Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

How to Create a 3 Bin Compost System with Recycled Materials

Find out how a 3 bin compost system will help you compost more efficiently, and learn how to build your own.

3 Bin Compost System

Wooden pallets make great compost bins!

No, I’m really not here to make your composting life more complicated, even though it may seem like it. Composting is composting is composting, right? Well, yes, it is. But if you generate a lot of compostable material, or use a lot of compost in your garden, a 3 bin compost system might be a more effective way to break down all that material so you can take advantage of it more quickly and easily.

If you think of your composting station as an assembly line, the first bin is for fresh waste, the second one is for materials that have advanced into the “cooking” stage, and the third bin is for storing your ready-to-use compost.

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How to make your own DIY 3 bin compost system

There’s nothing complicated about a 3 bin compost system. It’s essentially just a series of storage units that each have their special purpose. The trick is to keep one side open so you can transfer materials from one bin to the next. You can, of course, spend your hard-earned cash and buy a system, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, since we’re dealing with compost, wouldn’t it make more sense to use recycled material instead of buying more plastic or single-use lumber?

First things first. Decide how big or small you want your system to be. You don’t have to be exact, but having an idea will help you determine what kind of material you’ll need. Old wooden pallets are a popular material, in part because you can find them for free. They also happen to be a good size to work with.

If you go that route, you’ll need seven pallets at a minimum (3 more if you want to add “floors). You’ll also need some steel braces. (These are inexpensive if you buy them new – a 4-pack at Lowe’s is around $3 (screws included).

To build your 3 bin compost system, start by leveling the ground as much as possible, taking special care to remove any weeds. Then the fun begins!

  1. Stand two pallets on their edges at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Screw your braces into the pallets to secure them together. Place one near the top, one near the bottom, and one in the middle.
  3. Stand a third pallet up at a 90-degree angle to the second pallet to create a U-shape.
  4. Again screw the braces into the pallets to secure them.
  5. Repeat this process for the second bin, only using two of the pallets this time (you’ll use the third pallet from the first bin as one wall of your second bin.
  6. Do it one more time for the third bin.

This is a very basic version. Some people like to add a lid that can cover the entire 3 bin compost system. Others like a lid just over the third bin.

That’s not the only way to make a recycled compost system, however. One of my neighbors used hay bales to make his compost bin, and he tells me the idea came from someone using a set of old bookcases for their 3 bin compost system. In other words, there’s really no limit on what you can recycle to make a compost system.

Have you gone the DIY direction with making your compost system? I’d love to hear what you used and how it works?

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!


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