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Build a Compost Container

Updated on July 31, 2013

This Is What Good Compost Looks Like

Good compost is black and crumbly.
Good compost is black and crumbly. | Source

Easy To Build Compost Containers

Compost containers easy to make and a beneficial addition to any garden. Composting food scraps and yard trash not only helps your garden it also helps the environment. Anything we can do to keep excess trash out of our landfills is good.

Composting is part of the natural circle of life. What was once the earth became a living plant that grew into a source of sustenance for us and our families. By returning the scraps and leftovers to the composter we complete the circle and allow the pattern to continue.

Compost is decomposed vegetable matter. It is what you find on the forsest floor, just beneath the layer of last years leaves. It is the result of the work of millions of bacteria and fungi that live in the soil and your compost container. The rich, decomposed matter on the forest floor enriches and supports the forest just like the compost you make will enrich and support your garden.

There are many benefits of using compost. It feeds the soil, helps to retain water, nourishes earthworms and other microbes, helps maintain a neutral pH and protects plants from disease.

Shipping Pallet Compost Container Project

I use an old picnic table top as a lid for my composter.
I use an old picnic table top as a lid for my composter. | Source
My composter is in the back yard, almost hidden behind a pampas grass.
My composter is in the back yard, almost hidden behind a pampas grass. | Source

Store Bought Composter Versus A Home Made Composter

I know several people who own and use store bought composters. They work but have some drawbacks. The type of composters I am referring to are the round ones, usually on a frame, that come with a handle for spinning.

First, they are made from plastic which goes against my reasoning. I am composting to help my environment, adding more plastic is not part of that plan. Even though they are meant to be easy, store bought composters are cumbersome and hard to maneuver. They are also too small and have tiny openings that you have to reach through. I know from experience that it is really easy to fill up a composter, especially during the summer and fall when there is lots of gardening and yard work going on.

The folks I know who use store bought composters also report the same problems; they are not making compost, just soggy rotten food. The problem is that they have not given the scraps enough time to compost. It takes a little time get compost going but once it is it's on. At that point any scraps that get put into the composter should be ready in a couple of weeks. Compost can be taken from the composter at any time it is ready, just toss back any pieces that are not done yet.

I started my composter in the fall and didn't see any really good results until the spring. This is due in part to the temperature, the colder it gets the slower the compost will mature. In the summer I can fill it with grass clippings or other yard trash and it will be composted in about 2 weeks, faster if I stir it.

The best thing about a home made compost container is that it is free! Fancy store bought composters can be upward of $100. I like to use old shipping pallets to make mine. They are free and can be acquired from local business or found behind stores and shopping malls.

Compost Container Shipping Pallet Project

I love to use old shipping pallets to make compost containers because it is using a recycled product to recycle more products, not to mention that the pallets are ultimately compostable too. For a basic container I find two pallets that have the same dimensions (sounds easy but this can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you want them to look the same). Then I cut them in half so that I have four rectangular sections. Then I connect them in a square with whatever type of fastener I have handy, usually nails and screws. Once this is done I use another pallet to make a lid. It is important to keep neighborhood animals and kids out of the compost, there can be some nasty bacteria growing in there.

If your yard is flat or at least level in some place then the next step is easy: Pick a place in your yard and put the compost container there. Choose well because it may be in that spot for years. If you live in the mountains as I do then you will have to level a spot. I always leave the bottom open to allow the liquids to drain off and it seems to help.

Tips For Composting

  • Your compost pile needs to remain moist but not wet. If it is too wet it wont work and if it is too dry it will kill all the beneficial microorganisms.
  • Your compost pile needs to be aerated, that is, allowed to breath. Turning the pile with a pitchfork or shovel will do the trick.
  • Your compost heat can produce great amounts of heat, up to 160F and higher. These temperatures should kill any seeds or plant diseases that may make their way into the pile.
  • Your compost pile will shrink as it "cooks". Keep adding material as you produce it.
  • Feed your compost a balanced diet of veggies and more fibrous yard waste for a really healthy compost. Too much of one or the other can offset the Carbon/Nitrogen balance in your pile, slowing it down or worse, making it stinky.

Stir Compost For Best Results

This load of grass clippings should compost in about 2-3 weeks now that it has been mixed in with the previous batch.
This load of grass clippings should compost in about 2-3 weeks now that it has been mixed in with the previous batch. | Source

How To Compost At Home

Here are some easy steps to composting at home.

  1. Build a compost container. It should be easy to access and big enough to hold the scraps and yard waste that you have.
  2. Collect scraps. Collect leftovers and scraps from meal time in a bucket near the back door. Then once a day or as needed carry it out to the composter and add it in.
  3. Collect yard trash. Dump all your grass clippings and raked leaves into your composter. They are a great addition and add significant bulk. Be careful what you put in though, the tougher the item the longer it will take to compost.
  4. Give it a stir. I usually give my compost a stir every couple of weeks or more often if I have been loading it up. It mixes the bacteria throughout the material, helping the composting.
  5. Keep it covered. This will help keep neighborhood animals and kids out of the compost. It will also help keep it from drying out to much.
  6. Give it time. New composters take time to get going but once they do all you have to do is keep feeding it.
  7. Use your compost! Once the compost is ready remove it to buckets and use it in the garden and with repotting plants. Be sure to leave about a third of your compost in the container to jump start the next round.

Winter Compost

My compost pile always slows down in the cold months. I have found it is important to remove the finished compost at the end of the summer and store it in a separate bin from my undigested compost material. By doing this I am sure to have usable compost available in early spring.

How Do You Know When Compost Is Done?

Compost is done when it is a rich brown color, has an earthy smell and no big discernible pieces. If there are pieces of food or other items in there that you can still see it may not be done. It can take anywhere from 3-12 months for composting to finish and depends greatly on what you put in, the temperature and other weather conditions.

Comments

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    • TMHughes profile image
      Author

      TMHughes 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks you so much! I'm glad it was helpful.

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      Voted up and useful. Great hub. Good information.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Useful and interesting. Voted up!

    • TMHughes profile image
      Author

      TMHughes 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

      you don't have to use a container, it just keeps the compost contained and out of sight. The original composter was just pile like you have. Happy gardening!

    • bridalletter profile image

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      I don't really use a container, just a corner in the garden. Does that make some difference in the process? It still seems to look rich in the end and lots of fat night crawlers. I like the hub, recycling is awesome.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      Love your article & shared it. Your compost looks great!

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