Once you learn how to compost, you’ll never throw food in the trash again. Learn how to make a compost bin from free shipping pallets and some wire. It’s an uncomplicated and super easy way to build a compost bin.
Building an Easy DIY Pallet Compost Bin
One of the first (and so far only) outdoor projects that I did in the first few months on the farm was building a compost heap. I knew that come next spring I would want to start working on my garden as soon as possible and I would need heaps of good rich compost to improve the soil.
What is a compost bin?
So there was no time to waste, every bit of kitchen waste and all the grass clippings needed to be saved and turned into the black gold of gardening.
Now there were a couple of complications…
I didn’t have much time to waste on garden projects at the time as we were working our butts off to get the old farm fit for living and our temporary apartment ready to be moved in.
I also did not have money to spare on (temporary) garden projects as we are on a very tight budget with this whole renovation.
And the third complication was that the designated spot for the compost heap in our garden plans was not yet available (we first need to demolish an old chicken stable).
It all came down to the fact that I:
- needed a compost bin stat
- did not have time or money for building a proper bin
- this compost bin would be temporary and had to be easily demolished and moved later on.
If you are new here let me give you a little context about my current living situation. We recently bought a 230-year-old farmhouse in Germany and are currently working on a complete and utter renovation of the house, the barns, and the land. While we are working on that we are living in a temporary apartment that we created on the first floor of the house. The apartment is cozy and comfortable but still has a lot of unfinished touches. That’s ok, it will get its final makeover one day. If you’d like to follow our renovating adventures you can watch them on our Youtube Channel: Lex and Marianne
Well with that list of requirements there was only one way to go: Built a compost bin from recycled pallets I could find around the farm.
Let me show you how I built my compost heap using recycled pallets and a just a few extra materials in 30 minutes flat.
But before I go and share all the details about my pallet wood compost bin I want to point out that there are many more pallet wood projects at the bottom of this post. And those are pretty and crafty and perfect for a little home decor. So be sure to check out the pallet wood projects of my International Bloggers Club Friends at the end of this post.
How to Make a Compost Bin From Pallets
Using shipping pallets to make a composting heap is really a fast and easy way to start making your own garden compost fast.
But there are a few things to consider when working with recycled pallets.
Considerations for Building a Compost Bin out of Recycled Pallets
The first question when working with pallets is whether pallets are safe for a compost bin? The whole point of making your own compost is that you want safe, nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Especially when you are going to use your homemade garden compost in a vegetable garden you don’t want any harmful materials seeping into the compost.
Generally speaking, there are two types of pallets: one type of pallet is designed to be used over and over again and it usually comes with a deposit that you have to pay if you don’t return it after use. Those pallets are often heavily treated with chemicals to make them more resistant to moisture and bugs
The other kind of pallet is made for one-time use only, designed for specific packing and shipping needs and the wood is left untreated as the pallets are meant to be discarded after use.
For making a compost heap, it is best to use untreated wood, so look for pallets that are chemical free.
I found my pallets around the farm, there were several laying around and I picked the ones that were unsoiled, not to heavily damaged and roughly the same size.
If you don’t have pallets laying around you might be wondering where you can get pallets? Generally, you can get them for free quite easily. Lots of stores and warehouses are glad to be rid of them. Look and ask around. I know that our garden centers, for example, all have a place at the back where they deposit the leftover pallets so anyone who wants them can grab them.
Designing your Pallet Compost Heap
Before we can start assembling our pallet compost heap we have to do a little thinking about the general design of our compost bin. You might want to consider where you are going to place it, how big you want your compost bin to be, and whether you want to have a single heap or the option of separating unfinished and (half)finished compost.
My compost bin is only temporary so I opted for the simplest design and made a single bin with enough height to give me enough room for about a years worth of composting.
How many pallets do I need for a compost bin? For a basic compost bin you only really need three pallets, but four is better. Three pallets are used to make the side and back wall of the compost bin and the fourth pallet is used as a door on the front.
This also means that you need at least two matching pairs of pallets (not all four of them need to be the same size). The back pallet and the door pallet need to be the same width as do the side pallets. That way your pallet compost bin will be a proper rectangle and construction will be fast.
