Compost is a
dark, crumbly mixture of decomposed recycled organic matter. This could be
comprised of kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves and other plant materials.
Even a novice can make good quality compost. Like good cooking, composting is
part science, part art. Some organic gardeners are satisfied with a compost pile
in a sunny corner of the yard while others prefer a compost bin or compost
tumbler. If you live in close proximity to your neighbors, check your local
codes to see if compost containers need to be covered.
While compost tumblers offer the fastest results,
if you have a large garden you may want to make your own compost bin. These free
compost bin plans will help you build a suitable low cost composting system.
Free Compost Bin Plans for you Organic Garden
I like to use three compost bins
made from recycled wooden pallets. Pallets are used to transport all kinds of
things including garden supplies. If your local garden supply store wonít let
you have pallets for free, look around. Iím sure you can find someone who would
be happy to get rid of them. You will need at least three and preferably seven
pallets for your composting bin, so you might need to make a few trips or find a
friend with a pickup truck if you donít have one.
Compost piles trap heat generated by the activity
of millions of microorganisms. A 3-foot by 3-foot by 3-foot compost pile is
considered a minimum size for hot, fast composting. Compost piles wider or
taller than 5 feet don't allow enough air to reach the microorganisms at the
center. For this reason pallets make just the right size for constructing a
A commercial composting bin or compost tumbler
will attain a higher temperature with a smaller mass because they are covered
and usually made of, heat absorbing, black plastic.
To construct a compost box out of pallets: Place
three pallets at right angles to form a three sided box with the open side
facing the direction you want to access the compost bin from. A sunny location
is the best for optimum performance.
Fasten the sides together with deck screws and
angle brackets (two per side, top and bottom). Attach a 1X6 or a couple of
pieces of 1X4 strapping across the bottom of the open side to hold the box
together. You now have a fully functioning compost bin.
To add more composting bins, attach two more
pallets using the right side pallet of the first box as the left side pallet for
the new box or vice versa. In any case you should now have a structure
resembling the letter
m. I like to
work with three sections for my composting system. These provide me with enough
compost for about 200 sq ft of raised bed vegetable gardens, and about a dozen
With the proper ingredients, if you layer your
compost and keep it moist and aerated, you should have useable compost from a
pile started in the spring by the following fall even without much turning.
Likewise a pile started in the fall will be ready for the following growing
season. By contrast a compost tumbler can produce usable compost in a matter of
Anything that was once alive will naturally
decompose. However, some organic wastes should not be composted at home.
The following all are good
ingredients to use in your compost: grass clippings, leaves, plant stalks, hedge
trimmings, old potting soil, twigs, annual weeds without seed heads, vegetable
scraps, coffee filters, and tea bags.
Chip Phelan, a contributing editor for Organic Gardening Review, is an organic gardener living in Rhode Island. He has been gardening organically for 30 years while working as a sculptor and photo imager. He has recently created a research garden to experiment with organic and small scale sustainable gardening techniques.
Organic Gardening Review is a resource center for organic gardening enthusiasts and features his efforts and interests in all aspects of organic gardening.
Find us on the web:
Looking for a place to share organic gardening info? Visit our
Organic Gardening Discussion Forum at: