Making your own compost is one of the most satisfying garden activities. It has a multitude of benefits from feeding your plants, improving your soil condition, breaking up clay and mulching your plants to help them survive droughts. One of the easiest and stylish ways to compost is to use pallets to make compost bins. This guide will help you upcycle wooden pallets to add style and substance to your composting!
This guide will show you how to make a compost bin from Pallets. This is by far the easiest method I have used over the years. Even with a small garden, if you have enough space for a palette it’s worthwhile creating a compost bin. You not only save on those dreadful green bin charges I’ve campaigned against, but you also get your own supply of perfect soil improver!
- Equipment needed for pallet compost bins
- How to make a pallet compost bin
- Composting methods & techniques
- What to put in your compost?
- What’s the right mix of greens and browns for a compost bin?
- Why is my compost bin smelly?
- What can you use compost for?
Equipment needed for pallet compost bins
- 4 Pallets of equal size for your first bin
- Sharp wood saw
- L-shaped brackets
- Decking screws
- Electric drill
- Staple gun
- Thick gloves to avoid splinters
- Sensible shoes (No sling backs or flip flops)
- Chicken wire & wire cutters (optional)
How to make a compost bin from Pallets
1.Make the Frame
Stack your first three pallets into a box shape on a flat stable surface. Ensure the pallets are aligned. Make sure that the ground underneath is either earth, turf or porous. If not your composter won’t work. It needs a free-draining base or you will end up with stinking goop!
2. Secure the frame with decking screws
Drill a pilot hole in one of the bottom corners of each pallet and then screw in a decking screw to anchor them. This means if you’re working alone you’re not struggling to keep them level. This step saves a lot of fuss later on!
Drill and screw another decking screw into the top corner, using pilot holes before each decking screw. Do this for both corners.
Then proceed to screw decking screws into each of the pallets braces from the floor up to the top on each side. This should secure each side to the other. Use as many screws as you have braces, ie the square blocks that separate the two sides denote the braces.
3. Add L-shaped / Angle brackets
Once you have done this add l brackets /Angle brackets on the side of the compost bin frame. This helps add rigidity to the frame to hold the weight of the compost contents. Again predrill holes to avoid splitting the wood. I would advise a minimum of three, top, middle and bottom. The more the better though!
4. Add a door to keep in heat and compost contents
Once you have done this you can add a door with the final palette. Taking a pallet of the same size cut this in half just below a brace with a sharp wood saw. Wear gloves and take your time for a neat cut. Sand off any splinters or snags to neaten the door.
5. Add door hinges
Place the door against your compost bin frame and mark with a pencil where the two hinges need to go. Place them on the outside of the frame so it can swing open. Also, make sure the door is above ground level by an inch or so. This enables it to swing open without catching the ground.
6. Secure the compost bin door
Screw in the hinges and then screw the door frame to the other side of the hinge. Add a latch and eye on the other side to secure the door. This just stops wind or contents from opening the door and looks very neat!
7. Line the compost bin with chicken wire
Then you can line the inside of the bin with chicken wire, using a staple gun, to help prevent the contents from spilling out. I always advise you line the inside of the bin, not the outside like other video guides. This is because it looks neater and stops waste getting trapped in the void between the side of the pallet.
8. Making additional Pallet Compost Bins
These can be made by using the side of the existing bin and repeating the process. Remember you will only need 3 pallets for each additional bin if you’re joining them together. Joining them makes the bins more robust makes moving the contents of the bins far easier!
There’s usually two main methods of composting garden waste.
- Cold composting (small scale)
- Hot composting (larger scale)
There’s the small black compost bin method which is known as ‘cold’ composting. You’ll recognise this from those plastic bins you can buy in garden centres and from online shops. It’s referred to as cold composting because the bin never really gets enough critical mass of decomposing matter to create too much heat. This method takes pretty much a full year or so to get to the good stuff.
Then there is hot composting where a compost heap that’s 1m square and above will start to generate some serious heat and thus break down the waste quicker. It means you can get really rich compost far sooner! You do need enough waste to get the critical mass of heat but I’m sure most gardeners who pack their gardens with plants could produce this in a season.
Either method will help you create the lifeforce of most successful gardens home made compost. Compost worked into any soil can help create nutrient rich free draining soil and has a number of garden uses.
What to put in your compost bin?
You can compost pretty much any green waste or organic matter. A good rule of thumb is that if it grew from the ground you can compost it! Vegetation, cut back plants, veg peelings, lawn clippings, small twigs, leaves, pond weed etc can all be composted. The smaller the items are the quicker they will compost. I usually mix in some shredded newspaper and cardboard as well to help prevent compost from getting too nitrogen rich and soggy.
Items that you must not compost:
- Pet droppings
- Meat, fish, eggs or animal products
- Hair (yuk!)
What’s the right mix of greens and browns for a compost bin?
The age old gardeners dilemma about the mix of nitrogen to carbon in your compost bin. Basically, you need to get the right mix of nitrogen (sometimes called greens) and carbon (sometimes called browns). To confuse things many plants contain both. Ie grass has both carbon and nitrogen in it (20:1).
The RHS recommend a ratio of 30:1. Which is 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Grass, for example, has 20 parts carbon to every 1 part nitrogen. This ratio used to really confuse me and I’ve found an easier way to compost.
Garden Ninjas 50/50 fuss free compost mix!
If you’re new to composting start by adding half greens to half browns. Ignore the ratio and go with your inner mother earth. Keep an eye on your compost heap, if it starts to smell, add more brown if it’s going soggy, more brown if it is dry and doing nothing add more green! Soon you will be the compost king or queen.
Why is my compost smelly and soggy?
This is a common problem for new composters where their compost heap starts to smell and look worse for wear. 99% of the time it is because of an overload of moisture rich greens. The ammonia which breaks down the green waste super quickly gives off the smell of rotting eggs. Which is horrible. See the example below. This grass clipping pile had been left without aeration or enough browns.
By adding more brown material and turning the heap over you can quickly improve the mixture and remove the smell from your compost heap. It’s getting that balance between materials.
By turning your heap, making sure it’s neither totally sodden or dry and having a mix of browns and greens you can’t go wrong. A well-balanced compost should smell of earth and nothing more. If it’s really wet and smelly then I recommend adding shredded newspaper and cardboard to help absorb the moisture and add some carbon quickly.
What can you use compost for?
- Soil improver – dig it in to improve compacted or poor soil
- Mulch – to help retain moisture, suppress weeds and provide long release feed
- Potting up seeds
- Pots and container planting -where they rely solely on nutrients you provide
Many people use compost for pots and containers as its super nutrient rich, moisture retentive and helps feel these plants throughout the season. The options with compost are endless.
Home made compost is far better in my opinions than shop bought compost. It has a richer texture and you can use it as soon as it’s ready. Shop bought compost may have been in storage for some time and will have degraded by the time you get it. Sometimes you buy it and it’s really dry and crumbly and a grey-brown colour. This is usually when its past it’s best. it should be a dark rich colour and slightly moist.
So there’s nothing from stopping you starting your own compost heap, reducing landfill waste and improving your garden ten fold with rich organic matter! Happy composting!