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How to Compost in a Barrel

By Alicia Bodine ; Updated September 21, 2017
Composting can be done in a barrel.
barrel image by Andrew Kazmierski from Fotolia.com

Composting is preferred by avid gardeners as a way to introduce extra nutrients into the soil. It is also good for the environment because you are using items, such as kitchen scraps or grass clippings, that would otherwise be thrown away. There are several ways you can go about composting, but perhaps one of the easier methods is to compost in a barrel. Using a barrel is also more pleasing to the eye than having an open compost bin in the backyard.

Clean your barrel if it is not already clean. A garden hose, soft-bristle brush and mild dish detergent are all you need. You can then let the barrel air-dry.

Drill holes in your barrel to allow for air circulation. The holes need to be about the size of a dime. The University of Minnesota recommends six rows of holes going around the body of the barrel.

Set your barrel up on a wooden platform in a location that receives direct sunlight. The sun will heat up the contents in the barrel, helping them to decompose at a faster rate.

Fill your compost barrel with organic material. This can include grass clippings, oak leaves, kitchen scraps, shredded newspaper, dryer lint, cow manure, horse manure and hay.

Add water to the compost barrel until it become moist, but not soaking wet.

Take your compost barrel off the wooden platform every three to five days and roll it around. This adds oxygen and encourages decomposition. Repeat this process for four months, and then your compost will be ready to use.


Things You Will Need

  • 55-gallon barrel with lid
  • Garden hose
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Mild dish detergent
  • Drill
  • Wooden platform


  • You can loosen the lid to the compost barrel on the days you are not rolling it. This allows more air to get in the barrel.


  • The EPA lists dairy products, meat, fish bones, chemically treated yard material, coal, and pet wastes as items that should not be composted.

About the Author


Alicia Bodine has been a professional writer for 13 years. She has produced thousands of articles for online publications such as Demand Studios, GoBankingRates and WiseGeek. Bodine is passionate about gardening, travel, education and finance. She has received awards for being a top content producer.