How to Make a Compost Bin on a Tight Budget
As a single mom of a (driving!) teenage son, as you may guess, I live on a tight budget. I also try to live as green as possible. I've always been interested in composting, but couldn't afford to buy one—commercially available compost bins cost upwards of $100. I don't own power tools or the engineering prowess to build one.
Does this put me between a rock and a hard place? Absolutely not! Where there's a will (and some imagination!) there's a way! I discovered a way to build my own compost bin for dirt cheap. Pun intended!
All you need is a plastic garbage can with a lid and a pointy poker tool. I used a wood file with a pointy tip (looks like an ice pick). I picked up a 32-gallon plastic garbage can on sale for $9.99. It has a locking lid and wheels, which makes it easy to maneuver. Once the compost is ready, simply wheel the can to the area in which you are planting; no need for a wheelbarrow! Pretty slick, huh?
How to Make a Compost Bin From a Plastic Garbage Can
To make your compost bin, simply follow these directions.
- Take your poker tool and bore several holes, about 5–6" apart, down the length of the can and around the perimeter, from beneath the lid area to just before the base. The holes are necessary for ventilation, which allows air to move through the can, adding oxygen to the ingredients you'll incorporate in order to create your compost pile. The brand I purchased had little circular "stamps" imprinted at about the intervals I needed to make holes, so I took advantage of the pattern.
- Once you've made your holes, you'll need to place the can above ground level so as to facilitate airflow. I placed mine on two layers of stone landscape border sections I wasn't using. Cinder blocks work just as well, if available.
- Next, you want to layer brown material (newspaper, cardboard, coffee filters, and junk mail) with green material (grass clippings, leaves, weeds, fruit and vegetable discards, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc.—no meat or bones!).
- Wet the mixture just enough to resemble the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Moisture is necessary to promote decomposition.
- Mix well. I used a plastic-coated stake folded in half. Worked wonders! You'll want to mix it up at least once a week and after each addition of material.
- Another necessary ingredient is cow or horse manure. If you don't have cows or horses and don't know a cowboy, adding a bit of commercially available (through your local garden center) manure will work just as well.
Note: Never add domestic pet manure, as it can contain parasites. Manure is integral to the addition of nitrogen, which "heats" the mixture and further promotes decomposition and the introduction of "good" bacteria necessary to creating nutrient-rich compost.
One Last Tip
While this method takes about six months to produce ready-for-the-garden compost, I found placing a couple of old bathroom-sized rugs on top of the lid helped build and maintain heat inside the can. Once the heat and humidity of summer set in, I removed the rugs and let Mother Nature do the rest.
All in all, it cost me $9.99, a little bit of elbow grease and patience to make my own compost bin!
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2011 Shauna L Bowling