How to Make Your Own Compost Bin

I had been eyeing composting bins for the backyard. I was excited at the thought of turning things that we might normally put into the trash into beautiful, rich soil for our garden. I was, however, not excited about the price tags that for even the simplest of composting bins.

I decided to skip out on a composting bin, even though the reasons for having one sounded so inviting.

I still wanted one, though.

Reasons to compost

• Food and yard waste can be put into the composter, rather than the landfill in a plastic bag.

• The soil is produced is rich in nutrients for your yard (it can be put right onto your grass), garden, or flower beds. It is also much cheaper to make your own compost than to go to the garden store and buy it.

• The soil is a natural fertilizer, and removes the need to use chemical ones. This is safer for the environment, and saves money.

• It’s an excellent educational opportunity for kids.

What can be composted?

Not all food and yard wastes can be put into a composting bin. Some of the organic materials to put into your composting bin include:

• Coffee grounds and filters
• Fruits and vegetable scraps
• Egg shells
• Grass clippings
• Leaves
• Nut shells
• Shredded newspapers
• Fireplace ashes

Some items you can’t put into your composting bin include:

• Meat or fish bones
• Yard trimmings that have been treated with chemicals
• Pet waste
• Diseased plants (so, if your garden’s zucchini plant has wilt set in, you won’t want to add the plant to your composting bin)

Check out the U.S. EPA’s website for a more extensive listing.

How to make your own compost bin

Frustrated that I couldn’t find a less expensive composting bin, I set out to make my own. This project ran me just a few dollars, and it was completed in less than five minutes.


Large trash can with a lid that locks on
· A simple platform of some sort (I used a wooden plant stand on wheels)
· Screws (to attach the platform to the trash can)
· A drill with a large drill bit


1. With your drill, make holes along the lid, bottom, and sides of your trash can. Our trash-can-turned-compost-bin has about 20 to 25 holes.

2. Using your drill again, attach the platform to the bottom of your bin. Don’t cover up the holes that you’ve made on the bottom of the bin. (Or, just drill a few more holes in the bottom.) This platform allows for drainage from the compost, which also saves the grass underneath.

3. Collect some of the items on the approved list, and start composting.

4. Every couple of days, go out to the yard and put your trash can on its side. Roll it around for a couple minutes. Then, sit it back up.

5. Continue adding more items from the approved list.

6. Use the rich, dark soil you created!

By summer’s end, we were able to supplement a new portion of our garden with the summer’s worth of “trash” that would have found itself in the landfill, if it hadn’t been for our small investment.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. alex

    I haven’t had much luck with composting – mine is always too wet or too dry. But I LOVE my worm farm. A little black cylindrical thing hidden behind the hibiscus has thousands of worms that eat the scraps, create worm “castings” and make worm tea to fertilise the vegies with. It’s unreal.

    • xine

      Seconded! Plus, having a worm farm in our garage gets us sooo many Cool Points with the preschool crowd.

      • pam

        are worms good for the garden

        • Dylan

          Not to use hyperbole here, pam, but worms are just about the best thing for your garden. In fact, a garden without worms would be like a body without blood. Sure, the parts are there, but there’s nothing keeping it all alive, you know?

          Worms eat rotting bits of vegetable matter and poop it out, creating a manure (usually called worm castings) that plants absolutely love. At the same time, worms burrow through the dirt, creating tiny tunnels for easy drainage, and for plant roots to use to easily find their way to nutrients. Worms are basically no-maintenance, and in fact thrive best when they’re undisturbed.

          The best way to make sure your garden has worms in it is to give it lots of love, don’t use sprays or anything chemical-based, and just let it grow! Hope this helps!

    • Liesa


  2. Mistress B

    Thanks. This has solved my problem for me!!

    Mistress B´s last blog post…Menu Plan Monday

  3. krissy knox

    This is brilliant! I have been looking for something like this for years! I was just asking somebody at Christmas time for a solution. Thanks for sharing this. It’s great!

    krissy knox 🙂
    my main blog: Sometimes I Think
    Follow me on Twitter:

  4. Nicki at Domestic Cents

    I have been thinking about composting for a while now, but wasn’t sure where to begin. I think this might be what I needed. We have about 2 feet of snow here right now, but I’m thinking I will get this going for Spring. (Does it even work to compost in the winter … because it freezes instead of decomposing?)

    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post…Anatomy Of A Thoughtful Person

    • Courtney

      You can still add to it in the winter, you just might not get any compost out since the items will freeze, but when they thaw you’ll have that much more stuff to start out going strong!

      Courtney´s last blog post…Reflections and Accountability

  5. Amy

    We have been composting for a little over a year. The county where I live gives us a discount on compost bins and this summer the garbage company allows us to put food waste into our yard waste bin. This means that meat, bones, dairy products and food soiled paper (pizza and ice cream boxes) can go into the yard waste bins. I keep two compost containers on my counter (one is a plastic coffee can) and use one for my composter and one for the yard waste. This has allowed us to use about one bag of garbage a month. We pay more for the service, but less goes to the landfill. We have great compost for our garden too.

