Composting 3-Bin Pallets System

Constructing A Pallet Composting Area:

pallet composting bins

Composting to be sure is perhaps not the most exciting or romantic aspect of growing your own vegetables – but without a good understanding of compost and the ability to produce your own then you are most certainly missing out. There are many ways to produce compost, including compost tumblersOpens in a new tab.. However you do it though, creating your own compost means several things to the gardener.

  1. You are saving money by not having to buy store-bought compost.
  2. You are reducing waste by recycling all your vegetable ‘left overs’ from the garden and kitchen.
  3. You are helping the environment by reducing the produce sent to land fill areas. This reduces your overall ‘carbon footprint’ and creates a ‘feel good’ aspect 🙂
  4. Disposing of Grass clippings and leaf molt is no longer a problem!
  5. You can really grow fantastic veggies with quality compost.

And just in case I forget to mention it – It’s incredibly satisfying to witness a load of ‘useless’ waste matter being transformed into good incredibly useful composting material!

A Pallet Composting Bin:

Building a composting area with used pallets can be done in several ways. You can have an individual ‘bin’ or you can create a series of bins for the different stages that compost has to go through on its journey.

In the pictures below I have constructed a three-bay composter. This is for the moment at any rate an open-fronted composter to allow for easy access while it is not full. Later on though I will probably add a front so that I am able to pile it up as it develops

Where To Put Compost Bins:

composting area

The first thing to do after you have sourced and assembled your pallets, is to choose your area wisely. This is usually a space out of sight somewhere, and preferably an area that gets some of the evening sun. – enough to add a little heat to the compost mix, but not enough to dry it out.

I have chosen an area in the garden that is pretty much unused, under the shade of overhanging trees. This is facing south west and gets the last of the evening sunshine – perfect for the composter.

composting pallet bins

You will see from the pics that I have laid out a weed suppressant fabric on top of the cleared ground? This is mainly because the area cleared was previously thick with stinging nettles.

These have a very pernicious root system and would have likely grown through the compost if I had not covered them over.
In most instances this precaution is not absolutely necessary, and indeed can be a bit of a pain as the fabric can get caught up in the garden fork – but what the heck, it’s done now 🙂

Building Composting Bins:

There is not really a lot to this, no matter what some would say! The pallets just need to be held in place by nails, screws or even wire tied around the corners to hold them upright.

Once you have secured them in place either in the same way as my own or indeed in a single square, then knock in a fence post or even scaffolding pipe to the front side of the pallets and fix with wire or nails. This will secure the system and make it more stable overall.

composting bin diagram

Once you have the back and two ends on the structure, you should line it with 1 inch wire chicken mesh. This will prevent the compost from falling away (obviously) but mainly it will ensure a flow of air through your compost heap.
This is an essential part of composting as it aids the whole process of anaerobic digestion upon which your composting efforts rely. This is a distinct advantage over solid-sided composters.

Once you have added the chicken mesh to the back and ends of the area, then simply attach the middle sections. You could of course line these also, but I personally do not as it has no real advantage – and chicken mesh can be expensive!

Composting Layout:

composting book

In the picture you will see that I have the three bins now occupied by compost in different stages. The left hand bin is compost that has been rotting over the last two years and is not ready for use.

The middle bin has compost that is about 1 year old and will be ready to put on the veggie patch ( or add to the ‘completed bin) in the coming spring.

The right-hand bin is now occupied by my latest ‘hot compostingOpens in a new tab.’ method. This new organic matter has been soaked through, and after 5 days will be turned every second day or so. This will produce usable compost in only a few weeks.
However I will probably add it to the middle bin and use it in the spring. I will certainly need it as I plan to build a new ‘Super Bed’ raised bed system – which of course I will post about  later on 😉 (update – read all about the ‘Super Bed’ RS ComboOpens in a new tab. here..)

Things NOT To Put In the compost

  • Any plastic or non-organic material. (yea a no-brainer but it had to be said!
  • Dog & cat poo or any poo from a carnivore (including pigs)
  • Any dairy products including eggs (though the shells are ok)
  • Any meat or fish scraps, cooked or otherwise
  • Citrus fruit, peels etc
  • Coal ashes
  • Weed roots especially nettles and other invasive plants
  • Bulbs, tubers etc
  • Colored paper glossy or plain

What To Include In The Compost

  • A good mix of ‘brown’ and green’ material
  • Kitchen vegetable cuttings
  • brown paper scraps
  • Grass clippings
  • Fallen leaves, small twigs
  • Rabbit, horse, sheep manure
  • Coffee grounds & tea leaves (burst the tea bag)
  • Cuttings/waste from the vegetable patch
  • Wood ash from the log burner
  • Some straw or hay cuttings

One of the main things to consider when building your compost is not to put material with thick stems such as corn or brussels sprouts in the pile. If you do, then chop them into pieces to help them break up otherwise they will not compost down as fast as the rest of your compost.

metal raised beds

What Should Compost Smell Like

Well composted material should not have an unpleasant smell at all. It should definately not smell rotten, but rather have a good ‘earthy’ aroma. Any stinky smell from the compost heap means that you have something wrong in the mix and the material is perhaps too wet, or you have too much ‘green’ material and not enough brown.

The bad smell is caused by the gases given off when the pile is putrifying rather than composting properly.

If your compost smells badOpens in a new tab. then check you have the material mix right – non of the forbidden elements as above. Then give the pile a good turnover with a garden fork. Repeat this over several days and you should see a difference in a short time.

Either way I would encourage you – if you are not already doing it – to make your own compost for all the reasons stated above and more.

COMPOSTING ON AMAZON..Opens in a new tab.



Best Selling author of several no-dig gardening books, James has over 40 years of gardening knowledge and experience to share with like-minded gardening enthusiasts.

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