Would you like to build a practical and environmentally friendly compost bin from wooden pallets in your garden? Follow these simple steps and some useful tips!
To improve the garden soil with organic waste and use recycled materials, you can build an inexpensive compost bin from pallets. By composting food or garden waste, you are also helping to reduce your carbon footprint, which is good for the environment. This gives you a living and nutrient-rich substrate that requires almost no cost or time investment. This makes composting easy and most importantly sustainable for anyone with a little extra space in their garden. If you want to take advantage of all of these benefits and make this a great DIY project, below is a detailed guide with tips on how to use it properly.
Table of Contents
- What to Consider Before You Build a Compost Bin from Wooden Pallets?
- What Should Such a Structure of Wooden Pallets Look Like?
- What to Look Out for When Choosing Materials if You Build a Compost Bin from Wooden Pallets?
- What Factors to Consider When Using Pallets?
- How to Build a Compost Bin from Wooden Pallets: Step By Step
What to Consider Before You Build a Compost Bin from Wooden Pallets?
The main goal of such a garden project is to create a space enclosed by wooden pallets for compost heaps. Although there are gaps between the boards, such a structure is easy to isolate, although it is important to drain all liquids. It also makes sense to dispose of suitable organic waste to help the composting process. This will also improve the quality of the obtained substrate and prevent unpleasant odors. Fruit and vegetable peelings, as well as leftover food like egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds, paper and cardboard are the main components that make up a good compost pile.
You can also collect grass clippings, prunings and dried leaves from the garden and add them to your DIY enclosure. What is not suitable for this and definitely does not belong to the compost pile are meat scraps, bones and pet excrements. Such waste can interfere with the process and, at best, should be composted separately and properly. It’s also a good idea to maintain and turn the pile occasionally so that you can provide more oxygen to the beneficial bacteria that live there. If your compost is too wet after heavy rains or other overwatering, you can balance the moisture with more dry leaves, paper, and cardboard.
What Should Such a Structure of Wooden Pallets Look Like?
Rather than eventually ending up in landfill, the convenient wooden structures found in warehouses can be inexpensively reused as retaining walls. You can create your own version by simply connecting three pallets in the shape of a square with screws or solid wire. The fourth pallet is optional and can function as a door attached to it. It should be able to move like a simple door so that you can easily turn the compost, if necessary. The main advantage of building a compost bin from wooden pallets is that you can make a common system out of it. This makes it possible to have compost heaps with different degrees of maturity and turn them over if necessary.
What to Look Out for When Choosing Materials if You Build a Compost Bin from Wooden Pallets?
Ideally you can use pallets that are roughly the same size, these have specific markings that are important. The stamped abbreviations indicate whether the wood material is safe to reuse. look for initials such as IPPC, EPAL or HT, which indicate that the wooden pallet is heat-treated. Some models have KD, which indicates that the wood has been dried in a special kiln. It is particularly important not to use wooden pallets with the abbreviation MB stamped on them, as this stands for methyl bromide. It is a toxic chemical that is also used as a pesticide. Otherwise, you can find suitable wooden pallets in mail-order companies, online or in various stores and get them either cheaply or even for free.
You can build a three- or four-sided wooden pallet compost bin so you don’t have to deal with a gate every time you bring a wheelbarrow full of organic waste to your compost heap. The advantage of a four-sided enclosure is that the fourth pallet helps maintain structure as you pile compost. This allows you to build a higher compost heap over the top of the pallet. When setting up the compost heap, it is always possible to leave out the door in the initial phase in order to choose the best option depending on the space and needs. What are the advantages of such a structure and what are the disadvantages? You can read below.
What Factors to Consider When Using Pallets?
To make the effort and time invested in such a DIY project worthwhile, you should first decide whether you actually need something like this. Building such structures is easy and can be fun with children or help from your friends. However, it is advisable to consider the size and capacity of the enclosure before building it. Plan the garden area chosen for this purpose, taking into account the following factors:
- When using wooden pallets as an enclosure, there are gaps between the boards, which allows the penetration of oxygen.
- Another advantage of this project is that you can really save on costs. In addition to the pallets, you may also need screws, corner brackets and hinges.