  6. Robin Sampson

    Just found your blog- Super! I announced it on Twitter. I would love to have you guest blog o at HeartatHome Blog. Let me know.

    I just Tweeted your blog on Twitter.

    Robin Sampson´s last blog post…Creative Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

  7. Tracie

    We started composting around 6 years ago and LOVE it. Our veggies are grown with no chemicals and no fertilizers, just rich fantastic composted soil. We have a stainless steel bin that we bought from Plow and Hearth that sits on our kitchen counter to collect scraps. It has a special filter that keeps the smells from permeating our kitchen. It’s a great way to recycle too!

    Tracie´s last blog post…Fun new toy

  8. Lora

    Thanks for posting this very informative article!! My husband and I have decided to make our first garden this year and want to make a compost bin as well. Of course, I’m just about to begin researching how to do it, so this post is very timely for me:)

    Can we start now, in the wintertime?

    Lora´s last blog post…Menu Plan Monday: January 12th-18th

  9. Robin

    What perfect timing! I was just looking online at composting bins and shuddering at the price of them. I’d really like to do a square foot garden this spring (I’ve never gardened before) and I’d love to be able to add my own compost. Thank you for showing me how to make my own bin!

    Robin´s last blog post…Breakfast for Cheaters- Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal

  10. Amy Jones

    I have been composting for 9 years. This little bin shown here may work well for a small family. Our family of 9 would have it filled in a week. 🙂 I blogged about composting last March showing how I made a free, large composting bin for a large family. I actually blogged again today with an update. 🙂

    Amy Jones´s last blog post…Compost Redux: The Wormery

  11. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    @ Nicki — I would probably wait until Spring to start a bin because you’ll need for it to be able to generate some heat.

    @ Amy — Our family is five people, and this does work for us, generally. (It’s not really all that little — it is about as large an outdoor trashcan as Walmart sells.) We did have about two weeks where we had to vow to not put anything in it though during the peak of the summer, because it was too full. But, otherwise, we tend to do okay.

    Angie @ Many Little Blessings´s last blog post…Do they speak English there?

  12. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    Thank you to everyone who has enjoyed this guest post! 🙂 It was really a pleasure to guest post here at Simple Mom!

    For those wanting to compost, I hope that this inexpensive version of a composting bin will encourage you to give it a try this year!

    Angie @ Many Little Blessings´s last blog post…Do they speak English there?

    • mike


    • mike

      I love your garbage can idea. My son and I are going to make one this weekend. This is our first try at composting. thanks

  13. Briana

    We’ve been composting during this past season with our duplex neighbors, and we have a lot of product (waste!) but its been difficult to turn. I love your idea! Also, I’ve been told that putting in a lot of citrus peels isn’t so great, and that avocado skins also take waaaay too long to decompose since they are so tough and fibrous, so you might want to leave them out of the bin. Thanks for the ideas! We’ll see how our fertilizer does when spring arrives and its planting time!

    Briana´s last blog post…Monday: Blue

  14. Sarah H.

    We compost too, but currently just have a large ‘compost pile’ in the woods. It’s been 2 years in the making, so we hope that we can get some soil out of it for this summer’s garden. In the future my husband would like to build a better composting system (an actual enclosure of sorts) to speed up the process. We live in the woods, so sunlight is a little lacking on our pile! 🙂

    Sarah H.´s last blog post…Meal Plan Mondays: 1-12-09 (Debut!)

  15. Lucie @ Unconventional Origins

    As a child I lived on a farm and we composted, but I have never been able to find a way to make it work for my current apartment lifestyle. This looks like it could really work for us – I love the idea, and it’s so low cost!

    Great post!

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post…Amos and Andy Come to Dinner

  16. Mandi

    What a great post! I’ll admit I’ve been looking at the expensive composters that have a removable tray for the finished compost and a crank to turn it as it “cooks”, but I can never justify the cost, so I still don’t compost. This makes it look so easy even without a fancy composter, though, and I’m excited to give it a try!

    Mandi´s last blog post…Getting the Most Out of Your Pantry: How an Organized Pantry Saves You Money

  17. Katie

    I might sound completely dumb by asking this, but doesn’t it stink?? In MN, it’s too cold to leave anything outside at the moment … could we do something indoors? And there again — will it stink???


  18. Jennifer Clark

    I like this composting bin much better than others. I’ve wanted to compost for a while but, haven’t been able to find a bin I was happy with, even the diy versions wouldn’t fit my needs unless lots of money was spent (which then makes me wonder why do it in the first place if it won’t save me any $$$) This one will keep the dogs and kids out of it and allow for me to turn it without a messy shovel! Thanks for the great idea-I’ll have to try it as soon as the snow starts melting!

    Jennifer Clark´s last blog post…Convenience Foods Hacked

  19. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    Katie — I don’t know that I would try to compost inside. Sunlight helps it generate extra heat, and rain the falls in is also needed.

