Regardless if you live in the city or out in the country, everyone needs a good ole compost pile.
You might not have a green thumb, but composting most of your normal garbage leads to tons of benefits- you gain a good quality fertilizer for your garden or flower beds (or just for areas that don’t grow grass well and need an extra boost), you save space in your garbage can (which leads to less trips to the trash can, less garbage bags purchased, as well as an overall reduction in your landfill footprint), and your kitchen will have a reduction in the infamous “what is that rotting smell?” stench.
By now ya’ll know Cyle and I are working on saving money to purchase our own farm/homestead, and in the meantime we are working on making our little house in the suburbs a homestead. We’ve talked about a compost bin since we bought the house, but never brought it to fruition until now because we weren’t sure how we were going to go about it.
A few months ago, on one oddly hot winter weekend (yes, you read that right, it was in the 60’s multiple weekends this January/February) and we just decided to go for it by building one out of pallets we had piled up.
We decided on a two bin compost bin because once the compost gets pretty broken down on the bottom we will want to keep it separate and easily accessible, so we will start using one side for the fresh and usable compost, while the other side will be for compost that is not ready yet.
I’ll preface this tutorial with a little tidbit of information; this isn’t the prettiest compost bin in all the land, not by a longshot, but it is literally just a container to hold decomposing yard waste and food scraps, so it doesn’t need to be shiplapped, painted, and a pretty sign and wreath hung on it (unless that it totally something you want to do, then by all means, do it, but share the photos with me! 😉 ).
We lucked out and had a ton of pallets that we got for free (please don’t pay for them, ask building companies, retailers, and friends/family if they have any for free) so this only cost us our time.
For the compost bin you will need:
-3 “standard size” pallets (for the sides and divider)
– 1 ten foot pallet board (for the back)
– 12 extra pallet boards (to fill in the gaps on the bottom of the sides)
– 1 ten foot 2×10 board (for the front)
– Drill and long wood screws
We first set the backside pallet board in place, leaving walking room behind it in case we need to catch scraps, and marked around it with a shovel. We removed it and dug about 6” down into the ground, set the pallet board back in place, and filled the hole and gaps in with dirt.
Then we set the sides in place, one at a time, and repeated the process, also drilling the smaller pallets to the backboard.
Then, we took our extra pallet boards we had and cut them to size to fill in the gaps between the bottom boards all around the compost bin to help keep the composted waste at the bottom from falling out. You could do this all the way up the compost bin, but since everything on top is going to be pretty solid, we didn’t waste the effort.
Lastly, we took our large 2×10 board (a scrap piece from a friends porch they tore down) and attached it to the front to help keep the pile contained.
I’d honestly advise against painting or staining the pallets, due to the toxins in the paint and stain getting into your compost over time, just simply sanding them down to prevent any major splinters is all you need to do. In retrospect, we probably should’ve sealed the parts of the pallet that were buried to prevent rot, but as time goes on, we can always build a new one for free if we need to.
Every few months we will take a rake and shift the compost around to help it mix in better, and come next gardening season we will have some amazing fresh compost to use around the garden!
Tip: To help your compost decompose faster, add worms to the compost, they’ll love you for giving them an “all you can eat buffet” and you’ll love them for helping you out! You can go to a fishing place or pet store to buy live worms/bait, but we just go outside after a good rain and look for them, which would be a fun and educational adventure for the kids to go on!
Click the image below to open up a printable version of my quick and easy composting guide!