These DIY compost bins made from scrap materials is a great way to recycle at home and provide your garden with the nutrients it needs to grow healthy plants. If you know how to use a power tool then you can do this project.
Finding Scrap Materials
Builders may have leftover roofing iron or timber. Farms or farm clearing sales are also a good place to find cheap iron and metal posts. It doesn’t matter if they are bit rusty for this project.
Internet classified sites are also worth a look as long as you don’t have to travel too far to pick it up. If all else fails try word of mouth – the person you know may not have anything but they may know someone who does.
It is best to have three bins 1 metre (3 foot) cubed with a gate at the front of each bin so it can be accessed once the materials have finished composting. Position the bins far enough away from the house so you can’t smell it from your back veranda.
It is not necessary to have holes in the sides of these bins as long as you put equal amounts of carbon (twigs and paper) and nitrogen (kitchen scraps and lawn cuttings) in the bin which will help to create airflow. Leaving a gap at the bottom of the gate will also help with airflow to the bottom of the pile.
The bottom of the bin should be open to the ground so worms can make their way up through your compost pile.
The reason for having three bins is so you can have one bin that is being used for the garden, one is composting and one you are filling up. It usually takes around 6 months for a full bin to compost depending on the time of year.
This is one way of making DIY compost bins from scrap materials, but you can adapt this to whatever materials you may have on hand.
Materials and Tools Needed
- 2 x 3metre (9 foot) long Roofing Iron
- 8 x 1metre (3 foot) long Roofing Iron – *The iron can be overlapped. It needs to be high enough to reach 1 metre (3 ft) high which is why you will need two lengths to reach that height. You could also use timber at the bottom with one piece of iron on top. We used old cattle yard panels at the bottom of the bins in these pictures.
- Angle Grinder (For cutting the metal to size) – Try this top rated angle grinder from Amazon. (Paid link)
- Metal File and Brush
- Tie Wire
- Drill and Small Drill Bit – The bit should be big enough for the tie wire to fit through.
- 8 Metal Fencing Posts and Sledge Hammer or Post Driver (Paid link)
- Old Carpet or Hessian Bags – 3 pieces 1m x 1m (3 ft x 3 ft) to place on top of the compost.
- Paint (optional)
*There are several ways you can make these such as with timber or cutting down old doors. The easiest way is to find old pen gates or try the method below using wire and old carpet.
- 3 x Wire Mesh Square Panel 1m x 1m (3 ft x 3 ft) (Cut a larger piece down with bolt cutters)
- 3 x Piece of Old Carpet or Hessian Bag 1m x 90cm (3 ft x 35 inches)
- Tie Wire and Pliers
Putting the Bins Together
*Always wear protective clothing, eyewear, leather gloves and earplugs when using a grinder.
Time needed: 6 hours.
First put in the posts in four rows of two with each post 1 metre (3 ft) apart using a sledge hammer or post driver.
- Cutting the Iron
Next cut the iron to size using an angle grinder with a 3metre (9 ft) length along the back and 1 metre (3 ft) lengths for the sides of the bins. Use a metal file to smooth the rough edges of the iron then brush off any old paint with a wire brush.
- Attaching the Iron
Tie the iron securely in place to the posts by drilling holes into the edge of the iron close to the position of the holes in the metal post. Thread the tie wire through the hole in the metal post then the iron. Twist the ends of the wire together with the pliers until tight.
- Paint the Outside
Brush off any dirt then paint the outside with self-priming exterior paint for rust if using.
- Make the Gates
First cut the wire mesh to size with either bolt cutters or an angle grinder.
- Attaching the Carpet
Next cut the old carpet or hessian bag to size then tie onto the wire mesh using the tie wire. Leave a gap at the bottom of the gate to let air through to the bottom of the compost pile.
- Attaching the Gate
Place the gate into its closed position setting it on top of a stick or timber so it can swing when opened.
- Make the Hinges
Make simple hinges by threading tie wire through the hole in the metal post then around the edge of the wire gate. Thread the wire around three times then tie off. You do not want the wire to be too tight or the gate won’t swing.
- Latching the Gate
Put a hinge at the top, middle and bottom of the gate then make a simple wire latch for the other side by threading a piece of tie wire through a hole in the post then through the edge of the gate and tie off.
- Finishing Off
The gate won’t be opened often so the hinges and latch just need to keep the gate secure. Remove the stick or timber from underneath the gate. You may want to consider adding fine wire mesh around the bottom of the bins if rodents become a problem.
Compost Bin Lids
Use a 1 metre (3 foot) square piece of old carpet or hessian bag to place over the compost as you are filling the bin. This will keep the moisture in and the pests out.
Filling Your Compost Bins
Now that you have finished your DIY compost bins made from scrap materials, it is time to start filling them with kitchen scraps and garden waste.
Start by laying down twigs on the bottom no thicker than an inch. This will help get the air up into the pile. Then layer roughly equal amounts of carbon (twigs and shredded newspaper) and nitrogen (kitchen scraps and lawn cuttings).
You can also add a layer of chicken or cow manure if available and small amounts of wood ash.
Avoid adding weeds, human and pet waste, meat and meat by products.
If you own a pitchfork you don’t need to turn the compost pile. Poke holes in the pile with the pitchfork to let the air through as the pile grows. The bugs and worms will do the rest.
If you don’t have a pitch fork try this quality top rated pitch fork from Amazon. (Paid link)
Do you love going fishing? Your compost pile will supply you with a steady supply of worms.
You don’t need to put all of your lawn cuttings in the compost. They can be used to make weed tea fertilizer which is a concentrated natural fertilizer for your garden. See this guide to making Weed Tea.
To Save or Print this project for DIY compost bins made from scrap materials, click the button below for the PDF File.
Looking for more DIY inspiration? Try this guide to DIY Projects or you might like this Homesteading guide. There are also projects for making Bird Baths, Restoring Rusty Gates or Refinishing Old Wood Floors.
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