    I know that some people use worm composting in their garage, so you could try to look into that.

    As for the stink — yes, it can be a slightly unpleasant odor, but I wouldn’t even go so far as to say it “stinks.” Some of the things that are on the “no” list help save it from stinking. (If you were throwing in dairy and meat, then it probably would stink.)

    Now, as far as the unpleasant odor though, we only smell it when we actually take off the lid to add in things. I have never noticed it, even when I get close to the can, if the lid is on. As a matter of fact, it is only about five-ish feet from our screened in backporch, and even in the heat of the summer, I haven’t noticed the smell while sitting out there. (Although, I will admit that it was a bit stinky for a little while when we put the composted dirt onto a new garden plot this summer. But, not too bad.

    Angie @ Many Little Blessings´s last blog post…Do they speak English there?

    • James Williams

      Hi Angie, I love your design for the bin and for $15 that is a great price.

      Regarding Katies comments regarding inside composting… I compost indoors using the Urban Composter (see which uses an anaerobic process for fermenting scraps… it uses a spray with the active oeganisms which break down the organic matter.

      The output is a liquid nitrient fertilizer and mulch which i then add to my compost. my garden loves the liquid fertilizer which i have to dilute about 1:100 with water…

      Because its not using oxygen the container is sealed tight and only opened to add more scraps. The trick, of course, is to keep draining the liquid so it doesnt get too wet.

      I hope this helps… and i love your blog.


  20. Michelle

    We bought a really great one at Costco last summer for around $30. I can’t wait until the spring to use it in our garden!

  21. Leslie

    what do you do about composting with a bin like that in the winter?

  22. Mary

    What a great idea!

    We have been composting for years piling our leaves and vegetable parings at the back of our property which borders woods. I like your idea very much though – it would be great for intermediate use meaning I don’t have to hike as far!

    The resulting compost has been wonderful in our garden – our tomatoes last year were incredible and our garden beds keep getting better and better as we add compost to them each season.

    Mary´s last blog post…Paying down the mortgage — good idea?

  23. rachel

    Awesome idea!!! I, too have been looking for a simple composting bin that I don’t have to spend a ton of $$ on or spend a weekend building, or both. Hmm…wonder if I can find a trash can to recycle…

  24. Sara

    I have been composting for a few years. With a family of three it takes me about a year to build up a good compost for spring fertilizing. Of course we don’t put our grass clipping or leaves in it because we mulch them and leave them on the yard. But the compost is free and a great way to fertilize my flowers.

    Sara´s last blog post…Last Year’s Surprises

  25. SimplyForties

    I love this idea. Since I have a few worm bins I don’t have a lot of food waste left to compost but I may give it a try anyway. Maybe I can help free some of my friends from their terrible guilt over throwing their waste away!

    SimplyForties´s last blog post…Baked Adzuki Beans with Eggplant and Tomatoes

  26. CC

    I started composting about 18 months ago and love it. I bought a bin. I wish I knew about your simple and awesome way of doing it. I would have saved a lot of money!

    CC´s last blog post…Marvelous Children’s Book Monday: Polar Bear Night

  27. Deb

    We have been composting for years and it has become most important where we live now. The soil isn’t very rich and the compost makes all the difference in the world.
    I love the trash can idea!! Will probably use that for us soon!!

    Deb´s last blog post…CVS, Part 3 and My Last CVS Trip

  28. Frugal Dad

    What a clever idea! I am off to rig something similar, though I may try to turn it horizontal and manufacture my own “crank” mechanism. I’ll follow up if I get it to work. Thanks for inspiring us to get going with composting!

  29. monica

    Thank You, Thank You! I have been wanting to do this for so long and have not found an economical way! I can’t wait!

  30. Colleen - Mommy Always Wins

    That is awesome! I’ve been wanting to compost, too, but found it a bit too expensive. Will definitely save these instructions and try it myself…once the Wisconsin landscape thaws out a bit, that is! (Though I guess I could start this in my basement, right?)

  31. Krista

    what a great post – we’ve been thinking about purchasing an electric composter that would be inside the house or in the garage. we are a family of 3, so our trash output is minimal… but we’d like to compost and with the length of the cold season here, trekking outside to a compost bin in 3 feet of snow is not a thought we enjoy! however, this is definitely a lower cost option… who knows, maybe in the spring we’ll give it a shot!

    Krista´s last blog post…Book Review: The Moon Shines Down

  32. Rhonda

    THANK YOU!!!!
    I have been looking at compost bins too–and the price has been a lot more than I was comfortable with, but building a wire compost setup like my extension center suggested seemed like too big of an undertaking. This is a great solution–I might attach wheels of some sort to the bottom of the platform so I can haul it around the yard as needed.
    Again, thanks-I’m running to the store for a trash can this week to assemble mine!

    Rhonda´s last blog post…Additional Goal for 2009

    • Angie @ Many Little Blessings

      Rhonda — I don’t know if you noticed in my description, but the platform that I put on ours is actually a plant stand with wheels. I picked it up at Walmart for around $5, and that has been helpful for that exact reason — wheeling it to somewhere else (such as when we were cleaning out our garden for the season).

