How to Make a Turnable Composter


Many gardeners, homeowners and green-living enthusiasts desiring nutrient-dense compost for their garden soil opt to create their own compost using compost bins. Although you can construct various types of stationary composters, a turnable composter provides a convenient enclosed compost container that promotes compost aeration. Deborah Martin, coauthor of "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide," suggests that you utilize a cylindrical plastic trash can to create your turnable composter. Unlike many rotating composters that require a raised support system, this turnable composter needs only to be turned on its side and pushed across the ground periodically to aerate the organic waste inside the bin.

Step 1

Flip the plastic trash can upside-down on a flat, bare location, such as a porch, deck or patch of packed dirt. Create 12 to 15 evenly spaced holes in the bottom of the trash can using a drill with a 3/8-inch bit. The holes play an essential role in the composting process by allowing excess water and other liquid to drain from the compost can instead of accumulating in the container and leading to smelly anaerobic decomposition.

Step 2

Drill 20 to 30 evenly spaced holes in the sides of the trash can with the 3/8-inch drill bit to provide adequate ventilation for the compost waste. These holes promote quicker composting by allowing plenty of air to enter the compost container when it's at rest and when you turn it on the ground.

Step 3

Reposition the compost container in an upright position. Fill the compost container with equal amounts of dry, carbon-rich waste (like dead leaves, straw and sawdust) and moist, nitrogen-rich waste (like fresh grass clippings, cow manure and fruit scraps). Dampen the compost waste with a trickle of water from a garden hose, adding enough liquid to allow the organic waste to be about the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.

Step 4

Place the cover on top of the trash can, securing it in place with a piece of twine or an elastic bungee cord, if necessary. Turn the trash can on its side and roll it three to five complete rotations across the bare ground to aerate the organic waste and distribute the moisture evenly throughout the compost.

Step 5

Store the compost-filled trash can upright in an out-of-the-way location. Repeat the turning process once every two to four weeks to produce finished compost in your turnable composter within approximately four months.

Things You'll Need

  • Cylindrical plastic trash can with lid
  • Drill with 3/8-inch bit
  • Carbon-rich organic waste
  • Nitrogen-rich organic waste
  • Garden hose
  • Twine/elastic bungee cord


  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide"; Deborah Martin & Barbara Pleasant; 2008
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: The Science of Composting
Keywords: turnable composter, trash can compost, easy compost container

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.