized garden each year, and I love having free compost to use for my vegetables. I also love that I am reducing our trash by composting. Our family of six doesn’t even fill our small outdoor trash can halfway each week due to our recycling and composting. So, I obviously need a good system for composting. I have a counter-top compost bin that has a lid and I fill throughout the day and typically empty into the outdoor pile/bin in the evening. However, our pile has been rather ineffective in producing nice compost since it has grown too large, so I thought I’d better try an actual bin. Here is our old compost pile:

As you can see, it is still basically a pile of leaves, old food, and yard debris. It has decomposed a lot, but it is just too full of lawn debris to be usable, and I’ve been working on it for over a year. So I decided it was time for a change. I looked into buying a compost bin, but they were either too small, or too pricey. I browsed the internet for hours, looking at different plans for all types of bins. I originally planned to have my husband build one made out of wood, but I kept coming across bins made from large trash cans, and when I realized I could do that one on my own, I decided I’d give it a try.

This was so easy, and I did every bit of it myself! I am not at all handy with tools, so believe me when I say that if I can do it, so can you. All you’ll need are:

32 gallon rubber/plastic trash can with lid
two 24″ bungee cords 
1/4″ drill bit


That’s really all! See? How can it be hard with a supply list totaling 5 items?

Let’s get started!

I started by drilling holes in the bottom of the trash can. You have to have plenty of ventilation for the compost to break down correctly. I put 30 or so holes on the bottom.

 Next I drilled holes along the sides. I just drilled until I had a nice pattern (it was sort of fun) and until I thought it looked like it would be getting plenty of air circulation. I did several rows with anywhere from 5-15 holes in each row.

I drilled about 15 holes in the lid.

And that’s it! Now you’re ready to use your compost bin! Put about 6 or 8 inches of dry material in the bottom (I used dry leaves) and then mist it with a bit of water, and now you are ready to add your wet material. I wasn’t ready to bring my scraps from the house out yet, so I just put my lid on, bungee’d it from two different directions, and set it in a sunny spot in the yard.

When it needs turned, I can either use a long-handled spade to turn it, or just turn the entire compost bin onto it’s side and roll it around the yard to mix it all up. Overall, I am so pleased that we went this route for our compost bin. It cost a total of around $20, so I am also excited about the price. If you check out this page, you can find a comprehensive list of acceptable/unacceptable items for composting.

Do you compost? What kind of bin do you have?

No Comments

  1. Geneva -  March 26, 2012 - 12:07 am

    I am totally going to do this. Our outdoor pile looks a lot like yours these days.

    What do you mean by “bungee’d it from two different directions”? <3

    • Kelli -  March 26, 2012 - 8:48 am

      Hehe, I guess I forgot the bungee/lid picture. Glad you pointed that out! The added picture should explain. 😉

  2. Sharmila -  March 26, 2012 - 9:26 am

    I am thinking of composting and we have few neighbors in our neighborhood who does it. I like the idea of building it with slats and ideally to have two bins.

  3. Shameless self-promotion. | Little Lovely -  April 14, 2012 - 5:01 am

    […] posts I’ve written lately over at The Mommy Dialogues, since I haven’t in quite a while. I made a new compost bin a couple of weeks ago, and it’s worked really well ever since. We are so happy with it! If […]

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