With the pre-winter clear up completed you’re probably left with lots of plant debris: the spent crops, weeds and prunings of the old growing season that form the perfect ingredients to a soil-nourishing compost. Composting is a great way to recycle valuable organic matter and, of course, plants love it!
That said, loose compost heaps have a habit of looking a bit messy, so read on or watch our video to discover a tidier alternative – a compost bin made from wooden pallets.
Materials for Making a Pallet Compost Bin
To make a pallet compost bin you’ll need four pallets of matching size (or you can cut them to size). Old pallets are widely available but check they’re safe to use by looking for the pallet stamp. Stamps should display the IPPC or EPAL logo, plus the letters HT, which indicates the wood has been heat-treated and there’s no risk of toxic materials leaching into your compost. Avoid using pallets with the letters MB on them, as these have been treated with methyl bromide which is a toxic pesticide.
To join the pallets together you will need four corner brackets, a box of screws, plus a drill and a screwdriver. The front pallet will be cut in half and attached to create two hinged doors, a bit like a stable door. Attach them to the walls with four sturdy hinges and use two pairs of hook and eye latches to keep them shut. You’ll also need a saw.
Building a Compost Bin with Pallets
Start by joining together three pallets to create the back and sides. Stand them up, lean them against each other then screw them together to hold them in place. The two side walls should be flush with the width of the rear wall.
Screw two brackets to each corner of the bin, one at the top and one at the bottom. You now have your completed walls.
The fourth pallet will be made into a door for the compost bin, to make filling it easy. Using a saw, cut the pallet in half between two of the rear slats. Correspondingly, the front side should be cut between two of the front slats. Saw right up against the slats to give an even, tidy finish.
Now attach the doors to the walls. Use two strong hinges per door, attaching the hinges on the outside so the door can swing out more easily. Set the bottom door slightly off the ground to stop it from catching. Similarly, leave a slight gap between the bottom and top doors. With the hinges in place, it’s time for the hooks and latches. Screw them into position, near the top of each door.
The compost bin is now finished, but if you want to make yours extra sturdy you can screw in additional plate brackets at the rear corners. The front ends can be further anchored into place by hammering in lengths of rebar either side of the walls, effectively jamming the pallets into position.
Some gardeners like to wrap their pallet compost with chicken wire or netting. This keeps any stray contents from escaping the bin, but it isn’t strictly necessary. Attach the wire or netting with u-shaped nails or a staple gun.
Using a Pallet Compost Bin
Start filling the compost bin with a mixture of browns, such as dried leaves or torn pieces of cardboard, and fresh green materials, including grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Try to ensure a good balance of browns and greens to speed up decomposition and so air can penetrate the compost heap.
You could add additional compost bins alongside the first. A three-bay compost setup allows for the three main stages of composting. The first bay is the active bay, into which new material is currently being added; the middle bay has been filled and is left to rot down; while the final bay is beautiful, mature compost that’s ready to use.