Build your own backyard compost bin

October 9, 2015

North Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on bags and truckloads of dirt and soil mixes each spring. You can get all the benefits of these pricey products plus expensive fertilizers by making your own compost.

Build your own backyard compost bin

6 Simple steps to building a compost bin

To compost with lawn trimmings, leaves and other yard waste, you need a big bin, but they can be pricey if you buy your composter at a garden centre or through a catalogue. You can build your own backyard bin with just a few inexpensive supplies.

  • A used wooden pallet, often available just for the asking from supermarkets and warehouse outlets.
  • Two 2.4-metre (eight-foot) 2 x 4 studs.
  • Five metres (15 feet) of galvanized chicken wire or hardware cloth,91 centimetres (three feet) wide. Choose the finer-mesh hardware cloth if you'll be composting kitchen scraps and other small items.
  • A square of breathable landscaping fabric, cut to fit the top of the pallet.


  1. Place the pallet on a smooth, level surface near your garden. Saw the 2 x 4s in half, and nail one piece to each corner of the pallet to create four posts.
  2. Starting at one corner, staple the wire mesh to the posts, wrapping it around the edge of the pallet to form a box.
  3. Instead of stapling the mesh to the final post on the front side of the box, secure it with picture hooks or a twist of picture-frame wire. That way, you can swing open one panel of the mesh for easier access to the compost.
  4. Staple the landscaping fabric over the top of the pallet and load in your composting materials.
  5. Use a mix of carbon-rich waste (sawdust, wood chips and leaves) and nitrogen-loaded waste (non-meat food scraps, grass clippings and manure). The open slats in the pallet under the pile will help bring air to the compost from below, reducing odour.
  6. Turn the pile with a pitchfork or shovel every week or so to make sure it gets enough oxygen. Within a month, you'll have some nutritious compost ready for the garden.

Work the compost into your garden soil before planting, and spread one centimetres to two centimetres (1/2 inch to one inch) of compost over the garden every winter after the harvest. Your soil will be more fertile, easier to work with and have better drainage.

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