How to build a compost bin for backyard recycling


Fall is a perfect time to begin composting. Composting is an easy way to recycle materials from your lawn, garden and kitchen. Once the materials have decayed, then can be used as a natural fertilizer for improving soil quality and plant health.

Structural options

Ohio State University Extension explains the various types of compost bins that are great for backyard composting.

There are simple designs, like pile composting and trench composting, that don’t require building. An easy option is a fence made out of wire and posts or stakes. Pallets and skids work, too, if you don’t want to use posts or stakes.

A garbage can or drum can also work as a compost bin. No construction needed — just drill holes into the sides and bottom.

Creating a compost bin out of cinder or cement blocks may be more involved than the other methods, but it is more permanent and secure.

Another option is to try this compost bin by Instructables user arcraven, especially if you have lumber lying around that you can use. The plan is designed for two side-by-side compost bins, but just cut the supply list in half to make one.

What to compost

The perfect balance of compost bin ingredients consists of carbon, nitrogen, water and oxygen. Once you’ve raked your yard (or even if you’re letting leaves recycle where they fall), add some of them to your compost bin. Brown and yellow leaves add carbon to your bin, while green leaves add nitrogen.

Not sure what classifies as nitrogen and carbon compost materials? Here are some common sources:


  • coffee grounds
  • grass clippings
  • houseplants
  • kitchen scraps
  • tea bags


  • shredded cardboard and paper
  • newsprint
  • stalks from corn, sunflowers and vegetables
  • shredded stems and twigs
  • straw
  • small amounts of sawdust and wood ash

What to avoid

The last thing you want to attract to your compost bin are insects, rodents and pests. Some materials, like human and animal waste, could spread disease, and meat bones and fat will undoubtedly attract pests.


Aside from cleaning up your yard and garden and recycling some kitchen materials, composting helps the soil drain and also keeps it moist. Compost keeps roots healthy and feeds plants, too. Overall, your soil quality and plant health will improve with compost use.

Additional information

University of Illinois Extension has answers to common composting questions. If you start your compost bin in the fall and maintain it during the winter months, your compost should be ready for spring planting.

What does your compost bin look like? Let us know in the comments section!

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