      Angie @ Many Little Blessings´s last blog post…Confessions from the Middle of Our First Year of Homeschooling

  33. simplemom

    I know it’s winter for many of you, so I’ll republish this in a few months, to get your geared up for spring!

  34. Linn

    I was just asking my mom about composting (my parents tried it for a long time when we were little) and she was discouraging me from even trying it, saying it stank, had all kinds of bugs and was generally disgusting, no matter what bin they tried. This sounds like it might work, though. I saw that you said it doesn’t stink…what about bugs? Ours would have to be in a side yard that is just feet from our neighbors’ side yard (where they keep their trash, they don’t play right there) so I want to make sure I’m being neighborly! Also, I see that diseased leaves are a no, but what about weeds?

    Linn´s last blog post…Finding Jesus in the Kidney Stones

    • Angie @ Many Little Blessings

      Yeah, there are lots of flies, etc. that are inside the bin, especially during the extreme heat of the summer. But, I just toss stuff in, shut the lid, and then it’s all good. They want to stay inside with all the food, etc. 😉

      For what it’s worth — my Mom also said, “Why would you do that?” when I said we wanted to start composting. But, then again, she hadn’t tried it before, like your parents had.

      Seriously — I haven’t noticed the smell. Only when I am right there with the lid off putting in things. Even in the summer heat, I didn’t notice smells right next to it. Ours is (you can probably tell) right next to our fence and our neighbor’s fence. They have never said anything about it. (But, they compost as well.)

      If you have $15 to spend, you could always try it and if it just doesn’t work for you at all, you’ll only be out a bit of money.

      Angie @ Many Little Blessings´s last blog post…Keeping Track of Stats for Your Etsy Shop (WFMW #63)

  35. CarrieK

    Don’t put weeds in!!! I’ve been composting for almost a year. Mostly I’m scared to look in my bin 🙂 but every time I do, I am pleasantly surprised. I collect kitchen scraps in a bucket on my counter; it does get slightly smelly if I don’t take it out often enough. I made a similar compost bin, mine has the bottom cut out completely. To “turn” it, I lift the can up, everything falls out the bottom and then I shovel it back in. Messier than your version but it costs about the same and it works. I have two in rotation. My bins don’t smell but there are lots of great bugs and worms doing their business. Folks who don’t want to get into composting should look into lasagna gardening. I find it to be too wet for me in the Pacific Northwest, but I know people who do it and love it. It’s ideal for warmer climates.

    CarrieK´s last blog post…Demarle

  36. Shari

    I love my compost. It’s the best thing for my garden. We also shred our leaves and use them for mulch throughout the year. I cringe when I see people throw away leaves.

  37. Ann Duncan

    Thank you!!! I’d just decided on this sort of composting and am tickled to understand it better thru your post. We’re gathering materials for Square Foot Gardening, can’t wait! And since we’re in central California, we can go ahead and start composting now 🙂

    Curious – what size is your garbage bin?


  38. Heather

    I was so excited to read about this. This was so easy, I put it together this afternoon. I’ll probably start putting stuff in it now, but I’m sure it won’t do much until March, when it starts consistently warming up here. I’m so excited that I will have free compost to use next year!

  39. Funny about Money

    How amazing! I made one just like this for my son about two years ago. He says it works fine.

    After a bug man destroyed my wonderful rolling compost bin by spraying what turned out NOT to be an infestation of “killer bees” (gimme a break), I need to start over. Right now I have a small amount of compost in a big plastic plant pot, with a big plastic pot saucer laid over the top as a lid. To turn it, I just flip the whole arrangement over. Not big enough though….

    Funny about Money´s last blog post…The perqs of pinching pennies

  40. Deoxy

    So, when you want to use your compost, do you need to stop adding new stuff for a while? Wouldn’t you need two compost bins?

  41. Lorna

    Yes, it’s good to have two bins. If you have a small family, two smaller bins are better than one large. Some people just throw their compostables in the trash for a while until the bin has “cooked” and is ready to use (this kind of defeats the purpose!) while others will simply use the compost with food scraps still mixed in (this is not a problem as it will decompose in the garden too). I prefer to switch off between two bins (I also LOVE vermicomposting–I even had a bin under my bed in college. . . seriously. And it did NOT stink since I was careful about the contents and balance of scraps I put in). As for composting in the winter in Northern states–I grew up in MN and we would continue to add scraps to one bin throughout the winter and then switch to the other when spring arrived and let the winter bin thaw and cook. Do make sure you have good drainage in the winter bin as there will be a lot of excess moisture! It’s nice to see so many people into composting!

  42. Wendy

    Count another vote for the worm farm! We’ve done it for years. If anybody has any questions about them I am glad to help answer them. (Because I think every household should have a worm bin. They’re easy, kids love it and if you do it right, it doesn’t smell! Oh yah, and the compost it produces is insanely expensive if you were to buy it at the home and garden store.)

