Learn how to build a compost bin for your garden suited to your needs.
Wire Mesh Compost Bin
Wire mesh compost bins are versatile, inexpensive and easy to construct. They may be used as holding bins for composting moderate amounts of yard wastes or as turning systems for quick composting of larger volumes.
Holding compost bins are a convenient way of composting yard wastes with little effort: Simply add wastes as they are cleaned up from the yard. With no effort besides occasional moistening compost will be ready in 6 months to 2 years. Attention to chopping materials, maintaining moisture by watering and covering piles with plastic, and occasional turning will produce compost in less time.
The compost bin can be easily moved to turn piles or to harvest finished compost: Just undo latches, pull the mesh away from compost and set it up elsewhere. The pile may then be turned into the bin at its new location and compost can be removed from the bottom.
The circular and panel designs illustrated each have advantages. The circle bin may be made for under $10 from poultry wire or hardware cloth. Poultry wire is the least expensive material, however it quickly loses its shape with use, requiring support with posts and frequent replacement.
For a slightly higher cost, hardware cloth creates a self supporting circle which is easier to manipulate and more durable. A panel unit offers a greater variety of uses. Panels may be added to enlarge the bin or create small bins for turning piles, and individual panels may be used for screening coarse materials from finished compost. A sturdy and attractive panel bin can be made with l6 gauge plastic coated wire mesh for under $20.
Circle Compost Bin (3-½ foot diameter)
12-½ feet of 36′ wide 1′; poultry wire, or
½’ hardware cloth, or
16 guage plastic coated wire mesh.
4 metal or plastic clips, or copper wire ties.
3-4 four foot wooden or metal posts
for poutry wire bins.
15 feet of 24" wide 12 to 16 gauge
plastic coated wire mesh, or
½" hardware cloth.
20 metal or plastic clips, or
plastic coated copper wire ties.
TOOLS: Heavy duty wire or tin snips, pliers, hammer or metal file, work gloves.
Roll out and cut 12-½ feet of poultry wire, hardware cloth or plastic coated wire mesh. If using poultry wire, roll back three to four inches at each end of cut piece to provide a strong clean edge which will be easy to latch and won’t poke or snag.
Set wire circle in place for compost pile and secure ends with clips or wire ties. Space wood or metal posts around perimeter inside wire circle. Pound posts firmly into the ground while tensing them against wire to provide support.
If using hardware cloth, trim ends flush with a cross wire to eliminate loose edges that may poke or scratch hands. Apply file to each wire along cut edge to ensure safer handling when opening and closing bins. Bend hardware cloth into circle and attach ends with clips or ties.
Set bin in place for composting. Bins made with hardware cloth should be strong enough to stand alone without posts. Plastic coated wire mesh bins are made in the same manner, except that bending this heavier material into an even circular shape will require extra effort. Also, filing the wire ends may cause the plastic coating to tear. Striking the end of each wire with a hammer a few times will knock down any jagged edges.
Cut five three-foot long sections of 24" wide wire mesh. Make cuts through middle of squares to leave ½" long wires sticking out along both cut edges. Choose a top and bottom for each panel, then use a pliers to bend over and tightly clamp each wire on the top edge. This provides protection against scraping arms when adding yard wastes to the bin.
Wires along the bottom edge are left sticking out to grip the ground and provide rigidity to the bin. Striking the end of each wire with a hammer will clean up any jagged edges. Attach panels using clips or wire ties.
Portable Wood & Wire Composting Bin
This portable bin provides a convenient way to compost moderate volumes of yard wastes with minimal labor. Yard wastes are simply added to the bin as they are generated. With no effort besides occasional moistening, compost will be ready in 6 months to 2 years.
Chopping or shredding materials, maintaining adequate moisture by watering and covering with plastic or heavy fabric, and occasional turning will produce finished compost in a shorter period of time. Texture of the finished compost depends on the materials composted and how long they are left in the bin. Mixing fresh greens with brown yard wastes will produce the best results.
This bin is very flexible. It fits well in small spaces, and may be used either as a yard waste holding bin or as a portable turning unit. The bin can be easily moved to turn piles or to harvest finished compost and build a new pile: Simply undo the latches, pull the sides apart and move it. Compost may then be turned into the bin at its new location, and finished compost can be removed from the bottom.
It costs around $50 to build using new materials, less if recycled materials are used.
1 12 foot pressure treated 2×4
3 12 foot fir 2×4
12 feet of 36" wide ½" hardware cloth
100 1-½" galvanized No. 8 wood screws
4 3" galvanized butt door hinges
150 poultry wire staples or power stapler
1 10 oz. tube exterior wood adhesive
6 large hook and eye gate latches
Hand saw and chisel, or radial
arm saw with dado blade, or circular
saw, or table saw. Hammer, screwdriver,
tin snip, caulking gun, pencil and small
Use eye and ear protection.
