Save money, benefit your garden, and help out the environment all at the same time with this simple DIY project.

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Making your own compost is something anyone can do, whether a gardening beginner or a pro. Plus it's a great way to recycle yard waste like grass clippings and dry leaves, as well as vegetable peelings and other kitchen scraps. The nutrient-rich blend of decomposed organic materials works wonders for plants and will help your garden thrive. But to get started, you'll need a compost bin. One of the easiest ways to make a DIY compost bin is to start with a trash can you may already have, and drill several holes in it so your compost can get plenty of air and break down quickly. But your bin doesn't have to be an eyesore in an otherwise lush garden: You can camouflage it with a simple lattice or even wooden pallets.

Compost bin sitting in flower garden

What You Need

Making this DIY compost bin is simple! You only need three materials:

  • Trash can
  • Drill
  • Paddle drill bit

Step 1: Prep the Bin

If using an older trash can, thoroughly rinse it out before using. You don't want any lingering remnants of non-biodegradable materials in your bin. If you're using a brand-new bin, you can skip the wash, but remove any tags or packaging.

Step 2: Drill Holes

Attach the paddle bit to the drill. Starting a few inches from the lid, drill a hole into the trash can. Space another hole approximately three inches from the first hole. Continue drilling until you have rows of holes that span both the width and length of your bin. Repeat on all sides.

Step 3: Clean Out Bin

Once again, thoroughly wash out the trash can. This time you're cleaning out any plastic shavings and bits that were created during the drilling process. Then you can put your new compost bin to work!

hands holding organic material for soil
Credit: Marty Baldwin

Composting Tips and Tricks

Especially when you're just getting started, it's important to feed your compost pile with the right materials and encourage them to start breaking down. Use these tips to help get your compost going, and create the best nutrients for your garden:

  • There are two types of composting: Hot and cold. Hot composting "fast-cooks" the materials with nitrogen, carbon, air, and water to create compost in only a few months. Cold composting simply requires collecting materials in a bin and letting them naturally decompose over the course of a year.
  • Good materials are the key to good compost. Fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, grass clippings, dry leaves, finely chopped wood, shredded paper, straw, and sawdust from untreated wood all make great compost.
  • Bad materials can harm your pile, and eventually your garden. Don't try to compost any diseased plant parts, treated wood, animal feces, weeds that go to seed, or anything containing meat, oil, fat, dairy, or grease.

Before long, you'll be able to start putting your compost to work in your garden. Compost can help enrich soil if you're creating a new garden bed, but you can also spread it in a thick layer in an existing garden to help add nutrients to tired soil. Your garden will reward you if you start feeding it with homemade compost!

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