    Wendy´s last blog post…The Night Sky

  43. Elizabeth

    I also made a compost bin out of an old plastic garbage can. This was one we had that we were not currently using. We had bought it before the city passed out official ones.

    I’m always a little concerned about using grass clippings in compost, though my dear hubby did put some in at one time. We use a pre-emergent weed killer on our lawn, and I’m not sure if the chemicals break down sufficiently to be used in compost for our veggie garden.

    • Ann Duncan

      From what info I’ve gathered so far, you definitely would NOT want to use grass clippings after using weed killer on the grass.


  44. Deirdre

    We’ve been gardening for 10 years, without composting. Hopefully this will be the year we begin. I love your simple idea but here’s my question: how do you get the good stuff out? How long does it take to turn your waste into rich compost? And how do you get it out when you are adding new stuff to the top all the time…you know, that isn’t decomposed yet? I’m trying to figure it out before I begin.

    Deirdre´s last blog post…Karen, Shriners, and a request

    • Ann Duncan

      What some people do is keep 2 garbage bins going, one to fill and turn daily until fully composted, the other to keep adding scraps, etc, (and to turn daily) until the first bin is ready for another ‘filling up’.

      I’m in the process, so I can’t say how long it takes yet. But my ingredients ARE turning into compost! And since there is sufficient air (lots of holes plus daily turning) there is no odor, only a pleasant outdoorsy smell, like freshly turned dirt 🙂

      We got great tips on composting from Mel Bartholmew’s The All New Square Foot Gardening book and website He keeps it simple and easy. You can have compost within the month if you combine the proper ingredients and turn daily.

      I invite you to the Gardening Moms group at where we swap info and ask each other questions about all this cool stuff.


  45. Mary

    We have composted for years tossing our veggie scraps in a 3 sided bin my husband constructed out of chicken wire.

    At first glance, I loved your idea. It is so clever and way less expensive as you pointed out. I almost went out to buy the plastic trash can. But I’m wondering if there should be concerns about the plastic chemicals leaching out into the compost (and then being used in our vegetable gardens?) I just canceled our bottled water delivery due to the same concerns so I guess I have that on the brain.

  46. Renae

    The garden guy at Home Depot gave me some advice on starting my compost pile when I was looking for a $75 compost bin. He discouraged me from buying anything and told me how to make it in the ground itselft. I have a 3ftx3ft area at the edge of the garden that I shoveled out a foot or so. Add a small amt of the following: grass clippings, brown leaves, kitchen leftovers (no meat, protien, dairy or oil), 1 cup Miracle Grow powder, 1 can soda with sugar, 1 cup Dawn soap, 2 gallons of water and mix with a pitch fork every few days. Add water and more kitchen waste and watch it heat up. Keep it away from anything that can catch fire. It can get so hot that a fire starts. The soil is rich and I no longer waste money on soil products in the spring.

  47. Anna

    I love the trash can idea! Do you add water to it, or does it collect enough rain water on it’s own? Also, we will be leaving for the summer in about a month. As soon as we get back I hope to put in a fall garden. Is it okay to leave the compost for a few months? Thanks!

    Anna´s last blog post…No Procrastination: "Green Edition"

    • Ann Duncan

      You’d want to keep it just moist, not wet. I am spraying mine with a mister when it gets too dry, if I haven’t added enough moist ingredients to it. The compost should be fine to leave for a few months, just would take longer to compost, without you there to turn it.


  48. Lori Felix

    I too did not want to spend $100 to recycle garbage. Great idea that I will try this weekend. I have a companion story on my site, starting an edible garden for $10.00 -Burpee seeds has a great package with their most popular items. All my best, Lori at

    Lori Felix´s last blog post… -online newspaper

  49. ~tkm

    i’d say mine was closer to $40, but still a really good deal!!

    • Ann Duncan

      Mine was $14.99 plus another $4.99 for the rolling plant stand we bolted it to. It took more than 5 minutes to drill the holes and afix the garbage bin to the wooden plant stand, more like 50 minutes. We’re slow, ha!


    • Angie @ Many Little Blessings

      Wow! Sorry to hear that it cost you so much more than I was able to put it together for. But, maybe you have a nicer garbage can than I picked up.

  50. Hope

    I have been trying to make life better by recycling everything I can. I really wanted to start my own compost, but too did not like the price. I am so glad you posted this easy way of making my own compost bin. My husband will like it even better, not just because of the price, but because of the ease of making it. Thanks!

  51. Stephanie

    You may want to check your local county’s website and see what they are doing for the green movement. Many state’s are requiring county’s to reduce their trash impact so you can get a discounted rate on compost bins. The most user friendly compost bin is by smith and hawken and San Diego Co offers this to their residents for $20. I live in LA county and they give a perfectly good compost bin for FREE. So it’s worth checking out. If your county doesn’t offer something like this, then it’s time for you to start educating your county on other counties programs. It’s starts with regular people asking for programs like this to get it started.
    My family composts and it has been an awesome experience for us and our plants. Compost works wonders!

