Compost Bin Plans

A composting bin can be made from many different types of materials. Here are detailed plans for a wooden-three-bin turning unit, as well as a handful of very simple, inexpensive alternatives.

Wooden-Three-Bin Turning Unit

This turning unit is a permanent, sturdy structure, but it may be difficult to space the posts to the exact dimensions illustrated. Before cutting the removable slats that slide into the grooves at the front of each bin, cut one slat and check for proper fit in each bin.

1. On level ground, set the eight posts as shown below using a post hole digger. (The posts are shown as darkened squares). Embed each post 2 feet into the ground. Be sure all posts are plumb (perpendiculer to the ground). The top of each post should be at the same distance above the ground (48 inches).

2. Nail (or screw) on the back and side slats and dividers (predrill all holes to prevent splitting). Use adhesive on all joints. The bottom slats should be at ground level. Leave 1 1/2-inch horizontal spaces between slats. Note the ends of the dividers should come out to 1 inch behind the front of the front posts, as shown in the illustrations above.

3. Install the fronts and cleats, as shown for one of the center divider posts at right.

4. After the front slats have been sized and cut, slide them into place between the fronts and cleats as shown in the completed bin illustration above.

5. (Optional) Nail or screw the top rail to each front post, as shown in the completed bin illustration above. Do not use adhesive, and do not drive the nails in fully, as they will be removed to allow access to slats. The top rail is suggested to prevent the front posts from moving laterally. Another option to discourage the lateral movement of the posts is to use 4-inch x 4-inch x 7-foot posts and embed them one foot deeper.

Materials List for Wooden-Three-Bin Turning Unit:

  • (All lumber should be pressuretreated)
  • Eight 4-inch x 4-inch x 6-foot posts
  • Seven 1-inch x 6 inch x 12-foot back slats
  • Fourteen 1-inch x 6 inch x 4-foot end/side slats
  • Four 1-inch x 6-inch x 4-foot fronts
  • Fourteen 1-inch x 6-inch x 46 1/4-inch dividers
  • Twenty-four 1-inch x 6-inch x 42 13/16-inch (approximate) front slats [Note: before cutting all the front slats, cut one and check for proper fit in each bin]
  • Four 1-inch x 1(+)-inch x 4-foot cleats, rip cut from one 4-foot 1 x 6 (the cleats are retainers for slats)
  • 8d galvanized deck nails or screws
  • One tube exterior construction adhesive
  • One 1-inch x 6-inch x 12-foot top rail (optional)

Wooden-Pallet Holding Unit

A holding unit can also be made inexpensively by using wooden pallets. Simply nail or wire four pallets together to make a four-sided bin at least three feet by three feet. The bin is ready to use. A fifth pallet could be used as a base, to allow more air to get into the pile and to increase the stability of the bin.

Garbage Can Composter

A garbage can composter is inexpensive and easy to build. It can be used for food or garden wastes. The wastes do, however, need to be turned. To build one, simply drill three rows of holes 4 to 6 inches apart all around the sides of the garbage can. Then drill several holes in the base of the garbage can. The holes allow for air movement and the drainage of excess moisture. Simply place 2 or 3 inches of dry sawdust, straw or wood chips in the bottom of the can to asbsorb excess moisture and let the compost drain.