Many styles of compost bins are readily available for purchase, or you can make one yourself. Key considerations include ease of loading and unloading the compost, durability and cost.
For an inexpensive bin you can make in just a few minutes, use hardware cloth. A ten-foot length makes a three-foot diameter bin. For a large bin that is six feet across, use a nineteen-foot length. Make a round hoop by tying the ends together with wire or clips. The cost is ten to twenty dollars. Some gardeners have tried to use chicken wire for a similar type rounded bin, but chicken wire requires a lot of poles to keep it upright.
You can make compost bins from four fence posts or a wood frame structure with wood or fencing materials around the sides. For rapid decomposition, try a three-bin structure. Use the first bin to collect fresh materials. In a few weeks, transfer the materials to the second bin for processing, then to the third bin for a final turn. With such frequent turning, your compost could be ready to use in as little as six to nine weeks.
Compost materials should determine the ideal size of your compost bin. If you're composting coarse-textured materials like fall leaves, clippings from garden vines, or annuals and perennials, use a large bin that is five to six feet across. The large pile heats rapidly, generates enough heat to process through the winter, and reduces processing time.
However, if the materials you use are fine in texture, like kitchen scraps or fine grass clippings, use a bin that is three feet by three feet. Fine-textured materials pack easily and, if oxygen infiltration is inadequate, the pile will stink. Bins smaller than three feet across don't heat adequately.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).
Do you have a question? Try Ask an Expert!
Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014