    • Angie @ Many Little Blessings

      I totally agee, Stephanie! When I was researching composting bins (before we made the one that is pictured), I found that quite a lot of people got free or very inexpensive (but good quality) composting bins from their city/county. I was bummed that ours didn’t, but I do continue to check from time to time, just in case.

  52. Jenn Voight

    This is great! I, too, was very put off by the idea of spending lots of money on a composter. Last year I just tossed the compost in an open pile because I figured that was better than not composting at all. Of course the matter didn’t break down properly, leaving various seeds still able to germinate in the the compost. When I spread it on the garden this spring, I accidentally planted an extra crop of gourds and tomatos. But I will try this! Thanks!

  53. Cardamom

    This is great! I have a plastic 55-gallon barrel that I plan to put on its side, on a frame big enough to hold a wheelbarrow… But this might get me in business faster. I want to pre-shred my stuff with a lawn-mower (the dry stuff) and a blender (my kitchen scraps) so it will break down faster. Thanks!
    .-= Cardamom´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: CowBOY! =-.

  54. terry bennett

    Hi-I have just started taking my gardening seriously,bearing in mind the rising cost of food. I am using my multi purpose compost in the greenhouse growing vegs. I want to use the compost two or three more times. I am sterilizing the compost in an oven-(dont tell the wife) at 80 degrees for 30 mins.I have some sun dried seaweed chopped in a liquidiser, some chicken manure pellets and some Vitax Q4 both turned into powder.—Is there some clever person out there who can tell me a mix with this stuff and possibly some other items. The exact amounts would be helpful also. Please help, I will be eternally grateful for any suggestions-Terry

  55. Shelley

    Brilliant! How didn’t I ever think of this? Thank you SO much for sharing- I can’t wait to tell my DH when he comes home that he won’t have to be stacking concrete blocks up!
    .-= Shelley´s last blog ..Grilled Vegetable Panzanella (bread salad) recipe =-.

  56. Christina

    Here’s a tip that I found works really well for collecting kitchen scraps: the prices of some of the “collection containers” from places like Plow and Hearth and the like floored me. So I thought I’d try something else….I was considering using plastic containers (think Tupperware), but the fact that the lids aren’t always reliable made me hesitate. So I bought a plastic container with a lid that locks on all four sides (Lock-n-Locks). It’s clear so I can see how full it is, has a seal in the lid that locks out odors, and the lid locks so I don’t have to worry about one of the kids dumping it by accident. We just keep it under the sink…when it’s full, we trek outside, dump the contents in the composter, throw the plastic container in the dishwasher and voila! No problems with smell in my house! And I only spent about $5.

  57. stacy

    I am a bit confused about why I need the plant stand underneath. If my garbage can has wheels, is that good enough? I assume I should still drill holes in the bottom?

  58. Ann Duncan

    Stacy, I’m thinking that your garbage can wheels could suffice, if they are providing enough airflow underneath. Mine did not.


  59. Kari

    Hi, I just found your site while looking for information on composting. I am starting a compost bin, but I started mine in a really small trash can, about 9 gallons and took a screwdriver and punched some holes in it. I’ve put a bunch of food waste (egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels, etc) and some organic garden soil that I purchased for my garden. After reading some things on composting, it sounds like my little trash can is too small. Will it heat up and compost in a can that small or do I need to get a 30 gallon one?

  60. Deni

    this is so simple! I’ve been looking for a cheap way to make a tumbler ($100+ just seems ridicules) and I can’t believe I had spent months searching for a plastic barrel when the garbage can was staring me in the face. Thank you.

  61. Bill Brikiatis

    I’ve been worm composting off and on for about three years now and, although I’ve had some success, I have gotten as much compost as I had hoped. My bin recently had a “melt down” because I had over fed the worms. It’s doing better now. One of the big lessons that it’s better to under feed than to over feed.

  62. Muniyrah

    Thanks for the great information and instructions.

  63. Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions

    I am SO happy that I found this post! I have been searching for a way to start composting, but I am on a limited budget and have limited space! This is perfect for me. Do you ever notice any stink from the bin? That’s the only thing I’m worried about is having it smell. I live in a townhome and our backyards are only 10ft by 15ft, so pretty tiny and I live right next door to the HOA president. I know I have read that if you compost correctly, you shouldn’t have a lot of funky smells. Also, do you use two bins? I’ve been reading that you should have two of whatever you do in order to let one rest. Thanks again!!! 🙂

  64. naomi

    Bookmarked this AGES ago, but am going to start ours and then subsequently blog about it … will link you up!

