How to make a cheap compost bin

Making a cheap compost bin really is easy. A compost bin is simply a structure built to hold the heap of composting kitchen and garden waste together in a pile. This keeps the heat created during composting inside the pile and speeds up the process.


made using car tyres
made using car tyres
Compost bin made using bales
Made using bales
How to make a cheap compost bin from timber
guide to make a compost bin from wood

Materials can include; 

Wooden pallets,

Used car tyres,
Straw and hay bales, 
Reclaimed paving,

Breeze blocks,


In fact, almost anything.

This article explains how to make a cheap compost bin, and the materials to use.

A compost bin can be made out of almost any material

Yes, almost any material can be used to build a compost bin, providing;

  • The bin is set directly on soil to allow garden worms and other beneficial insects up into the bin. (They do an important job in the composting process).
  • The compost bin is large enough to allow you to easily get to the compost with a fork to aerate the composting waste (turn it over to let oxygen in), and later to be able to shovel out the compost.

A couple of points to bear in mind when choosing the material you are going to use.


  1. Straw bales won't require any fixing tools or nails, Etc. However, will compost themselves and fall apart after a couple of years. You can then mix the straw or hay into the compost, and start all over again. 
  2. Timber will rot over time. Whereas plastics, concrete, stone and metals won't

Materials that can be used to make a cheap compost bin.


You can use almost any material to build a compost bin as long as the bin is set directly on the ground. This will allow garden worms and other beneficial insects to get into the bin to do the important work they do in the composting process.
It's also important the compost bin is big enough and constructed in such a way to allow easy access to the compost to turn it over. This aerates the composting waste by letting oxygen into the heap.
Easy access to the compost bin will also be important when it is time to shovel out the finished compost.
Planning to be able to cover the heap to help retain heat the composting process generates will speed it up.

Description of the materials to make compost bins. 

  • Timber in the form of wooden pallets, sleepers or sawn timbers, I have included instructions to make a bin using sawn timber later in this article. Scroll down for how to make a wooden compost bin.
  • Plastic could include a purpose made composter available free or at a small cost from some councils. You can also use PVC panels fixed to a frame, they are impervious to water, so would not rot away over time. If you or a neighbour are having cladding replaced the old strips fixed to a frame are ideal too.
  • Concrete breeze blocks or old house bricks can be used to make long lasting compost bins. They have the added advantage of easily fitting a top to keep heat in and rain out.
  • Coal bunkers. I use one of the old fashioned concrete coal bunkers. The ones that used to sit just outside the kitchen door. If you are lucky enough to find one and can dismantle and move it, they make great composters.
  • Straw bales. Straw compost bins are maybe on the large size for most domestic gardens, but are a great way of producing a lot of compost in a short space of time. Scroll down for Straw compost bins.
  • Garden soil. A really simple and very effective compost bin can be made by piling up earth to form a square. Instructions below.


How to make a cheap compost bin from wood

Materials to make a basic wooden compost bin. 
  • Seven three foot lengths of rough 6x6 timber, (Gravel boards come in six foot lengths, purchase four and saw them in half)

  • Four; Four foot lengths of 2x2 wooden posts.

  • 28; Two and I/4inch galvanized nails or decking screws if you have a battery powered screw driver. 

  • A cover of any waterproof material to hold the heat in and stop the contents from becoming wet from rain. Compost bins work best if the composting waste is kept warm and moist, but not wet, too much rain will slow the composting process down. Timber supplier

Assembling the wooden compost bin. 
  • Sharpen one end of each the 2x2  post to a point.
  • Nail or screw two each of the three foot boards to the corner stakes on three sides. Start flush or just below the tops of the stakes leaving a 2inch space between the boards to let air in, fit the last board on the front flush with the lowest boards.
  • Set the bin in place and hammer the corners into the ground.
The same method can be used to make a larger compost bin. 

Use six foot gravel boards for the length. Saw them in half for the sides and use four x four wooden posts for the corners to make the bin stronger.

A lid could be made and fitted, but newspaper, plastic sheeting or bin-bags do the same job.


How to make a cheap compost bin from hay or straw bales

Straw and hay compost bins. 
Compost bins made from bales of straw or hay are unique, as the walls become part of the composting process. Read my article hay bale garden for more information.  The bales are arranged in a square or oblong leaving a space at the front to slide a board across, this forms the door to shovel out the finished compost. 
A bale compost bin can be as big or as high as you want to build it, one or two bales high is normally high enough.
Straw compost bins will last for a couple of years before composting themselves. You can then remove the twine, mix the straw or hay into the compost, build a fresh bale bin around the pile and start all over again. Brilliant and cheap way of building a compost bin.
 Other materials.
wooden pallets. 

You will need four pallets, plastic ties or nails.

Place the pallets on end to form a square, tie or nail two sides and the back together.

Use ties, wire or strong string to tie one side of the front pallet to the end of a side pallet, to form a hinge (you will need to be able to open the front to shovel out the finished compost)

Wedge the other side shut or tie shut with an easily opened knot.

To make a stronger and more stable compost bin using pallets, hammer 4x4 wooden stakes into the corners and tie or nail them to the structure.

old truck or car tyres.

Simply stack the tyres as high as you want, fill with kitchen and garden waste and remove the tyres one by one to get to the compost. Tyres speed up the composting process because they retain daytime heat.

Wire compost bin made from chicken wire.

Hammer four 4inx4in sharpened posts into the ground to form a 3ft square, tack wire netting to the posts leaving the front easily detachable so you can get the finished compost out. Use a couple more posts positioned in the middle to build a 6ftx3ft wire bin.