Before we talked about moving out of a city, I barely knew what compost was, so here’s what you need to know – compost is organic matter (think anything from weeds to last night’s salad) which has decomposed and magically turned into fertilizer; ok, it isn’t magic, but that’s an entirely different subject.  Since we want to have our own vegetable garden next year, we figured now would be a good time to start composting and make fertilizer.  How can one get this awesome, “free” fertilizer of which I speak?  Easy: compost bins!  Compost bins are containers which hold the organic matter while it decomposes, and from my perspective, there are really two ways to get compost bins – 1) procure one from the local hardware store and 2) build your own.

Seeing as you are reading this blog to begin with, I imagine you are interested in building your own.  Smart!  There are numerous designs, and a quick web search will show you a vast array of DIY compost bin designs from which you can choose.  However, Lynne and I are on a serious budget, so I would love to show you how we built a compost bin for the price of…free!  The key is shipping pallets.

Here’s how we did it-

Step 1) put on your best smile and go some place which is likely to have pallets (e.g. the hardware store, lumber yard, etc) to ask if they have any to donate to your very worthy cause.  In our case, we got pallets from the Jason, the guy who built our fence.  We decided on two bins (in this design), which meant we needed five pallets.

Step 2) decide where the compost with go and set aside an hour or two for the actual construction of the bins; with our Virginia clay, two hours was sufficient.  Due to the location of our garden, the placement of our bins sort of decided itself, but placement is key for making your gardening-life easier.  Once you know where they’re going, the real fun begins.

Step 3) grab a shovel and start diggin.  To make the pallets stand vertically, you should dig a trench a few inches wide (at least as wide as your pallets are thick) and about 6 inches deep.  We started by digging the side-wall on the far right.

photo 1 (3)

Step 4) when your trench is wide, long, and deep enough so that the pallet can stand on its own, place the pallet where you want them in your trench.

Step 5) fill in the gap in the between the boards with dirt (or clay) for added stability.

photo 1 (4)

Step 6) start digging the second trench for the back-wall; we thought it would be best to have the back and side pretty close together to prevent valuable compost from falling out of the side.

photo 2 (3)

photo 3 (2)

Step 7) place the next pallet in your trench and fill in its gap with excess dirt.  Because our back-wall was very close to our fence, we had to get creative in how we got the clay back there.

photo (6)

Step 8) repeat steps 3 – 7 until your compost bins are complete!

photo 3 (3)

Step 9) to even further stabilize the bins, we secured each “joint” with galvanized wire, which is actually pretty cheap and we had some lying around.

Well that was actually pretty easy, huh??  Now you can start using those grass clippings and apple cores to create great fertilizer.

Here’s a link for helpful compost tips.  Happy composting!