    (We live in India, so hoping that the tremendous heat won’t be too much of a smell-factor …)

  65. Alison

    Absolutely Brilliant. Thanks for sharing

  66. Amy @ Cheeky Cocoa Beans

    Wonderful idea! I’ll try this when we have some extra money to spend on a trash can like that. In the meantime, I have to be content with trench composting–*much* slower, but I used this summer to get a jump on a bigger garden area for next year by digging up what looked like a burial plot (just not as deep!) and I have been gradually filling it in as I have compost material to bury. Next spring, I’ll have loose soil and compost ready to be used in our garden. Hopefully I’ll be inspired enough to get some more digging done before the winter, so I can continue composting in this manner for several more months.

  67. Pat

    About 35 (or more) years ago, in Southern California, I knew an elderly woman who was wonderful with flowers and vegetable gardens. She used to put her coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels, grass clippings, etc. into the big black (brown, green?) trash bags and tie it up tight and set it out behind the garage in the hot sun. She left it for “quite some time” and when she opened it up to show me her “new soil”- it was amazing…the most beautiful, clean, fresh smelling, delightful, fluffy dirt I’d ever seen. She did call it her “Black Gold”. All these years I’ve wanted to try it but was afraid I’d put the wrong things in or wouldn’t know how long to leave it…or would not have enough nice hot sun like we did in So Cal. Now, can you please tell me the difference between putting it in a tightly closed heavy plastic bag in the sun, and putting it in a container with holes in it and turning it often??? I’m positive she said she just tied up a bagfull and took it out back and left it. (Not sure how long.) Thank you so much for all your info!

  68. Daniela

    This sounds like a great alternative to the expensive bins I’ve found! My only question is the lack of sunlight. I’ve read that good compositing needs both airflow and sunlight…any feedback on that?

  69. Deb

    Hubby and son just made me a composting system. I’m using metal garbage cans from a previous composting attempt that had 1/2″ holes made in the sides and bottom. Put 2 steel posts in the ground about 4 ft. apart and put holes big enough to run a metal pipe thru and wire the pipe to the posts. Then coat hangers on the side handles and a piece of furring stip, 1″x2″, through the handle on the lids and the hanger handles and you have a lid that won’t fall off. I leave mine upside down as there are holes and if it rains water goes in. I turn them daily. They aren’t black but I believe the metal will get pretty hot in summer sun and will do the job. I am doing 2 at once as I don’t have any other bins. when they get done I will use one I’m sure and start another one, then use the second one. Used materials we had and no money involved at this time. May add black plastic cans to the one side by putting up another steel post and another pipe. Can’t wait to use it.

  70. Julia

    Is there any possibility of leaching BPA or other unwanted plastic byproducts from a plastic trash can used for composting into the end product of veggies at the dinner table?

  71. Sandy

    Thank you so much for this great post! I have been wanting to compost, but don’t have room for a huge wooden bin and I am a bit non-committal regarding the composting location. I love that this is cheap, easy and I can move it around. I can’t seem to find the exact trash can you have, but hopefully I can find something equivalent. Thanks and God bless!

    • Angie @ Many Little Blessings

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it being the exact same trash can. It is nice that it “locks,” but that isn’t even necessary.

      Good luck with starting your composting! 🙂

  72. Jacqueline Snell

    Yes I too cannot find a trash can that locks. I am going to try using bungee cords to keep it in place and roll it around.

  73. Lean Green Healthy Machine

    This is a great article! Composting makes sense on many levels- it’s sustainable, economical, and nutritious! Thanks for sharing how to compost in a cheap and easy manner.

  74. ap preschool

    Do i put dirt in my compost when i start my bin?

  75. Diane

    Thank you, simple mom. Most useful instructions I found on the web!

  76. Peter

    It might help to put some baffles inside to lift the compost when you roll it sort of like the ones in your washer or dryer. Anything made of plastic should do it.

  77. amy

    I want to start composting as well. I am torn between just a pile on the ground vs a container. If I use a container, I do not want plastic unless it’s recycled and for sure BPA free. It really doesn’t serve it’s purpose without either of these if I am going to go all out ‘tree hugging’ as my Hubby calls it. We use way too much plastic in our society and contributing to that would be selfish. Also, having a plastic sit in the sun and ceap BPA in to my compost to put on my garden just defeats the purpose of keeping my family safe from a toxin that totally disrupts our hormones. I love the idea of the pile compost because the worms are so beneficial to the soil. I will have to battle the hubby on that one as well. he will not appreciate the mess in the small yard we have.

  78. Stephan

    This is really a great site with really good comments! Below you will find free building instructions for a 3 tier worm farm. It is fully functional and I have used them for years.

    Homemade worm compost bin
    Building a homemade worm compost bin is not a difficult task.

    On this page you will learn how to build a 3 tier worm composting bin!
    Follow the guide below and build your homemade worm compost bin today!
    To get started you will need the following tools and accessories:
    •Power drill
    • Hole saw set
    • Drill bit 6 mm / 0.23 inches
    • Jigsaw or strong scissors (optional)
    • 3 stack-able plastic bins of the same size
    • 1 lid or / plastic sheet
    • 1 tap or cork

    •Start with the 2 bins that will house the worms.

