World’s Best Compost Bin

One of the most important tools in your garden is not a tool in the normal sense of the word, but it is similarly helpful to your gardening work, a compost bin. Of course you can just pile up your compost on the ground but it will blow around and will not produce the good compost you need.

If you search for the “best” composter you will find many suggestions. Some are pretty good. Some claim to be the absolute best. But if you look at this design I think you will see how it may just be the best. After I describe it for you and tell you how to build it, I will summarize why I think it is.

A Great Compost Bin Design

Composter plus sections

Now I have to admit, my idea of the perfect compost bin has been one of those three unit bins, twelve feet long. They are really impressive aren’t they! In fact I have designed my own version of that one as well. But when I saw plans for units similar to the plans I have developed here I saw some real advantages.

If you check others out you will see some differences. My design is larger and constructed of sturdier materials. There are good reasons for this. We won’t go into a lot of detail about how composting works here, but there is one fact that is quite important.

Compost needs to “cook”. If you have worked with a good compost pile you know what this means. While vegetation is decomposing it gets warm. This destroys weed seeds and causes the process to speed up dramatically. For this to happen the pile must be approximately four feet square. This plan creates a unit that is exactly four feet square on the outside.

Another requirement for good composting is an option to turn over the material in your pile. Many of us take much longer to make our compost by neglecting this, but if you can stir and turn over your compost it will be much more productive. With this design turning over the compost is easy.

How My Compost Tower Works

Composter sections

This composter is incredibly easy to use and can produce excellent compost in minimum time. Each unit includes six sections. You begin by placing one on the ground. As the pile grows you simply add another section on top of the one that is full. Corner posts stack up the units, leaving a 3/4" space between each one for air.

When your stack is as tall as you want (six sections is recommended which makes it four feet tall), and the pile has some time to cook, just turn the whole thing by starting a new stack next to the old one. Take off the units one at a time from the top, shovel over compost from the top to the new stack, and continue to roll it over until the entire pile is turned.

After turning one or two times you will have great compost to add to your garden. If you need more than one composter, just build more units. You won’t find a better way to make compost.

How to Build Your Composter

Here are the details for building your own compost tower. It takes a minimum of tools and supplies.

  • Tools you need include a saw (cut off saw), a driver drill, a tape measure and a pencil to mark cut lines. A small square to mark off cut lines would be helpful if you need to use a hand saw.
  • Materials include 12 eight foot 2X8 inch boards and two eight foot 2X4’s. Many people use treated lumber but for a vegetable garden others prefer to avoid it. Cedar is excellent but expensive. Douglas fir is a reasonable choice but avoid pine or other very soft woods which will not last so long. Also, you will need 192 external screws, 2 3/4 inches long.

The first step is to cut the lumber. From the 2X8’s, cut 12 pieces 45 inches long and 12 pieces 48 inches. Then cut the 2X4’s into 36 eight inch pieces.

end section

Attach 2X4 to end board

Once you have your pieces cut, assembly is quite straightforward. It just takes a little time. Begin by attaching two of the 2X4 leg pieces, one to each end of one of the 45 inch boards to make an end for a section (see above). You will need to make two of these for each section.

Use four screws to attach each of the 2X4 pieces to the end boards (as illustrated on the left). If you do not want to use screws you can nail with 16d sinkers. I have raised beds I built around twenty years ago that way and they still hold so I wouldn’t discourage that but I like screws even better.

Detail of corner

Be careful to place the 2X4’s precisely. I recommend putting them down one inch from the top.

The exact amount is not so important as it is to have all the pieces the same, placed an equal distance from the top (or bottom) so the sections will sit evenly when stacked.

The final step is to then attach to side panels (two 48 inch boards). These cover the edge of the 2X4 (see the illustration below) and the edge of the end panel on both ends. Avoid placing screws in the center where they would hit the crack; instead put two screws into each one.

Attaching side panels

There you are. Your first section is complete. Now all you need to do is construct five more.

How to Use Your Compost Tower

Using your new compost bin is a snap. Begin by putting one section on the ground (with the protruding legs down) where you want to grow your compost tower. You may want to put on a second section right away. As you fill the sections just add an additional unit until it reaches its full height.

completed small compost bin

Once it is full let it steep for a few weeks. Then take off one section from the top and set it next to your first stack.

Shovel compost from the top into it, move over another section, fill it, and do it again until all the compost is turned over. After a few weeks do this again.

Of course you do not have to turn your compost. Many people do not and you will still get good compost, but it will take much longer.

To produce good compost you need to know a little about composting. You may want to read up on it a bit, but essentially any plant life from your garden or yard can be composted including kitchen scraps, but avoid animal products except for egg shells.

Briefly, here are the basics (in non-technical, everyday language). There are five essential requirements for making good compost.

  • Put in some green stuff. This is the basic ingredient most folks think about, everything from grass to lettuce, to weeds (not the seeds, just vegetation).
  • Add some brown stuff, primarily fall leaves but also small twigs, etc.
  • Air. This is added automatically through the openings in the sides of the bin. Turning also helps.
  • Water is needed, too. If it doesn’t rain add some water to your pile occasionally to keep it moist.
  • Finally, you need an inoculent, microbes that stimulate the breakdown of the vegetation. Don’t sweat this one! You don’t need to buy it as some do. It occurs naturally in the soil. Just sprinkle a little soil on your compost pile from time to time.

Do not sweat what you will use for composting. Use what you have. It does not matter what others use or recommend. If it was growing it will compost. For best results add 5-6 inches of green stuff, then about the same of brown stuff, and top it off with a sprinkling of dirt or well developed compost from another pile, then repeat. Water every once in a while to keep pile moist.

What Makes this Composter the Best?

Now what makes this the best composter in the world? Here is my summary of the key reasons.

Cost Effective: the cost of this compost bin, though it is more substantial and should last much longer than other bins built with smaller lumber, is relatively inexpensive. All of the materials should cost little more than a hundred dollars if bought new.

Best Size: very few compost bins are large enough to generate the heat needed to kill weed seeds and produce a clean compost but this one will.

Easy Construction: It would be hard to find a compost bin so easy to construct as this one; almost anyone can build it is a short period of time with very few tools.

Easy to Use: sections are light weight for moving around and the stacking form makes it easy to adjust and to get to the compost for use.

There are other benefits but these are the primary ones. If you try it let me know how it works for you. I think you will like it!