Building your own DIY compost bin is the perfect budget and waste-saving addition to your home, ensuring rich soil and richer pockets.
Big, hungry, and soiling itself on the regular, think of it as like your drunk uncle who insists on ordering the vindaloo at every family reunion, only less inappropriate stories and more treats for your garden.
This guide starts at the humble beginnings of your composting journey, giving you everything you need to build your own bloomin’ beautiful compost bin or heap.
So, if you’re thinking: bin there, done that, got the dirt, feel free to head straight to our composting tips. Or, if you do want to get back to basics, avoid composter syndrome by scrolling on below. Titchmarsh, eat your heart out!
Should I get an open or closed compost bin?
Where did we come from? What’s the meaning of life? Do I get an open or closed compost bin? Should Hermione have ended up with Harry? Were Ross and Rachel really on a break?
Good news, folks. We can answer one of those big questions.
Composting at home can be split into two categories:
- • Closed bins: Containers that are enclosed on all sides and open via a hatch or lid. These are the most popular types of at-home compost bins.
- • Open bins: Containers or piles that stay open on at least one side, usually the top. These are composting heaps that invite more ventilation and are more at one with the weather conditions.
Open bins are a bit like the tents of the composting world, while closed bins are more like houses. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.
Open composting is easier to turn, cheaper, and gets more much-needed air to help dry out your waste. But closed composting protects your compost from wind, rain and rats, retaining more heat to aid decomposition.
Up there with mogwai and trousers, compost is among the top things you do not want to get soggy. Therefore, if you opt for an open compost, place it on a sheltered, dry thin layer of soil out of reach from hungry, curious pests, and away from your sun loungers and BBQ, as composting can get rather stinky!
How big a compost bin do I need?
Much like many things in life, size isn’t everything with composting. It’s more a case of how you use it. So don’t worry about compensating for anything with a Godzilla-sized composter.
The size of your bin should depend on the amount of food and garden waste you get through. Look at our guide on what compost is used for and visualise how many stems, stalks and cuttings you plonk in your regular bins each week.
Aerobic composting at home can take between several weeks and 12 months to break down. And the last thing you want is a mower full of grass cuttings and a compost bin packed to the rafters. Rather than stealthily stuffing it in your cupboards or throwing it over the fence, make sure your DIY composter is big enough to accommodate your house’s waste in advance.
We know these garden features aren’t exactly up there with fanciful fountains, planters and pergolas, but in the spirit of waste not, want rot, it’s worth making a compost bin with functionality and everyday use front of mind.
Once you’re done with this guide, there’s no reason why your DIY effort can’t look great next to your gnomes, the annoying neighbour’s kid’s football, and the dog poop you promised your partner you’d pick up weeks ago.
How to make a compost bin: 5 types to create at home
Make your own compost bins to ensure your waste is as naturally decomposed as England in a penalty shootout (too soon?). Here are five different types you can make in just a few short steps.
Wooden pallet compost bin
As solid as The Rock and great at creating fast and furious mulch, wooden composters are both functional and beautiful.
Pallets can often be obtained for free from local businesses, Facebook groups and Gumtree, and they make great structures for DIY compost bins. This is because they provide the tidiness of plastic enclosed bins, but with added slats for ventilation.
As huge fans of recycling and reusing, pallet compost bins are among our favourites. Follow our instructions to make your own.
What you’ll need:
- • x4 wooden pallets with IPCC or EPAL logos and HT stamped on them. These tell you the wood has been heat treated, so there’s no risk of dodgy toxins entering your compost.
- • Power drill
- • Hammer
- • Wooden screws
- • Screwdriver
- • Saw
- • x2 hinges
- • x2 pairs of hook and eye latches
- • x4 corner brackets
- 1. Screw three pallets together on their side at a right-angle using the corner brackets and screws.
- 2. The fourth pallet will be the door to your compost bin. For this, you’ll need to saw it in half.
- 3. Attach both halves to each side of the gap using your two hinges. Attach the hinges on the outside, so the doors can move freely.
- 4. To increase your DIY compost bin’s sturdiness, you can hammer in additional nails or screw in more brackets.
- 5. Attach your hook and eye latches to the top and bottom of the doors, so your compost stays secure.
Plastic compost bins
We may not be the biggest fans of plastic here at Modern Milkman, but unlike the single-use pieces of discarded litter we prevent from entering landfill, plastic compost bins last for many years. They also increase insulation and speed up the decomposing process.
But we’ll promise you this: the day we see a compost bin floating in the ocean is the day we strike this section from our blog! Follow the steps below to learn how to make two different types of plastic compost bin at home.
The bucket worm composter is the cheapest, quickest and easiest option on this list, and can be left inside or outside. This type of bin is called vermicomposting, and it relies on hungry worms to eat your kitchen waste, which they then poop out to make fertiliser. Magic, right?
All you need is:
- • A drill
- • A black bucket
- 1. Drill 10-15 holes in the bottom of your bucket.
- 2. Add your kitchen waste, such as banana skins and potato peels.
- 3. Toss in some wet, shredded newspaper.
- 4. Find some worms and invite them in (this may involve you picking up the worms and carefully resting them in the feast of waste).
For the first few weeks, don’t overwhelm the worms with too much waste. We recommend just a few cups initially.
Wheelie bin composter
With our green milkround giving your wheelie bin so many days off throughout the year, you may find it needs to moonlight as something else. And boy, do we have an idea for that…
While you may not want one of your regular bins to get a second job in your garden, if you do have an old spare lying around, you can turn it into a compost bin. Who knew!?
What you’ll need:
- • A wheelie bin (shock!)
- • A drill (with a 3-inch drillbit)
- • Aluminium screen fabric or mesh
- • Adhesive or silicone caulk
- 1. Drill holes all the way around the wheelie bin, roughly 20cm apart.
- 2. Stick the screen fabric or mesh on the inside of the bin using adhesive or caulk so that it covers each hole.
- 3. Optional extra – if you don’t have much waste to add initially, we recommend sticking a couple of bricks in the bottom to prevent your new composter toppling over in the wind.
Building a rotating compost bin
Tumblers aren’t just for scotch and soda water. Rotating compost bins make turning compost an absolute doddle, with no rake, spade or fork necessary!
There are several types of compost tumbler, but we’ve gone with the easiest, most straightforward example, for those of you who struggle with the Y in DIY. You’re welcome!
What you’ll need:
- • A round rubbish bin, lidded barrel, or large circular lidded bucket
- • A drill
- • x2 bungee cords
- 1. Drill or punch holes in the sides of your container, about 45cm apart.
- 2. Fill your can with compost.
- 3. Put the lid back on and tie it with bungee cords.
- 4. Turn your compost by laying the round container on its side and just keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’!
When to turn your compost
We recommend turning your compost tumbler once every three or four days. If you have a pile or regular bin, you should turn it every fortnight or so.
Now that your bin or pile is ready, it’s time to get stuck in. If at this point you still think brown compost is what you get after a spicy curry, and hot composting is gardening with a bikini on, you’ve got a lot to learn. But don’t worry, we’re with you every step of the way!
Check out our composting guide to learn all about reducing waste from the ground up, before exploring our wide range of tasty products in home compostable packaging, including:
How to use compost
Your compost is done rotting and ready for potting, and your roses are drooling at the thought of basking in all that delicious mulch. Now what?
Dive into our extensive blog on what compost is used for to start spoiling your garden!
Extra composting tips: