The ultimate compost bin
PHOTOGRAPHS BY THOMAS MACDONALD

Make Fertilizer Faster By Building The Ultimate Compost Bin

Get the plans for this 3-crate system to shave weeks off your composting process.

Beth Huxta June 18, 2015

Successful organic gardeners rely on compost to improve soil fertility and moisture management, nourish helpful microbes, and inoculate against destructive ones. This three-bin system is a compost factory that efficiently pumps out heaps of finished black gold in weeks, rather than the months you would typically wait during a more hands-off approach. Made from rot-resistant cedar, our ultimate compost bin features removable front planks and a clean look that allows for plenty of air movement. And best of all, you can build it in just a few hours. Here's how to make it:

Tools
1 saw
1 drill
1 measuring tape
1 box of 2 inch wood screws
1 box of 2½ inch wood screws
1 mallet or sledgehammer
4 metal fence posts with screw holes, 4 feet long
1 staple gun and staples
1 roll of 36 feet x 3 feet wire netting (chicken wire or a stronger material with similar-size openings)

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Wood
7 pieces: 1 inch x 6 inches x 12 feet
9 pieces: 1 inch x 6 inches x 10 feet
2 pieces: 1 inch x 2 inches x 10 feet
2 pieces: 2 inches x 6 inches x 10 feet
2 pieces: 2 inches by 6 inches x 12 feet
2 pieces: 2 inches by 4 inches by 12 feet

Wood Cuts
Removable planks: Cut four of the 1x6x12s into 3 foot 7½ inch pieces, 12 total.
Uprights (for end and middle panels): Cut the 2x4x12s into 2 foot 10½ inch pieces, 8 total.
Side slats: Cut the 1x6x10s into 4 foot 6 inch pieces, 18 total.
Front and back supports: Cut the 2x6x12s into 2 foot 10½ inch pieces, 8 total.
Bottom pieces: Cut the 2x6x10s into 4 foot 9 inch pieces, 4 total.
Plank supports: Cut the 1x2x10s into 2 foot 10½ inch pieces, 6 total.
Back slats: Use the three remaining uncut 1x6x12s

Making the End Panels

How to build the ultimate composting system

1. On a flat surface, place two side slats on top of two uprights. To avoid splitting the wood, drill guide holes first. Attach.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

2. Attach a third side slat, spaced evenly, to make one side panel.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

3. Position the front and back supports as shown, placing the assembly on a hard surface (we used one of the planks).

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

4. Attach the supports, screwing into the side slats (above) and also into uprights (see finished photo).

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

5. Flipping the panels upside down, attach bottom pieces as shown using the 2½ inch screws.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

6. Repeats steps 1 through 5 to build the other end panel.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

7. To make grooves for removable planks, lay panels flat. Allow one plank’s thickness (plus a little), and attach the plank supports to the side slots, leaving a plank in place as a guide.

 

Making the Middle Panels

(Build these panels as you did the end panels, with a few exceptions.)

How to make the ultimate composting system

1. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

2. Flip the panels and fasten three more side slats on the other side of both middle panels.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

3. The front and back supports must be centered perpendicular to the uprights.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

4. Attach the bottom pieces, being careful to screw into the side slats. Use the 2½ inch screws.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

5. As with the side panels, create grooves for planks by attaching plank supports to the uprights.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

6. Do this on both faces of the two middle panels, as shown.

 

Putting It All Together

How to make the ultimate composting system

1. Balance the panels on their front supports. Attach the three 12 foot back slats to both end panel back supports.

2. Measure 49 inches from each end to mark where the middle panels will go. Attach the middle panels with screws, centering marks on back supports.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

3. Place a bin with bottom pieces on soil and slide four removable planks into each bin to evenly space front supports.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

4. Remove the planks and pound in metal fence posts.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

5. Attach the posts.

 

How to make the ultimate composting system

6.  Staple wire netting to the insides of each bin.

7.  Replace the removable planks and you’re done!

 

How to work the three-bin system:

Fill the first bin with compostables. When it's full, turn the contents into the second bin every few days (the more often you turn it, the faster the decomposition will occur). Begin filling the third bin with fresh materials. When the third bin is full, the second bin is “finished,” and the first bin is empty, allowing you to start the process over.