DIY Composters for Your Garden

Fall into the magic of composting with these 3 easy DIY composters.

When integrating compost into your garden, you’ll want to consider which composting process best fits your needs. There are countless reasons people take an interest in composting. A few of the most common motivations include a desire to lessen their environmental impact, improve their garden soil’s nutrient availability, and, of course, for fun! Fall is a great time to start preparing compost for spring garden beds.

From Trash-Can To Treasure


Plenty of people will already have the makings of this unique composter lying around at home. The original concept was presented in the September/October 1976 issue of Heirloom Gardener’s sister publication, Mother Earth News, and differs from other compost bins that simply rest on top of the ground. This composter goes subterranean by sitting in a 15-inch-deep hole surrounded by soil. Holes drilled around the lower sides and in the bottom of the bin allow water to seep out, while allowing worms and other organisms to creep in. The secure lid keeps out unwanted critters. You can make this bin with plastic as well, if a metal can is unavailable.

Trash-Can Composter Materials:

  • Galvanized metal trash
    can with lid
  • Drill
  • Drill bit, at least 1/4 inch
  • Shovel
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses

Suggested Trash-Can Compost Recipe:

  • 1 shovelful mulch, wood chips, or straw
  • 3 parts shredded leaves
  • 1 part food scraps



  1.  Turn the can upside down and drill 20 to 30 holes in the bottom of the can. This process creates metal shards, which you can easily brush away with a gloved hand.
  2. Drill 20 to 30 holes around the bottom sides of the can. Go about 15 inches up the can. The higher you go, the deeper the hole you have to dig.
  3. Choose a well-drained spot in your yard to dig the hole. Use the empty can to imprint the ground, giving you a guide to the needed width of the hole.
  4. Dig the hole. You can periodically dip the can into the hole to see how much deeper you need to go.
  5. After you’ve reached your desired depth, place the can into the hole and fill around the outside with soil.
  6. Place a shallow layer of wood chips or straw in the bottom of the can to improve drainage.
  7. Add your food scraps and cover them with leaves. Secure the lid. If you have especially persistent critter neighbors, you could further secure the lid with a bungee cord across the top hooked onto the handles.
  8. Trash-can composters need aeration just like other types of bins. The easiest tool to use in the tight space is the hand aerator. If you stop adding food scraps about a month before you harvest, you’ll have less work pulling out a nice batch of compost. Simply lift the can out of the ground (this may require two people) and empty it where you want to use the finished compost. Screen the finished material into a wheelbarrow if you desire a finer finished compost.

Leaf Bins: As Easy As One, Two, Tree


Building a leaf bin is pretty easy. It’ll probably take you more time to gather the supplies than to actually construct the bin. Depending on the annual bounty of leaves you expect in your yard, you may want to build multiple structures or a larger bin. A 3-foot-tall leaf bin with a 3-foot diameter will hold the same amount of leaves as five paper leaf bags. While a 3-foot-tall leaf bin with a 4-foot diameter will hold the same amount of leaves as nine paper leaf bags. Leaves will settle quickly in a leaf bin, usually shrinking to half their original volume in just a month or two. With any luck, a full leaf bin will make room for more leaves before the next time you have to rake. The following instructions are for building a 3-foot-diameter bin. For a 4-foot-diameter bin, you’ll need 12-1⁄2 feet of wire fencing, but the basic steps remain the same.

Leaf Bin Compost Materials:

  • 10 feet of 3-foot-tall wire fencing (the fencing should have holes small enough to keep the leaves encased)
  • Wire cutters
  • Zip ties
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Tape measure 

Suggested Leaf Bin Compost Recipe:

  • 10 parts shredded leaves
  • 1 part coffee grounds


10/20/2018 12:20:02 PM

Winter is always a great time to do research and planning for next years garden, and composting is a big part of that.



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