How to Make a Drum Compost


Composting structures can be created using a wide variety of materials, from old trash cans to discarded wooden pallets. Reclaimed 55-gallon plastic drums provide large, enclosed containers that work well for composting organic waste from your kitchen and yard. Although their size makes them too unwieldy for some areas, drum compost bins are effective at hiding the unsightly composting material. According to the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension, you should mix your compost every few days by pushing the drum over and rolling it across the ground.

Step 1

Locate a 55-gallon plastic drum that has never contained toxic chemicals. Check with local farmers and food warehouses to see if they have any food-grade drums available for you to purchase for a small fee. You can also try local recycling and composting centers, which typically have various plastic structures that have been converted to composting bins and often are for sale.

Step 2

Stand the drum upright. Remove the top with a jigsaw, cutting carefully around the circumference to minimize ragged edges. Make the cut approximately 1 inch from the top edge of the drum. Reattach the lid to the drum with a single hinge, drilling attachment holes for the hinge in the inch of space that you left along the edge of the top. Attach a simple hasp lock to secure the lid, locating it on the opposite side of the lid from the hinge.

Step 3

Turn the drum on its side. Drill a single row of ventilation holes around the entire circumference of the drum, rolling the drum across the ground slowly as you make the holes. Use a 3/8-inch drill bit and locate the holes approximately 6 inches apart. Make sure this row of holes is about 6 inches from the top edge of the drum. Repeat this process to create eight more identical, evenly spaced rows of ventilation holes in the sides of the drum.

Step 4

Flip the drum upside down. Drill 20 to 25 3/8-inch holes in the base of the drum to provide adequate drainage. Locate the holes evenly across the bottom of the drum to allow even drainage.

Step 5

Place your compost drum upright on the ground. Fill it 3/4 full with equal amounts of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich organic waste. Dampen the compost waste with water as you add it to the drum, making the compost about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Add several handfuls of plain topsoil to the compost. Secure the lid shut with the hasp lock.

Things You'll Need

  • 55-gallon plastic drum
  • Jigsaw
  • Metal hinge set
  • Hasp lock set
  • Drill with 3/8-inch bit
  • Carbon-rich organic waste
  • Nitrogen-rich organic waste
  • Water
  • Plain topsoil


  • University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension: Structures for Backyard Composting
  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide"; Barbara Pleasant & Deborah Martin; 2008
  • "Gardener to Gardener"; Fern Marshall Bradley; 2002
Keywords: drum compost, composting drum, drum composter

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.