Composting is a basic homesteading skill that you can use to reduce waste within your household. This DIY Compost Bin makes it easy to get started!
You can compost food scraps, paper waste, cardboard, and other biodegradable items that you would typically throw in the trash can. After these items are fully composted, you can use the compost on your garden OR sell/give it to other gardeners.
Compost bins can be made with many different resources. One of my favorite large bin ideas is a pallet compost bin. *See my pallet bin in the photo below.
If you don’t have the space or the need for a large compost bin like this one, try making this DIY compost bin with a homestead essential–> a 5 gallon bucket.
DIY Compost Bin Using a 5 Gallon Bucket
If you have a 5 gallon bucket lying around, then this compost bin will essentially cost you nothing. Even if you don’t already have a bucket, you can purchase one for a couple of dollars from a local farm or hardware store.
DIY Compost Bin Materials:
- One 5 Gallon Bucket with a tightly fitting lid… You can purchase these at your local farm store.
- Small sticks for drainage
- A Drill and a medium to large sized bit (or hammer and nail)
- Green Materials (Fruit & Veggie scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, grass clippings, etc)
- Brown Materials (Shredded paper, cardboards, dead leaves, cow or horse manure, straw, mulch, etc)
- A trash can or a Stainless Steel Compost Bin (for collecting food scraps in the kitchen)
DIY Compost Bin: Step 1
You will want to start this project by drilling holes in the lower half of the bucket and the lid to allow the moisture to drain and evaporate out. If too much moisture hangs out in your compost, it will mold and it won’t be the quality compost that you want on your garden.
I decided to drill 10 holes in the lid, 10 holes in the bottom, and 5 holes on each side. You can also make your holes with a hammer and nail if you prefer.
DIY Compost Bin: Step 2
Place several sticks in the bottom of the bucket to help ensure that the bottom drainage holes don’t get clogged with your compost materials.
If you have extra brown materials (like dried leaves) you can add this on top of the sticks. Make sure that the sticks are wedged in tightly or they will roll around with your compost and won’t help with drainage.
DIY Compost Bin: Step 3
Now you can dump your scraps, papers, grass, egg shells, or whatever materials that you have saved for composting into the bucket.
Make sure that you don’t fill the bucket too full. Air needs to be able to move around the materials for them to properly decompose.
DIY Compost Bin: Step 4
Press the lid on tightly and roll the bucket on the ground. You can enlist little hands for this job. The kids love rolling the compost bucket and being mama’s little helpers!
Roll or shake the bucket again each time you add to your compost pile. This will help to evenly distribute the moisture, organic matter, and heat throughout the bucket to hasten the composting process.
DIY Compost Bin: Step 5
Use the small trash can or compost pail to collect scraps in your kitchen until you are ready to move them outside. You can place a trash can under your sink for scrap storage, but this will need to be emptied each day to avoid attracting bugs and growing mold.
If you have a kitchen compost pail, you can keep it in the refrigerator. This method will keep the bugs and mold down so you can store up more before moving the scraps outside. I dump my kitchen compost pail once/week.
You now have your very own DIY Compost Bin made out of a 5 gallon bucket! After about six weeks, the compost should shrink to about half the volume that it is now. You can then collect the liquid (compost tea) from the compost to pour around plants or you can just mix all of the solid & liquid contents into the soil.
Get the Homestead Garden Planner to maximize the productivity of your garden!
A Little Composting Tip…
It is best to try not to open the DIY compost bucket very often as opening the lid releases the heat. Instead of adding scraps to your bucket daily, you can keep your kitchen scraps and coffee grounds a kitchen compost pail. I use the VREMI Kitchen Compost Pail. It stays in my refrigerator to reduce the likelihood of molding and maggots (ick!).
Happy Composting, y’all!
What Items Can Be Composted?
Compost green & brown materials in your DIY Compost Bin.
Green Composting Materials
- Grass clippings
- Fruit & Veggie Scraps
- Egg Shells
- Coffee or Tea Grounds
Brown Composting Materials
- Shredded Paper
- Brown Leaves
- Cow Manure
Green Materials are generally higher in nitrogen content than brown. You want a Carbon:Nitrogen ratio of about 30:1. Since each ingredient will have different carbon & nitrogen levels, it is helpful to refer to a chart (like this one) before adding to your compost pile.
AVOID COMPOSTING THESE ITEMS:
These materials should not be added to your DIY Compost Bin or any other composting container.
Waste from these animals (especially meat eating animals like dogs & cats) can contain parasites and other microorganisms that you don’t want in your garden.
The sulfur content in charcoal & ashes will make your compost very acidic. If you add highly acidic compost to your garden, you could kill your plants before they even have a chance to grow.
Fats & oils
Fats and oils can add too much moisture to your compost pile.
Meat & Bones
You can add meat to your compost pile, but decomposing meat smells very strongly and can attract rodents and other scavengers to your compost pile. Therefore, you should find another use for leftover meat and bones like dog food or bone broth.
Onions & Citrus Peels
The acidity in these onion and citrus scraps can kill worms and other microorganisms that work to break your compost down.
Dairy is another one that can be composted, but it increases the risk of scavengers visiting your pile so it is better to avoid this one.
Manure from horses & pigs
This one is debatable as many people and business use manure from horses and pigs in their compost. I choose not to use them in my DIY compost bin or my pallet compost bin simply because I have found in tact weed seeds in horse manure (the compost process could kill these seeds, but the risk isn’t worth it to me) and our pigs eat meat so I want to avoid the parasite risk.
If you compost plants that were diseased, then you risk transferring the disease to new plants in your garden when you lay the compost down.
Coffee or Tea Bags
You can compost loose leaf tea, coffee beans, and coffee grounds, but don’t toss in any tea or coffee bags. The bags may not decompose well and they could release chemicals as they do start to break down.
Collecting Compost Tea from the DIY Compost Bucket
You can collect compost tea (essentially liquid fertilizer) from this compost bucket in addition to the solid compost. There are two ways to do this.
Place the completed compost bucket with holes in the bottom into another bucket. Make sure that the compost bucket doesn’t go farther than halfway down the bottom bucket (this is to make sure that the drainage holes aren’t sitting in the tea).
Liquid will collect in the bottom bucket as the scraps decompose and rain trickles through the compost. After the compost has drained, simply collect the tea from the bottom bucket.
After the scraps are completely composted, move the compost to another container with no holes. Cover the compost with water and allow it to sit and steep for 3 days. Then, you can strain the compost out and collect the compost tea that is leftover.
Do you have extra 5 Gallon Buckets lying around?
Check out the bucket projects in this book for easy and practical ways to put them to use!
>>More Gardening Resources
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