How to DIY a Compost Bin

One of the first things we did when we moved in was create a DIY compost bin! I know it sounds strange, but there are so many dead leaves cluttering the backyard that I wanted to repurpose them for something useful, especially since we plan to make raised vegetable beds in the backyard. Also, compost bins are a great way to keep stuff out of landfills.

The City of LA sells compost bins for $20 at their mulch workshops in Griffith Park. Costco also sells them in the range of $100+. Since we neither have the time nor money, we decided to DIY our own for $14. Ultimately, there are 3 basic elements for compost to thrive: moisture, oxygen, and warm temperature.

We started off by buying a big, 32 gallon trash bin from Lowe’s. I gave it a big hug, then Alex drilled holes along the bottom, sides, and top. The more holes it has, the better the materials will aerate and decompose.

Ideally, the compost bin should be filled with 50% brown materials (leaves, dirt, sawdust), and 50% green material (grass clippings, veggie scraps, tea bags, coffee grinds).

So we shoveled heaps of dead, dry, dusty leaves for our first layer. We have TONS of this. We barely made a dent in the backyard. I smooshed the leaves down with the shovel to make room for more and help shred them. After the bin was filled halfway, I brought the hose over and added water until it was moist, turning the leaves with the shovel as I went.

The next layer were grass clippings. Again, we have tons so I put the gardening gloves on and proceeded to rip out the dying grass by the fistfuls. I know I looked crazy, and I couldn’t help but think of all the little communities I was uprooting (a la A Bug’s Life) who will now enjoy their new home in our rich compost bin. I topped it off with soil, then added a little water and kept filling until the layer was ¼ deep.

The final ¼ of the bin was for veggie scraps. I had saved the pulp from our juicer along with eggshells and veggie stems from our dinner. Then I closed the lid, and now we wait for it to heat up and decompose. In a few weeks, I’ll use a shovel to turn the compost. The lid to our garbage can also locks, so some people prefer to put it on the ground and roll it around.

I know there will be lots of bugs and icky things, but I’m ok with it because it will all be to help the materials break down into rich compost!