Compost, also known as “black gold” to gardeners, is decayed organic material that can be used as a plant fertilizer in your garden. Grass clippings, leaves, and vegetable scraps all make for great composting material. Summer is a great time to think about composting and building your own compost bin because while you work in your yard, you can add the material to your newly made bin. Following are instructions on how to build a 3-section compost bin with wood pallets.
Step 1 – Source Your Pallets
You’ll want to find 7 wooden pallets that are approximately all the same size. Warehouses and shipping areas are a great place to find inexpensive or free pallets.
Make sure that your pallets are relatively clean. Pallets are used to transport all kinds of items, including hazardous ones. You’ll also want to make sure you use a pallet that has not been treated. Look over your pallets for a stamp or mark. If you do not find a stamp, it’s likely the pallet is a “national pallet” that is used for domestic transport. These pallets are usually untreated. However, you can never be 100% sure. International pallets, used for international shipping, have an IPPC stamp and code. These pallets must be treated in some way to prevent invasive insect species and plant disease from crossing borders.
Codes you should look for are: KD (Kiln Dried), HT (Heat Treatment), and DB (Debarked). Do not use pallets marked MB, which are treated with the pesticide Methyl Bromide.
Step 2 – Prepare Your Site
Compost bins need heat, moisture, and circulation for plant decomposition to occur. Your site should be a part sun/part shade location, free from vegetation and large trees and structures. Make sure the ground is clear and relatively flat. You don’t want grass or weeds growing through your compost.
Step 3 – Build Your Bin
Your 3-section compost bin will be shaped like 3 upside down Us. It will have a left, middle, and right section with an open front.
Starting on the left side of the site you cleared, stand 3 pallets in the shape of an upside-down U. (You may need a partner to help hold the pallets straight.) Using weatherproof rope, tie the 3 pallets together at the top and bottom corners. This will create one bin with a left, back, and right side.
When those 3 pallets are secured, add another pallet to form the back of the middle bin. Tie this pallet, on the left side, to the existing bin. Next, add a pallet to form the right side of the middle bin. Tie this pallet to the pallet you just added. You should now have 2 bins that look like upside down Us. Complete the third bin using the same steps above.
Step 4 – Attach Chicken Wire
If you would like to keep pests out of your compost pile, you can add removable chicken wire to the front. Attach exterior screw hooks to the left and right side of your compost bin—one on the top and bottom of the left side and one on the top and bottom of the right side. Cut a length of chicken wire to cover the front of the compost bin and loop into the hooks. Alternatively, you could add 3 more pallets to the front of your bins. Tie them only on the left side of each pallet and use as doors.
Step 5 – Add Plant Materials
Now that your 3-section compost bin is complete, you’ll want to start adding compostable materials. Start by adding your materials to the left side of your bin. As they decompose, move them to the middle bin. When the middle bin is completely decomposed, move that soil to the last bin. Be patient. It can take between 9 and 12 months before your compost is ready to use. However, the 3-section system ensures that you will have an ongoing supply of compost, so long as you continue to add fresh material to the first bin.
The best compost piles consist of a mixture of green and brown materials. If your compost pile is too wet and has an odor, add more brown material. If it is too dry and not rotting, add some green material. Air is essential to the composting process, so be sure to mix your pile on occasion. Never add meat, dairy, weeds, or diseased plants to your compost pile.