Compost Bin Project From Our New Book

Natural Home and Garden magazine has excerpted a shipping pallet compost bin project from our new book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World.

I’ve been using shipping pallets as a compost bin for a few years now and they work great. A compost pile, in my humble opinion, should be a minimum of a cubic yard in order to jump start the heat and microbial life that makes for good compost. Nail together a couple of pallets and you’ve got a cubic yard sized pile. 

I’ve got two bins, side by side, but wish I had three. Mine also look like hell since I put them together in a hurry. I much prefer the bin the folks at Motuv in Kansas City created:

To answer ahead of time a question that always comes up–am I concerned about contaminated pallets? In short, no. A longer explanation will have to wait for another blog post.

Leave a comment on how you store compost. And if you’ve got an aesthetically pleasing bin I’m especially interested. Leave a link to a photo.

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  1. I’m doing an experimental 1-pile compost bin right now. I used some extra-thick cardboard sheets for the walls. Used a dozen old rebar as stakes to keep the cardboard in place. Here in the bay area of sunny California we won’t get any rain until Sept or Oct so I figure by the time the compost is done the cardboard will be mostly squishy and decomposing. So far it’s mostly full of yard waste trimmings and chicken litter. Another few bucketfuls of weeds and I’ll just let it sit there and cook for the summer. I don’t have the nerve to put kitchen waste in it because it’s not secure against rodents. Not surprisingly, a couple of printer boxes and rusty rebar does not make an aesthetically pleasing compost pile.

  2. I live in a 2 bedroom apartment in a large city with no yard. Keeping things simple I have a small plastic bin under the sink ( with some ventilation holes drilled and lots of worms in there. I’ve also got various plastic containers (from yogurt etc) to put food in to let it rot a bit first. Since the worms deal with decomposing food much better it lets me stage my food and be able to have quicker turn around time. Not as ideal as a back yard bin of some sort but it’s better than nothing at all!

  3. I’ve got an Earth Machine because I bought it for cheap from the city before it occurred to me I could build my own. However, I will be using pallets this year to make a potato growing bin. We’ll see how that goes.

  4. Do you let your chickens in your compost bins? I’ve got one of those black plastic compost bins with a top. Got it free off of craigslist. It’s worked out pretty good (especially since it was free). My chickens go nuts when we put stuff in, and super nuts when I’m scooping stuff out the bottom door and all the worms are wiggling around.

  5. Anonymous, I wanted to let our chickens into the compost bins but couldn’t figure out how to arrange it in the yard. It’s a case of bad design on my part. Perhaps I’ll figure out a way to do it.

  6. I made a 4’x4’x10″ box for planting and painted it pink. When I planted nothing, I just used it for compost. Now, I have two volunteer tomato plants in it. That is my second bin.
    The other is made of concrete building blocks. It is about four years old. Roots from whatever, mostly grapes, I suspect have invaded it so badly that it is not diggable for me. Plus, the chickens can get into both of them, going crazy digging and scratching all the dirt OUT, getting worms, I am sure.

    THEN, there is this non-ending hole near the fence where I throw potatoes, onion, garlic, and citrus. The hens love it best of all. The hole will never fill, never.

  7. I’ve got a 3-bin, open front system. I used scrap materials from a friend’s roofing project. The whole thing cost me $11 (mostly from the galvanized staples to attach the mesh). It’s easy to get in there to turn the compost, and the open fronts let me shovel the finished compost out easily. There’s a picture here a few years back, before I filled it up:

  8. I find pallets behind our local supermarket and at our independent hardware store. I also see them by the side of the road at construction sites.

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