How to Start a Compost Bin in Your Backyard

Overview

A backyard compost bin provides homeowners and gardeners with an easy way to decrease the amount of organic waste they send to landfills. One of the keys to starting a compost bin in your backyard is constructing a simple, inexpensive bin that is easy to maintain. Welded wire provides a sturdy framework for containing waste in a non-movable compost bin that measures 3 feet by 3 feet. Look for the wire at your local livestock and ranch or garden supply center. With regular maintenance, you should be able to produce mature compost in your compost bin within six to eight months.

Step 1

Place the bin in a well-draining, sunny area of your backyard. Try to find a site that is hidden from the view of close neighbors so they won't have to look at your bin every day. Consider placing your bin next to your garden so you can transfer the mature compost to your garden soil more easily.

Step 2

Measure off a 3-foot-by-3-foot-square area of soil at your chosen composting site, using a tape measure. Mark the four corners with stones or bricks.

Step 3

Sink a steel T-post into the ground at each corner location. Use a manual post driver to pound each post 12 to 18 inches into the ground to ensure that your compost bin has a solid base.

Step 4

Lay the length of welded wire flat on the ground. Measure off a 37-inch section of the wire. Don a pair of thick work gloves and cut the horizontal wires on the length of fencing with a pair of wire cutters. Use a pair of pliers to bend the ends of the horizontal fence wires back along the fence strip so they don't jut out and leave sharp edges along the corners of your compost bin.

Step 5

Cut three more 37-inch lengths of welded wire with the wire cutters; bend back the sharp wire ends on each length of fencing with pliers. Position the first length of welded wire between two of the steel T-posts. Secure one end of the welded wire to the first T-post with four evenly spaced 6-inch lengths of 14-gauge galvanized wire. Secure the other end of the length of welded wire in the same way.

Step 6

Attach the second length of welded wire fence to the other pair of steel T-posts to create the second side of the compost bin. Place the two remaining lengths of welded wire in the two open spaces between the T-posts and secure them in place with 14-gauge galvanized wire to create a square compost bin.

Step 7

Fill the compost bin with equal amounts of dry, brown organic waste and moist, green organic waste. Dampen the waste with enough water to make it as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Allow the compost to sit for up to two weeks, then mix the waste with a manure fork once every one to two weeks. Look for signs of finished compost when the pile has decreased in size by about half; signs of mature compost include a crumbly texture and earthy smell.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never add manure from meat-eating animals, such as pigs and pets, to your backyard compost since it may contain pathogens that could infect humans.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Stones/bricks
  • Steel T-posts
  • Manual post driver
  • 13-foot length of welded wire (at least 36 inches tall)
  • Work gloves
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • 14-gauge galvanized wire
  • Dry brown organic waste
  • Wet green organic waste
  • Water
  • Manure fork

References

  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide;" Barbara Pleasant & Deborah Martin; 2008
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: The Science of Composting
  • University of Missouri Cooperative Extension: How to Build a Compost Bin
Keywords: backyard composting, backyard compost bin, easy compost bin

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.