Building Compost Bins

We have a set of “Cadillac-style” compost bins in our Demonstration Garden. By “Cadillac-style,” I mean 3 bins in a row made of old wooden pallets, lined with chicken wire, and gates with latches on the front of each bin. It makes for easy composting, as you can put fresh materials in the first bin, then turn them into the second bin and put more fresh materials in the first, then turn into the third bin, and then the compost is ready to use. If you have space (and energy to turn that much compost), it’s a great system. Our old bins were getting rather “composted” themselves, and the gates weren’t fitting well anymore. All in all, it was rather a mess. It’s all spiffed up now, though!

The first step – demolishing the old compost bins.

Getting some rough framework laid out for the new bins.

Still a rough framework. But, the pallets are getting measured and cut to fit.

Starting to take shape with the brace board along the back screwed into place.

The hinges are going on! I think the end may be in sight.

Fitting the interior of the bins with chicken wire. The wire helps keep everything inside, rather than falling in between the slats on the pallets.

The bins are finished, and the crew is ready for a break. Now to scoop all that partially finished compost back into the bins…

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on March 15, 2010, in Working in the Garden and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi! I like your site because I live north of Newton and it’s good to see what’s being successfully grown in our area.

    I need some information on composting. I built one compost bin like yours out of pallets. I think I can get more pallets to expand but I’m not sure if I can turn the compost from bin to bin as they are rather high for me. Is it imperative that I turn my pile? I’ve been adding layers since early spring and the pile is pretty much maintaining its height so it must be composting in there. 🙂 If I do have to turn it, how often should I turn it? How long do you think it will take to turn to compost that I can use?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Susan,

      What we normally do with our bins is open the gates/doors on the front of the bins, fork out the compost in one bin, and then fork it into the next bin, rather than scooping over the edge. If your compost pile is getting aeration and isn’t smelling, you don’t need to turn it very often. However, you will need to turn it eventually because the compost in the middle and at the bottom will be ready to use and the top layers aren’t. At this time of year, you should probably turn it every 2-3 weeks. In the summer, you could have finished compost in a couple months, where in the winter it could sit all winter without progressing too much. Turning the compost will help it “cook” faster!

  2. Thank you for this information. I think I’m going to expand my bins. One more question. Which way does your middle door swing open? Or is it not hinged?

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