- However, the gaps on the sides can be a disadvantage. They typically lack insulation, which could make winter composting difficult.
- As for the size of the wooden pallets, these might not be much of a choice for smaller gardens. In such cases, you should opt for a covered bin or compost garbage can.
- Multiple wooden pallets can also be difficult to move, so you may need to ask someone for help and find a larger vehicle.
- Pallets could also be a bit unsightly, but can be spruced up with paint and easily adapted to the style of the garden.
How to Build a Compost Bin from Wooden Pallets: Step By Step
Before you start assembling the structure, it is important to find a flat garden spot. This will make your job easier and ensure an easy access to the compost heap. Depending on the space available, be strategic by choosing a location that is not too far away. The size of an average pallet is around 48×40 inches/1x 1.2 meters wide and long and around 3 inch/10 cm high. However, also take into account that the finished interior dimension of the floor area will be wider. When planning the location for your compost heap, it’s a good idea to allow a little extra space so you can expand the system later.
The project also requires some skill, but you can help yourself with the right tools and equipment. Try putting on some old dungarees as work attire to keep small stuff like screwdrivers, corner squares, and hammers handy. Otherwise you can use a cordless drill, saw, 3-4 or more pallets and possibly hinges. You can also wrap your frame structure with chicken wire for insulation. It is best to place the pallets on garden soil rather than concrete, although this is not essential. Here are some steps to follow during construction.
Step-By-Step Instructions to Build a Compost Bin from Wooden Pallets
- First try supporting one of the pallets, it’s handy to have your child or a friend to help. You can start with any side.
- Continue by placing the second wooden pallet at a 90 degree angle to the first to form the two walls of a box. At this step, it may help to use string to tie both pieces together. This will keep them stable while you attach the hinges.
- Try to attach the sides together with three corner brackets (you can use more). Do this by first positioning the corner brackets where you want them and marking them with a pencil.
- Drill a hole in each of the marked locations after removing the brackets and reattach the corner brackets over the holes.
- Then insert the screws with the cordless drill or a screwdriver.
- To fix the third wall of the composter you can simply repeat the previous steps with the third pallet.
- Optionally make a door by cutting a fourth wooden pallet in half with a saw.
- Attach the door with hinges to the desired side of the structure and install a latch on the other side. This prevents the door from opening in bad weather.
- To provide additional strength on each side, you can screw in fasteners on the top and bottom inside corners.
- It would make sense to protect the compost from wildlife or outflows by fencing it off with chicken wire. Although this step isn’t strictly necessary, mesh fencing provides additional security. Just be careful not to get your fork stuck on it when you turn the compost.
- For more aesthetics in the garden, you can paint the wooden boards in any color you like. However, this step is recommended before filling the composter so that the wood remains protected for longer.
Could It Be Easier to Build a Compost Bin from Wooden Pallets?
Of course, such a simple structure can also be held together by other means. If you don’t want to drill or screw, you can use old cables, wire or strong cords and tie the pallets together. In addition, it would be useful to insulate the compost pile with a useless blanket or carpet on top. Although not aesthetically pleasing, such an option is easier to disassemble and reposition in the garden.
Another option for stability is to further reinforce the composter with stakes between the pallet boards. This allows you to fill the gaps in any wooden pallet, and you can use a hammer to attach the wooden posts in between. This is a recommended step if you are building a compost bin from wooden pallets with just wire or twine. Although the gaps on the sides allow for extra airflow, they make the compost heap colder. In the summertime this would not be a problem, but low temperatures can slow down the composting process. Therefore, an even easier option is to line the edges with cardboard as an insulator. This can prevent leakage. It is possible that the insulating material will eventually come off, but if it is outside the compost pile, this would certainly take longer.
Now you have an example of how easy and economical you can be when implementing such a garden project. Most pallets are made from low quality wood, but should last a few years. This is mainly because the pressure of the heap is downward, not outward. It would be difficult to keep rats or mice out of it unless you also wire the bottom of the composter. You can also attach a cover, fleece or tarpaulin to prevent negative influences in heavy snow or rain. However, leave some openings so that the air can flow in.