    Drill plenty of holes of about 6mm / 0.23 inch into the bottom of two bins.
    The holes should be about 5 cm / 1.96 inches apart from each other.
    These holes are important to prevent the worm bin from becoming flooded.
    The worms need oxygen to survive and could drown!

    •Next drill a hole for your tap into the front side of the 3 rd
    If you can’t get hold of a tap use a cork of a wine bottle instead.
    Make sure the hole saw bit or drill bit you use will be just a tiny bit bigger than the diameter of your tap that you want to attach to the bin.
    Drill the hole for the tap as low on the wall of the worm bin as you can, but leave enough space so you can fasten the nut of the tap inside the bin to ensure a tight fit.

    •Next attach the tap to the bottom bin.

    Now you will need a lid for your worm farm. If your bins came with a fitting lid that’s great. If not you’ll have to make one yourself.
    Get a plastic sheet that is the same size as the surface of your bins or slightly bigger.
    The sheet should be 3 to 5mm / 0.11 to 0.19 inches thick.

    Place one of the bins upside down on top of the plastic sheet Mark the lid with a pen or pencil to show the edges of the bin.
    Saw the marked edges of with a jigsaw or cut them off with a strong pair of scissors.

    •Assemble the bin and you are ready to start your worm composting project!
    Most worm bins will stand outside. If you want to use
    your worm bin outdoors place a small flower pot on top of the lid to keep it in place in case of wind! Your worm farm should not stand in full sun as this might cause a serious problem for your worms on a very hot day.

    Good places to place your worm bin are in shaded areas. Under a tree, in the garage or in a shed in the backyard.

    If you want to see the free building instructions with helpful pictures follow the attached link at the bottom oft he page.

    Good luck and happy worming!

  79. Jenifer

    This is so great! I’m so excited to make my own compost bins now! I was sweating out how to afford the bins that I was finding. This one, I can definitely afford, and it will basically look just like everyone else’s trash can (usually kept right next to the patio outside our doors!

  80. Waste clearance london

    These type of trash cans are best for gardens and open areas as air can pass through them

  81. Misha

    Yes, def pro composting, but these plastic bins with holes get water in them and become a stinky watery mess. Just dig a shallow hole away from your home and dump your veggie skins and other compstable items there. Every now and then turn the pile for air flow to speed up the biodegrating process. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice pile of home made dirt! And save tons on garbage bags!

  82. ron

    very simple, and easy, good job. but if you had not bolted the base on, and secured the top, you could roll it around on the ground for aeration, and quicken your yield

  83. ron

    sorry, I missed part of the post about your rolling it around, my bad!

  84. Brittany suell

    So if you are constantly adding, how does it have time to compost into soil? Did you add to it for the entire summer, then use it in the fall?

  85. Sarah Coff


    I’ve been reading your blog and thought you would be interested in learning about a company that has a new take on composting.

    TerraCycle, an international repurposing and upcycling company, specializes in finding innovative solutions to typically non-recyclable waste. The Organics Zero Box offers a simple way to compost excess food such as meat scraps and vegetables.

    I have a press release I can send you and would be happy to provide you with further information, interview opportunities and high resolution photos. You can also reach me at (609)393-4252 ex 3704.

    Please consider sharing our Organics Zero Waste Box on The Art of Simple! I think your readers would be interested to see such an effective take on composting.

  86. Andy

    Do not put egg shells into compost. We’ve been doing this for the last 15 years and the egg shells do not rot away. You end up with lots of annoying sharp pieces of egg shell in your compost.

  87. Katherine Jackson

    Thank you for this post! It’s very helpful for me, because I was considering to buy a compost bin, but making it by myself seems a good idea too. Thanks for the information and the ideas!

  88. Robert

    Great article! I’ve always found that composting was a little time consuming, maybe I’m just not patient enough. I know my garden could use something like this though, maybe I’ll give it a shot 🙂

  89. nico morris

    Hi THANKS for this awesome gift to the Planet,HOWEVER please do not perpetuate urban myths ,in a good correctly made compost system you can compost ANYTHING that ever grew form a plant or animal.

    if you want a rule please tell people not to use PERLITE in their gardens or hydroponic systems (or vermiculite) they KILL WORMS and are harmful to the lungs of humans especially children we love to help us potting in the greenhouse on a hot dusty day. red lave is an excellent substitute .
    ( I am a professional worm composter,and teacher since 1970,made many many yards of compost from urban waste,U.C.DAVIS confirms my findings concerning worm diet,the entire city of S.F. and Berkley compost all food-waste. they would not do that if there was some problem with it.when you prevent people composting meat and dairy ,you send them to stink and make methane in landfill,and that defeats the entire environmental purpose of composting, Ignorance.

  90. Andrita Cos gunoi inox

    We start looking in our local store for composters from plastic, and finally we create our own from wooden parts. Composting unit is placed in our backyard, near kitcken, so all our organic material is recycle. Our children help us and they enjoyed.

  91. Ruby

    I love composting!!! I do it everyday. 10/10 would recommend.

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.