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Do It Yourself: Make a Compost Bin #30DaysofGOOD Do It Yourself: Make a Compost Bin #30DaysofGOOD

Do It Yourself: Make a Compost Bin #30DaysofGOOD

by Mike Senese, Jessica De Jesus
July 11, 2012

Things are easier said than done, or so the old adage goes, and we couldn't agree more. That's why we do 30 Days of GOOD (#30DaysofGOOD), a monthly attempt to live better. Our challenge for July? Do It Yourself.

Composting is beneficial for a number of reasons. The most effective way to make good compost is with a composting bin—something you can make at home quickly and easily.

You'll need:

  • A plastic bucket or garbage barrel with a lid. Bigger is always better, but if you're confined to a small or indoor space, you can make do with a standard five-gallon bucket. Dark colors are preferable due to their tendency to heat up in sunlight, aiding in proper decomposing.
  • A power drill and 1/2" drill bit
  • "Browns" like dry leaves, wood chips, sawdust, straw, and shredded paper
  • "Greens" like fresh grass trimmings, vegetables and peels, plant prunings, used coffee grounds and tea
  • Planting soil
  • Water
  • Bricks (four for large outdoor bins; two for smaller indoor designs)
  • A drip tray large enough for the bucket to sit in (for indoor bins)

Steps:

  1. Drill holes in the plastic bucket or barrel—lots of them, spaced an inch or two apart. Perforate the bottom and lid freely. If you'll be storing the bin outdoors, drill the sides as well. These holes will allow the material to aerate, so the more the better.
  2. Place the barrel or bucket on top of the bricks to allow the bottom holes to breathe. Keep the bricks towards the outside edge. If using it indoors, stack the bucket on top of the bricks inside the drip tray—again, try to leave as many holes exposed underneath as possible.
  3. Put a layer of brown material in the bottom of barrel.
  4. Follow with a layer of planting soil.
  5. Add in the green material. Use approximately the same amount as the brown material.
  6. Pour a cup or two of water onto the material inside. Use enough to wet but not overly saturate it.

Your composter is now ready to be filled.

Keep the lid on as your bin collects material. Give the compost a weekly turn in order to circulate the nutrients and natural decay. Lay the bin on its side and roll it for a minute, or just use a shovel or pitchfork to move the compost around. You'll likely notice that the temperature of the mixture is high, well over 100ºF—this is normal, although too much unturned green material can overheat and cause smoldering. For maximum effectiveness, try to maintain a 50/50 ratio of green and brown material and add water to keep things from drying out—this will keep temperatures in the right range, minimize odors, and quickly create useable compost.

The compost is ready when it's evenly brown and moist, usually in 2-5 months.

A list of compostable items is available on the EPA website, where there's additional information about making compost piles.

If you're up for something more advanced, look around the web for turnable compost bin designs. I like this one, which uses a 55-gallon plastic drum and a 2x4 base.

Have any composting tips, pics, or questions? Send them our way or share with other readers in the comments.

Read more of Mike Senese's DIY tips and projects at DO IT.

We're giving away $1000 for you to share your own DIY skills with others. Participate in our Host a GOOD Workshop challenge.

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