Materials Needed for Making Pallet Compost Bins
Okay now that we have got the pallets covered, what else do you need to build a compost heap? Luckily not much.
- 4 pallets
- electrical wire
- wire clippers
That’s it, just four different materials were used to build my bin. I used some old cardboard from boxes as the bottom of the heap. The cardboard provided for a nice even surface to put my pallets on. It will dissolve and be broken down though but that is exactly what I want because cardboard is a great ingredient for a compost heap.
I used electrical wire to attach my pallets together. I had heaps of it available and it is a long-lasting material that does not weather fast outside. You can use metal wire, strong rope, or plastic zip ties (but those need to be long).
Putting your Wooden Compost Bin together
Assembling the compost bins. Finally, we are getting to the actual built. And you know what? It will be over in a flash.
Place three of the pallets together in a box shape on top of the cardboard. Tie them together with the electrical wire. Once you have made sure everything is in the right place you can really twist the wire into a strong hold.
Also, use electrical wire to attach the fourth pallet to the front. But this time give the wire some room on one side so it can function as a hinge. Loosely tie the electrical wire on the other side so it can be easily opened as if it were a lock.
You are done. There is no need to line a wooden compost bin made from pallets. The pallets themselves will keep most of the material nicely in place and if something falls out you can quickly throw it back.
Filling up Your Compost Bin
Now it is time to start filling up that compost bin. If you are wondering what to put in your compost bin, I can tell you that you can put most of your organic waste in there.
One can make a science project about the correct composition of the organic waste you put in a compost heap but my experience with many different heaps over the years is that what you put in there is much less important than how many times you move the material in there.
Generally, you want two kinds of material: green (grass clippings, weeds, kitchen waste(uncooked vegetables and fruits) and brown (straw, fallen leaves, paper, sticks, sawdust, and bark). The better you can mix those two ingredients the faster your compost will be ready.
That is why it is a good idea to turn your compost heap from time to time. It mixes the ingredients, adds air into the heap, and will make the composting process go much faster.
How is Our Compost Bin Working Out? (six-month review)
I have been quite lazy with my compost bin. Because it is small, and I have not used the compost just yet, I haven’t bothered with turning the compost just yet.
Six months in I have been adding all our kitchen waste, flowers, weeds, and grass clippings. When and if I feel I have added too much of this green stuff I will add a layer of brown. Usually some hay from the barn or some torn-up cardboard boxes.
The magic of a compost heap is that when you fill it with the latest load of garden waste it is immediately full and you think you will have to build another one asap. And then you forget about it, come back in a couple of days and all that fresh material will have shrunk so much.
I have been adding a lot of our organic waste on top of the compost heap and after six months it has barely grown. It just keeps shrinking down and down again. This makes me hopeful that at the bottom of that heap, a nice pile of garden-ready compost is growing.
When spring comes around I will open up the door to my compost bin and start harvesting my own homegrown compost.
More Pallet Wood Project Ideas
- Unique Creations by Anita | Pallet Wood Heart
- Saved from Salvage | Pallet photo holder DIY
- Birdz of a feather | Pallet Shelves DIY
- A Crafty Mix | Reverse Canvas magical fairy forest
- Fifth Sparrow No More | Upcycle old hymnals on this creative pallet project
- Tea and Forget Me Nots | How to make an easy rustic pallet DIY shelf
sara allen says
Your house is so charming Marianne; can’t wait to see what you do with the garden now that you have your compost bin set up!
What a great idea. And credit for thinking so far ahead too. What an exciting project you’re working on. Can’t wait to see it unfold.
Anita holland says
What a great idea and so simple to make. I had no idea about the chemicals in pallets I will keep that in mind for future projects. Your house is amazing by the way.
Regina Jenkins says
Marianne – So nice to meet you! Oh my what an amazing undertaking. you are going through in Germany. How exciting. I love your pallet composting bin, what a clever idea. I had a plastic one that broke but one built like this could easily be disguised in my yard. Love it.
FABULOUS upcycle, Marianne!
I’d love for you to join us over at the Creative Crafts Linky Party every Wednesday through Sunday
Followed and Pinned!
Marie B says
How exciting to be renovating a 230-year-old farmhouse! Great idea for a cost-free compost bin for your future garden.