Building compost bins out of pallets at PumpjackPiddlewick

When I first moved to France to look after a petite Chateau, there were a few obvious projects that attracted my attention. The vegetable garden, which had gone to seed. And, the compost bins. Or rather the compost heap. Literally. It was a heap.

Recycling Compost

As I wanted compost for the garden, and the current compost was not composting effectively, this became a priority.  Since I adore recycling old into new projects, a 3-tiered compost system was designed based in the original space.

Re-using corrugated sheets, they were set in place around the existing heap. Then the space was divided into 3 compost bins, each the width of the garden’s mini-hauler (‘voiturette’ in French). This way it could be backed in, lift the back and the contents simply would slide into the allotted space. Well, in theory.

But first there was the heap to be dealt with. This in itself was quite the task as green grass cuttings had been mixed in creating a slick slurry of very heavy wet matter amongst the lighter compost. It took several days, but finally it was shifted out of the way.

How To

Posts were put in for the basic structure and then the corrugated sheets were bent into place, which was a strength exercise in itself. These then were fastened in to create a C shape. Each of the bins was created this way, adding on slotted in boards to the open side to keep the compost within. I could add boards as the bin filled, or take away as emptied.

A large sheet of plastic was the only item purchased for this project (not counting screws and nails). It was cut it into 3 pieces, one for each of the compost bins. The plastic was attached by batten at the back and wrapped around a wooden rod at the front, creating a sort of handle. This not only made it easier to lift and move the plastic but also weighed it down at the front, creating a more extensive cover of the compost.

Covering the compost with a strong dark plastic had a dual purpose; the plastic assists in heating up the organic matter and thus compost it faster, and also it would act as a deterrent to the roving chickens who liked nothing better than to get stuck in for a good forage for bugs.

Sectioned Compost Bins

I sectioned the existing heap into older compost and newer and filled the bins accordingly. The first bin had the oldest compost, since it was destined for the garden in spring time. The middle bin would be ready for use then 6 months later, and the 3rd bin I would add to from that point, and it would be ready in a year’s time. 

The cycle would work itself around on a  6 month basis, with each bin being ready to use 6 month’s after the previous, and all having composted for a year, giving us good rich organic matter for the garden.

Building compost bins out of bits and bobs at PumpjackPiddlewick
My first compost bins. Read more about my Gardening Findings

Building Compost Bins – Take Two

Fast forward a few years and I moved to a home of my own, with very overgrown garden. Digging out, cutting back and restoring the garden is a long term project. And like the Chateau I started with a compost heap. Mainly because I couldn’t get into the area at first where I wanted to build my compost bins.

But finally, all duly cleared and vegetable garden growing, it was time to build those bins. I don’t have the same amount of space, so only two bins have gone in. I’ve also added a circular weed bin, using an old piece of decorative wire fencing. It’s my place to dump weeds to dry out before adding to the compost.

As the previous design worked so well, I made a very similar version for the new compost bins. I didn’t have any corrugated metal sheets to re-use. But I did have pallets.

Next on the list is a leaf mould bin. But first I have to figure out where in the garden it could go.

More Garden Findings

If you enjoy gardening, or simply like to read about gardening, please check out my other Garden Findings.

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  1. I’ve never got composting to work. We put in a good mix of twiggy stuff and grass cuttings but it never seems to break down. I’m now thinking we should give it a lid of heavy black plastic, but how does the rain get in? Doesn’t the heap stay too dry?

    1. Author

      We don’t put in much twiggy stuff (eg wood) as it almost never breaks down, but weeds, cuttings, leaves, etc. all go in. The plastic helps heat it up, so breaks down quicker. It’s a good solid, quite heavy plastic. And the idea is for rain not to get in. Again it breaks down quicker, and doesn’t rot if it can stay reasonably dry. Dry is good, thoug as it breaks down, and the worms get involved it isn’t really ‘dry’, more moist-ish. Does that help?

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