How to Make Your Own Composter 5 Gallon Drum


Composting is the process of recycling kitchen and yard scrap to create compost--a sweet-smelling, dark organic matter packed with essential nutrients and conditioners for the soil. Although compost is easily available in garden supply centers and nurseries, homemade compost reuses household scrap, which would otherwise take unnecessary space in landfills. You do not need anything fancy to begin home composting--a 5-gallon drum or barrel and a few simple tools will suffice.

Step 1

Purchase a 5-gallon-weight plastic drum or barrel with a tight-fitting lid from your local home store. Measure its length and width, and write these measurements down.

Step 2

Select a shaded area in your backyard or garden that has well-drained soil. It should be at a close distance from your house so you can easily fill it with household waste even in extreme temperatures. Use the measurements on paper to demarcate a rectangle on the ground with powdered chalk. Place a row of bricks or cinder blocks over the demarcated rectangle. This will "house" the drum when you are not rolling it across your yard.

Step 3

Measure and mark a rectangular opening on a side of the body of the drum through which a standard sized shovel can easily enter. Cut over the marks with a handsaw, and keep the cut-out piece aside. Waste will be piled into the drum through this opening.

Step 4

Place two hinges on the same side of the cutout piece, one near the top and the other near the bottom. Drill them in place with screws. Replace the cutout piece over the opening and extend the hinges over the body of the drum. Secure them in place with screws.

Step 5

Place a hasp closure in the center of the side opposite the pair of hinges and screw it in place. Pass an 8- to 10-inch leather cord through it and make a knot.

Step 6

Drill ½-inch holes over the body of the drum, including the lid and base, spaced 4 to 6 inches apart. These holes will aerate the contents of the drum and drain excess water out.

Step 7

Fill the drum with alternating layers of 'green' and 'brown' waste. Greens include left and grass clippings, food scrap and fruit and vegetable peels, while browns include shredded brown paper bags and cardboard, wood and branches and coffee filters. Wet the contents of the drum until they are evenly moist. If you wet them too much, add wood chips so they absorb excess water.

Step 8

Lay the drum flat on its side in its demarcated rectangle. Turn it twice or thrice a week so the contents mix thoroughly, speeding up the decomposition process. To do this, simply remove the front row of bricks and push the drum so its rolls across the yard for four to five complete rotations. Roll it back and replace the bricks.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon drum
  • Measuring tape
  • Notepad
  • Powdered chalk
  • Bricks or cinder blocks
  • Handsaw
  • 2 hinges
  • Drilling machine
  • Screws
  • Hasp closure
  • Leather cord, 8 to 10 inches
  • Household waste
  • Shovel
  • Garden hose


  • How to Make Compost
  • Compost, Manure & Fertilizer
  • How to Build a Compost Bin
Keywords: home composting, composter drum, 5 gallon composter drum

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.