Building a Compost Barrel


Building a compost barrel--a bin with a tight-fitting lid filled with household waste that decomposes to form compost--is a simple procedure that is economical and beneficial for homeowners who have lawns. Compost, also called black gold, is an organic amendment that enriches the quality of the soil and packs it with essential nutrients that ensure a healthy and bountiful crop. Home composting serves a dual purpose--cuts down expenses on commercial compost and reduces household waste that ends up in landfills until broken down.

Step 1

Measure the length and width of a 20- to 35-gallon heavyweight plastic barrel and note the dimensions down.

Step 2

Lay bricks, blocks or rocks in a rectangle over a shaded spot in your backyard that has well-drained soil. Keep it as long and wide as the dimensions of the barrel, so the barrel does not roll over the yard when you lay it down after filling it with waste.

Step 3

Stand the plastic barrel up on its base. Use a drill to drill 1/2-inch holes over the body of the barrel, spaced 5 to 6 inches apart. Lay the barrel on its side and drill holes over its base and lid as well. These drainage holes allow oxygen and bugs to enter that assist in decomposing container waste, and provide an outlet for excess water, reducing the unpleasant odor.

Step 4

Wear gloves and fill two plastic buckets with "green" and "brown" waste from the kitchen and yard. Pile green waste, such as food scraps, vegetable peels, softwood plants and grass clippings, in one, and browns such as paper bags, twigs, wood chips, coffee filters and stems in the other.

Step 5

Fill the barrel with layers of green and brown waste. Alternate each layer and keep it up to 2 inches thick. Chop up or shred any waste thicker than 2 inches into tiny sections so it decomposes quickly. Continue adding waste until 6 to 7 inches below the rim of the barrel.

Step 6

Mist the contents of the barrel with a light spray from a garden hose. Do not soak the contents. Replace the lid back on firmly and tamp it down so it stays in place. Wrap bungee cord lengthwise, from its lid to the base, so it does not come loose when you roll it.

Step 7

Tilt the barrel carefully until it lies over the ground on its side. Push it so it rolls in a straight line in your yard for five rotations, mixing the contents completely. Roll it back to the rectangular blocks. Lift the blocks in front, push the barrel in and replace the blocks over the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never allow the contents to dry. Mist frequently with a garden hose.

Things You'll Need

  • 20- to 35-gallon plastic barrel
  • Blocks
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Gloves
  • 2 plastic buckets
  • Household waste
  • Garden hose
  • Bungee cord


  • Vegweb: Introduction to Composting
  • Home Composting: How to Make Compost
  • How to Compost: General Information

Who Can Help

  • EarthEasy: Composting
Keywords: home composting, homemade compost, compost bin

About this Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written hundreds of thousands of words for various online and print sources. She has an MBA in Marketing but her passion lies in giving her words wings.