DIY: Make Your Own Compost Bin

With all the cooking I’ve done, especially since starting this blog, I’ve been sad to see the amount of organic waste that had to be tossed out with the garbage.  Growing up, my parents had a big compost pile outside that we used, and since moving out on my own, I’ve definitely missed having that opportunity.

On the negative side, I experienced a horrifying sight in college of a girl who attempted to compost in her kitchen.  In a bucket.  Fruit fly city.  Disgusting.

I also registered a similar level of horror at the price of those composting barrels you can buy that are enclosed fancy rolling barrels–a hundred dollars?! To make dirt?!

A DIY project just needed to happen.  Fritz researched a bit and discovered a quick and easy way to make a compost bin that isn’t open to animals, doesn’t look totally gross in your yard, and is super easy to maintain.  Because I’m awesome (right guys?), I took pictures of the whole process so you can make one too!

What you need: 

  1. One round garbage bin with a lid–we bought a 20 gallon bin from Home Depot for $13.00.  We were hoping to get a free Curby can from the county (a similar round bin used for recycling on Long Island), but they stopped giving them out for free this year.  Alas.
  2. Two bungee cords, long enough to stretch over the top of the bin.
  3. Three bricks or stones to rest the can on top of (for drainage).
  4. A power drill–you can use any size drill bit really, but I’d shoot for a size big enough to allow air in and moisture out, but not big enough to let everything fall out–or you can back the holes with screening.  You’ll see.  If necessary, you can use a hammer and a big fat nail to make holes if you don’t have a power drill.
  5. Sexy husband to do the work.
  6. Compost!

Easy enough, right?

Okay, so here’s what you do:

Drill holes throughout the entire can.  Make a lot of them, spaced a few inches apart.

Don’t forget the bottom!

Don’t forget the top, either.  It’s okay for rain to fall in–you need moisture, anyway…and it can drain from the bottom holes.

K, got that all set?  Now you want to bungee cord the lid in place, to keep animals and other stuff out.  Plus, having a lid on helps create a nice warm environment for an ideal dirt-making bacteria factory.

 We put the first one from handle to handle.  These are adjustable rubber bungee cords we happened to have laying around.  Use whatever you’ve got, but they’ll probably need to be adjusted to fit right.

We drilled two small holes for the second bungee cord, right under a convenient lip around the barrel.  Having the bungee cords cross perpendicularly (is that a word?) over the top makes it nice and secure.

Lastly, place the can on top of some bricks or stones so it can drain.  If your compost is too wet, it’ll smell and rot and basically just be extra disgusting.

The best part about this DIY is that to get compost goin’ really well, you have to mix it up.  Anyone want to reach their arms into their compost barrel and mix it up?  Didn’t think so.  I also didn’t want to lean over a garbage can with a shovel/stick/rake/anything to mix it.  Solution?  With the lid securely on, just knock the barrel over and kick it around for a bit.


To start composting, layer the bottom with plant material and then scoop a hefty amount of garden soil on top.  This contains your microscopic VIPs and makes the composting go faster.

Other composting tips:

  • Compost shouldn’t be too wet or too dry–think the moistness of a squeezed out sponge for ideal conditions.
  • Keep the bin close by–if you have to walk far to use it, you probably won’t.
  • Have a plastic container with a lid in the kitchen for day-to-day use.  No one wants to go running outside every time they crack open an egg–then every night (or every other day–let’s be honest here) you can empty the day’s worth.
  • Keep a mix of “brown” compostables and “green” compostables for the best results.
  • “Brown”: leaves, straw, tea bags, coffee grounds, shredded newspapers.
  • “Green”: kitchen scraps–but no dairy, meat, bones, fats–think fruit and veggies scraps for the most part, plus some egg shells thrown in for good measure.

For other composting questions (and some good reasons why you should compost!), visit the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s page on composting here.

This project took us about 10 minutes to put together, and I’m already excited about having some really nice soil to use next year for free (okay, $13.00).

In even more excited news, we went to beach today:

Perfect day for the beach!  I think we’ll be going back next weekend when Fritz’s sister is here to visit.  Fritz also did an impressive twenty hours of studying for his boards this weekend…ugh.



Filed under Non-food things I like

7 responses to “DIY: Make Your Own Compost Bin

  1. How fun! We have two HUGE compost bins that can spin around, roll, flip, etc. 🙂 I know you will enjoy your own homemade compost!

  2. Scott

    Pretty cool idea. I wish you had posted this about 5 weeks ago, before I went ahead and spent the cash on a fancy rolling one–which is working great, but yours is cheaper.

  3. That compost bin is awesome! We are totally making one of these 😀 I just showed my hubby and he said yeah OK. And then made fun of how excited I am, haha! Thanks for sharing this 😀

  4. Susan Sunde

    Good luck with the compost, Lauren. I just have one word … eewww! At least you have the sexy husband part covered!

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