When searching for DIY compost bins online, it's easy to get overwhelmed at the vast array of plans available. Do you want one bin or three? Moveable or stationary? Do you have the tools to build them? Do you know how to use those tools? As someone with pretty limited experience in carpentry, I get easily intimidated with complicated cuts and equipment. But while looking for something to replace the pallet bins I'd built a couple of years ago, I stumbled upon this gem. These plans were not exactly what I was looking for, but they inspired my own design. (If you are looking for a small system that's easy to move around, I recommend the link above. If you want something bigger, read on.)
These are the bins I initially built from old pallets laying around the brewery. Convenient? Yes. Functional? Yes. Durable? Not so much. While it felt great to be able to reuse materials that would otherwise be trashed, untreated pine only lasts so long. And the bins were so large, I had a hard time filling them up quickly enough to attain efficient turnover.
So I set to work creating a new plan. I found cedar boards and 2x4s at Home Depot, and purchased all the hardware from our local Wilco store. I also reused the hinges from our old bins, so that saved about $15. If you can find reclaimed hardwood lumber, go for it! Recycling will make your project cheaper (and more sustainable!).
3-Bin Compost Plan
To start this project, I had the fellows at Home Depot cut my cedar boards and 2x4s into three foot sections - they don't guarantee a perfect cut, but it's much better than I can do. If you want to stain your wood, you should do it at this point rather than later. You will see why below.
One of the problems I had with our old bins was that - since I built the walls first, then installed the chicken wire - the wire wasn't flush to the corners and kept pulling itself off the wood. So I designed the new ones to bind it between layers. It makes everything a little bit harder to put together, but the results are 110% better.
Staple the chicken wire along the top edge of the top board and bottom edge of the bottom board again, then square the boards and screw them into the skinny side of another 2x4. Continue the same process for wall 3, following the 2x4 positioning laid out in plan above. Cut the chicken wire along the edge of your last stud. To finish off this wall, staple wire onto its backside and secure the 2x4s into position with (3) 2.5" screws each. You can now assemble the rest of the walls following their respective patterns in the plan.
After the bins are assembled, the doors should feel like a piece of cake. Though they are the same height, they will be a little bit narrower at 33" wide (and all identical). You can either cut three inches off the remaining fence boards, or construct first with all the long ends hanging off one side and cut with a reciprocating saw. I did the latter. Notice you will also only be using fence boards for the doors, no 2x4s, as well as the 1.25" wood screws. Once the doors are done, attach the hinges and locking mechanisms as shown and viola! You have a beautiful, functional, and durable compost bin that you can show off to your neighbors. Remember if you do choose to stain your bins, use non-toxic materials so that you don't inadvertently introduce harmful chemicals into your garden. I also perched the whole system on top of cheap concrete pavers to reduce contact with the ground, staving off wood decay and increasing air flow to the bottom of future compost piles.
Lisa Sanco, WGC Horticulturist & Program Manager
Grant Tandy, WGC Astronomer/ Sky-guy