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  • Writer's pictureMatt

How to make a compost bin using pallets!

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

I don't know about you, but saving money whenever we can is always a plus, and if we can upcycle, it's even better! We wanted to replace our plastic compost bin that we purchased on Amazon last year and make one that we could also expand.

Compost bins

What our old bin was:

The old compost bin was one of those wrap-around style ones that formed a tube shape. It was about three and a half feet tall, so it was tough to get down in the compost to turn it. Also, we wanted to be able to mow inside because we throw pretty much everything in there except for cooked food and meat products. It was time to make a new one that would allow us easy access into the space, be able to mow the contents, easily turn the compost, and let us expand it to add more bins.

*insert pic of old compost bin*

What materials did we use:

If you've been trying to build anything out of wood this year, you'll know the pain of trying to source out affordable plywood, 2x4's, treated lumber, or anything useful to build with. Typically this type of wood is dirt cheap, but it's been so high that making our compost bin the way we designed it would have been around $75! We didn't want to pay for that much wood, so we did what we always like to do: scrounge around for free stuff.

We live near a lot of industrial facilities, commercial buildings, and also tend to frequent the same establishments (restaurants, hardware stores, etc.) so we tend to chat with the same people over and over. Our local hardware store let us know that anything by the trash bins are fair game and they occasionally get pallets that can be taken so yay!

So many pallets

The pallets are the hardest thing to get, so here's the rest of the items you'll need to make your own compost bin:

  1. Hammer or drill with screwdriver bit

  2. Nails or screws (we used screws for ours)

  3. Drill with drill bit (if you use screws)

  4. Gloves, eye protection, face mask (if you use a drill)

That's it! And you'll need a good working area and some time.

How we built ours:

So the fun part is actually making your compost bin once you get all the materials together. I'll make it as sort of a list of steps with some description to make it easier to follow.

  1. First, you'll want to have three pallets to form three walls (without a fourth wall to be used as a door). We wanted ours to sit directly on the ground which is good for a couple of reasons. 1) It's compost - it's supposed to be on the ground. 2) Being on the ground allows you get the lawnmower on it so you can chop it all up. The worms will be fine. 3) Worms from the ground will be able to go up into the compost and do their worm thing. 4) Our ground is fairly hard (clay) so it makes a good floor.

  2. Next, you'll want to attach the pallets to each other. We just set them together so we could drill holes and screw the pallets together. You'll want to predrill holes for screws, otherwise the wood will split apart. Nails should be fine otherwise.

  1. Once you have all three sides, have a fourth pallet to use as a door. You can get complicated and get hinges to make an actual swinging door, but we just set the pallet as a fourth wall and used rubber straps to hold it together.

  2. That's it! You don't have to make sure the walls are totally sealed, because you want water and air to go through the sides. Ventilation is key for ensuring that it decomposes faster as you continue to add your food scraps, browns, and greens. *Side note: browns include items like dead leaves, and greens include items like grass clippings.*

How is the wood compost bin vs the plastic one now?

The wood compost bin is great! We've had it a couple of months now, but our compost is moving faster than before. We're actually having trouble keeping it full until the fall comes, but the compost we have now is so dark and rich looking. Our herbs are loving it and they are growing really nicely now. We rolled up the plastic one, but we may use it in a different part of the yard for something else. When we find more pallets, we'll be adding other sections to the side of the existing one to expand it out. Many gardeners use different sections of compost bins for the different stages of the compost cycle. Right now we have a separate smaller bin for our "finished" compost, or the bit that's ready to use now.

Gaps between the slats allows air to move through

Weather report: It's July in Georgia so it's hot. Fortunately it's not like it is out west (we hope it cools down over there soon). High in the high 80's with some rain coming due to Hurricane Elsa strolling by.

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