Cut each 12 foot 2×4 into four 3 foot long pieces. Cut a ¾" deep and 3-½" wide section out of each end, for a total of 32 lap cuts. If using handsaw and chisel, cut 3/4" down at the 3½ inch line, at A in diagram to right. Then cut a ½" deep groove into the end of the board, at B in the diagram. Place a thick wood chisel in the end groove and split the wood with a hammer to the 3-½" cut. If using a radial arm saw, circular saw or table saw, set blade depth to ½" and make multiple passes until the whole section is removed.
Make four 3 foot square frames from the lap jointed 2×4s. Use one pressure treated 2×4 on each frame. Put enough construction adhesive to fill the gaps when the lap joints are screwed together. Fasten each joint with four screws.
Cut the hardware cloth with tin snips into four 3 foot square sections. Bend the edges of the cloth back over 1" for strength. Lay one onto each of the four frames. Center and tack each corner with a poultry wire staple. Hammer place a staple every 4" along all four edges of the hardware cloth. Try to tension the cloth so it will not sag when filled with compost.
Connect each pair of frames together with two hinges. Then put the hook and eye gate latches on the other ends so that the sections latch together.
Wood & Wire – Stationary 3 Bin System
This system is used to compost large amounts of yard and kitchen wastes in a brief period of time. Wastes are stored until enough are available to fill an entire bin. Materials are then chopped, moistened and layered to ensure a hot compost. Piles are turned weekly for aeration.
A pile made with a balance of fresh greens and woody materials and turned weekly can be ready to use in three weeks. The texture of the finished compost depends on the materials composted. This unit can be built for approximately $130. Construction requires basic carpentry skills and tools.
2 18 toot treated 2×4s
4 12 foot, or 8 6 foot treated 2×4s
1 9 foot and 2 6 foot 2×2s
1 16 foot cedar 2×6
9 6 foot cedar 1×6s
22 feet of 36" wide ½" hardware cloth
12 ½" carriage bolts 4" long
12 washers and 12 nuts for bolts
3 lbs. of 16d galvanized nails
½ lb. Bd galvanized casement nails
250 poultry wire staples or power stapler w/ 1" staples
1 12 foot and 1 – 8 foot sheet 4oz. clear corrugated fiberglass
3 8 foot len ths of wiggle molding
40 gasketed aluminum nails
for corrugated fiberglass roofing
2 3" zinc plated hinges for lid
8 flat 4" corner braces with screws
4 flat 3" T-braces with screws
Hand saw or circular power saw,
drill with ½" and 1/8" bits,
screwdriver, hammer, tin snips,
tape measure, pencil, ¾" socket
or open ended wrench, carpenters square,
(option – power stapler with 1" long
galvanized staples), safety glasses
and ear protection.
Cut two 31-½" and two 36" pieces from each 12 foot 2×4. Butt end nail the four pieces into a 35" × 36" square. Repeat for other three sections. Cut four 37" long sections of hardware cloth, bend back edges 1". Stretch hardware cloth across each frame, check for squareness of the frame and staple screen tightly into place every 4" around edge.
Set up Dividers
Set up dividers parallel to one another 3 feet apart. Measure and mark centers for the two inside dividers. Cut four 9 foot pieces out of the two 18 foot 2×4 boards. Place two 9 foot base boards on top of dividers and measure the positions for the two inside dividers.
Mark a center line for each divider on the 9 foot 2×4. With each divider line up the center lines and make the base board flush against the outer edge of the divider. Drill a ½" hole through each junction centered l’ in from the inside edge.
Secure base boards with carriage bolts, but do not tighten yet. Turn the unit right side up and repeat the process for the top 9 foot board. Using the carpenters square or measuring between opposing corners, make sure the bin is square, and tighten all bolts securely.
Fasten a 9 foot long piece of hardware cloth securely to the back side of the bin with staples every 4" around the frame.
Front Slats and Runners
Cut four 36" long 2×6s for front slat runners. Rip cut two of these boards to 4-¾" wide and nail them securely to the front of the outside dividers and baseboard, making them flush on top and outside edges. Save remainder of rip cut for use as back runners.
Center the remaining full width boards on the front of the inside dividers flush with the top edge, and nail securely. To create back runners, cut the remaining 2×6 into a 34" long piece and then rip cut into 4 equal pieces, 1-¼"×2". Nail back runner parallel to front runners on side of divider leaving a 1" gap for slats. Cut all the 1×6" cedar boards into slats 31-¼" long.
Use the last 9 foot 2×4 for the back of the lid. Cut four 32-½ inch 2×2s and one 9 foot 2×2. Lay out into position on ground as illustrated on front page and check for squareness. Screw in corner braces and T-braces on bottom side of the frame. Center lid frame, brace side down on bin structure and attach with hinges.
Cut wiggle board to fit the front and back 9 foot sections of the lid frame. Predrill wiggle board with 1/8" drill bit and nail with 8d casement nails. Cut fiberglass to fit flush with front and back edges. Overlay pieces at least one channel wide. Predrill fiberglass and wiggle board for each nail hole. Nail on top of every third hump with gasketed nails.