Making a Compost Bin

Bin 2I built bin #3 on May 19th and now it’s June 12th. Must learn to type faster!

As you can see, bin #2 was getting a little full.

Most people probably only need two bins—one filled with aging compost and a second one still being filled. I have three since my first one filled up in only two weekends.

Note: If you can’t see enough detail in a picture, double-click on it. That will take you to a larger version. Don’t forget to hit the “back” button to return!

1-Wire FenceBill of materials

(1) Roll, 4′ x 50′ Welded wire fence. This is galvanized for outdoor use—it should last for several years. The wire is 14 gauge and the wire spacing is 2″ horizontal by 4″ vertical. One roll is enough for four bins and cost me $38.67 (plus 7% tax, divide by 4 = $10.34 per bin). Maybe you can split a roll with a friend or neighbor. Do not buy chicken wire/poultry netting/hex netting (or whatever it’s called where you live). A number of years ago I tried it and it’s way too flimsy. Very frustrating to work with. When I last checked, the chicken wire was actually more expensive than the welded wire fence!

(1) Sheet, 9′ x 12′ x 2 mil plastic drop cloth (in the paint aisle).  This is enough to line two bins—so after you make your first, set 1-Chicken Wireaside the leftovers. My cost was $2.98 plus tax divided by two equals $1.59. I could have purchased a larger roll of thinner plastic but I’m one of those guys who has trouble with Saran wrap. Two mil (0.002”) plastic is thick enough for me to handle and strong enough to take some abuse. Sunshine tends to destroy plastic so I may or may not be able to reuse it.

(2) Stakes. I use cheap wooden surveyor’s stakes but you can use whatever you have lying around – tent stakes, rebar, or sharpened sticks. These may be reused.

(6) Clothes pins. More is better and, once again, they are reusable.

(1) Piece of cardboard, about 4 feet square or round. I put this in the bottom of the bin to keep the water from draining out too fast. Remember, the soil here is sand. A scrap of plastic would probably work even better. I don’t try to cover the entire bottom of the bin since I think (for no logical reason) that some contact with the earth is a good thing.

1-ToolsTools

  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Scissors or razor knife
  • Measuring tape (12 feet or longer)
  • Bricks, blocks, or logs (at least 2) to keep the fencing from rolling up

1-Layout AHow I Done It

First of all, if you try this at home, remember that you are working with sharp wire. Pay attention to what you’re doing so you don’t hurt yourself. I recommend wearing long sleeves, gloves, and eye protection. Do as I say, not as I do.

I used my pliers to open the little wire rings that hold the roll of fencing together. I save a couple of them and put them back on the roll when I’m done. It keeps things neater.

As I began to unroll the fencing I placed a brick on the loose end. I unrolled about 14 feet and blocked the roll with another brick to make it stay.

With the tape I measured 12 1/2 feet.

1-CuttingLook at the picture if you’re following along. I’m going to be cutting the horizontal wires flush against a vertical wire. When I’m finished, the roll of fencing won’t have any sharp ends sticking out. The sharp ends will be on the 12-1/2 foot piece that I’m cutting off. I hope that’s clear.

My wire cutters/pliers are a cheap combination pair. I cut each of the horizontal wires flush with the same vertical wire. Before I cut the last wire I took a moment to think things through. Both pieces of fence are going to try roll up! Not sure about you, but I certainly don’t want to get snagged. It takes too long to heal at my age. I put one knee against the roll and shifted the brick over to the cut piece before I made the last snip.

1-Bending BIt only took me a minute to put away the leftover roll. This prevented me from tripping over it-—a distinct possibility.

Take a look at the pictures to see how I bent the loose horizontal wires upward using my fingers. You might prefer to use pliers.

I allowed the piece of fencing to roll back in the direction that it wants to go and slipped the newly-formed hooks around the vertical wire at 1-Hookedthe other end. This forms a heart-shaped tube—the wire tends to roll up more than I want it to. It’s always a little tricky to get all the wires hooked (at the same time). Notice that the hooks – the sharp ends – are on the inside. That’s so I won’t snag myself as I work around the bin. I didn’t bend them tight—once they’re in place they stay.

 

1-StakesThe sheet of cardboard goes down first, then the tube of fencing. Bin number three is located next to bin number two. I left enough space so I can slip between them if I need to. Be sure you’re happy with the location; even a partially filled bin is difficult to move!

I used two stakes to anchor the bottom of the bin. this a) pulls the bottom into a round shape and b) 1-Cut Plastickeeps it from falling over when I jostle it. The top of the bin still looks a little heart-shaped but it will straighten out as it fills.

Now for the liner. I spread out my sheet of plastic and folded it in half lengthwise. I used the scissors to cut along the fold leaving two sheets 4-1/2 feet wide by 12 feet long. One 1-Add Plasticof the sheets goes in the shed with the roll of fencing. The other I draped on the inside of the compost bin. I folded a couple of inches over on the top and held it in place with clothes pins. Voila!

Black plastic might work better than clear. I haven’t tried it. Its big disadvantage is that it isn’t available locally in handy, drop-cloth-sized sheets.

 

1-Anchored

It’s time to start filling the bin. The first couple of bags of grass clippings and shredded leaves I poured gently down the inside, forcing the plastic against the wire on the bottom. I leave the stakes in place and (gently) add a couple of buckets of dechlorinated water. I’ve never had a compost bin blow over, even during a tropical storm.

From now on it merely needs to be maintained:

  1. Continue filling it with compostable material
  2. Make sure it stays damp enough so that it will continue to rot

The bacteria and fungi do the rest of the work.

May God bless our endeavors,

Rick

p.s. I figured out (and fixed) the time/date problem. My time zone (in WordPress) was set to New Zealand!