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March 15, 2010

The dirty little secret of gardening … literally (har har har). Composting surely isn’t sexy but it’ll cut down on your waste and make your garden grow like gangbusters. I want to compost garden waste as well as kitchen scraps so I will need to add a lid and front slats (on my list for next week). If you are not using kitchen scraps, no need for a lid.

You can buy pre-made composters for anywhere between $100-300 depending on size but it’ll be a lot cheaper if you build it yourself. For about $125 you can get all the materials needed to build this 3 bin composter. One bin may be enough .. so you can adjust the plans accordingly.

Almost finished composter

Almost finished composter

Materials needed:

Three 2″x4″x8″ salt-treated framing lumber
Four  2″x4″x8″ salt-treated framing lumber cut to 32″ lenths
18 1″x6″ common pine boards – 32″ long. For the front slats (see later post)
20 feet of 36″ wire – size will depend on what you plan to compost (1/4″ to 2″)
12 3/8″ galvanized carriage bolts, 4 inches long, 12 washer, 12 nuts
16-penny galvanized exterior nails. You’ll need at least 40-50 of them.
Galvanized poultry-wire stables – box of 250

Supplies and tools

Supplies and tools


Ratchet wrench
Measuring tape
Drill & 3/8″ wood drill bit
Wire cutters
Something to help you screw in the carriage bolts until they go through the wood. I (maybe mistakenly) used heavy duty pliers.


I nailed four 32″ 2x4s together with 3.5″ galvanized framing nails to create four sections. These make up the ends and two dividers. Use salt treated wood.

Sides and dividers

Sides and dividers with screening

I used 1/4 inch rat-wire. If you are composting kitchen scraps you need to use this size wire. If you are only composting garden waste you can use dog-wire with holes up to 2″x2″. Attach it securely to the wood with the poultry-wire staples.

Wire options

Drill holes with a 3/8th inch wood bit and bolt the base 2x4x8s with 3/8th inch galvanized carriage bolts (4″ long).  When drilling into the dividers make sure you drill into the side without nail heads. Measure so each hole is at the same spot. You absolutely need the washers and nuts to fully tighten the bolts into place.

Constructing the frame

Constructing the frame

I positioned the compost bin behind a tree. Later this month I’ll replant some azaleas to further hide it away. It shouldn’t smell, but everyone asks if I’m keeping rabbits or chickens when they see it.

Hiding the composter

More on the lid and front slats later.

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