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How to Compost in a 5-Gallon Bucket

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017

Compost is decomposed organic matter that is considered black gold to gardeners. The compost is used as a natural fertilizer to increase the soil nutrient value once the decomposition process is completed. Using a 5-gallon bucket for composting is a low-cost and easy home composting method for a backyard gardener. The bucket method of composting will provide decomposed material in approximately two to three months.

Purchase or obtain a 5-gallon bucket with a cover and handle. Wash the bucket thoroughly with soap and water to remove any residue.

Attach the quarter-inch drill bit to your drill, and drill holes around the bottom edge of the bucket for liquid drainage. Drill additional holes randomly around the sides of the bucket for air circulation.

Fill the bucket with organic material, starting with a thin layer of broken twigs on the bottom. Fill the bucket with alternating layers of brown and green material in even quantities. Too much green material will cause the compost to smell strong.

Add a thin layer of garden soil over every other layer to introduce microorganisms to the compost. Lightly water the soil to moisten it without making it wet.

Place the bucket with lid attached in a sunny location that has partial shade in the afternoon. The bucket contents need to warm up without getting too hot. This will initiate decomposition.

Check the moisture periodically to make sure the contents do not dry out. Add a small amount of water to moisten if the contents appear dry.

Roll the bucket periodically to mix the contents. This will increase air circulation and assist with decomposition.


Things You Will Need

  • 5-gallon bucket with cover
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Drill
  • ΒΌ-inch drill bit
  • Organic material
  • Garden soil


  • Brown compost consists of dry leaves, wood shavings and straw. Green compost consists of grass clippings and vegetable and garden waste.
  • Do not add meat or products that include fat to the compost bin.
  • Obtain 5-gallon buckets from food suppliers or paint stores. Make sure the bucket has a latching cover.

About the Author


Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.