Homesteading like a City Girl: How to build a compost bin for around $5

So, about 2 weeks ago we bought a house. Hash tag adulting ya’ll! Anyway, we have plans for this little piece of earth of ours. Hubs wants to add solar, I’m getting a rain barrel and chickens are lined up for next spring. The garden has been planned but first we need a mower. We went from a second floor apartment to a two level house with an acre of land! Now I know for some an acre might not seem like a lot but for us it’s Gods country out here! And we love it!!

So one thing I really wanted to do was start full on composting so the garden will be good to go next spring. Why? Well one main reason is composting can remove 20-50% from your household waste. Like wow! Why wouldn’t you want to do it?

Now if you’ve never composted let me let you in on a few things.

  1. It doesn’t smell if done right. I know it seems counter intuitive to keep decomposing food on your counter, but, with a charcoal filter and adding only the right things there’s no smell at all. There are a lot of things you CAN add and a few you CANNOT.  I’ll break that down in a minute.
  2. It take little to no effort. You’re going to throw all that stuff away anyway just turn left to the counter instead of the garbage. By making it part of your routine I won’t notice the little extra work at all. I even got my 5 year old to do it for me.
  3. It’s safe. I had a friend tell me he heard compost bins catch on fire all the time. It’s just not true. With minimal effort it’s a completely safe practice. There are some things to consider when you are setting up your backyard bin. Again I’ll go into more detail in just a minute.

Let’s looks a little bit more into what you CAN compost:
Green and Brown composting.
Green compost refers to the the nitrogen-rich materials you should be adding to your compost pile. Things like grass clippings and kitchen scraps, plants and coffee grounds are all considered green compost. Brown compost refers to paper, leaves, straw, egg shells and tea bags. I tend to think of it as green for fresh and brown for dried. You want to try to keep a 4:1 browns (carbon) to greens (nitrogen) ratio for your compost pile. Currently I have waaaay too much green in my pile. But I will be fixing that by adding in some broken down cardboard, one it is no longer needed as a spaceship.

So what CAN’T you compost?
What to keep out of your compost bin:
Most things are ok to put in the bin but a few you really do what to keep out. One being cat and or dog (and other carnivores) waste. You could get sick from it. Their waste often contains microorganisms and parasites that you do not want to introduce to the crops you will be eating. Just saying… You will also want to avoid fish and meat scraps. You can use fish bones to help your garden grow, however, adding them into your compost pile might attract local wild life and cause a not so neighbor friendly smell. Most paper is totally fine, but glossy paper should be avoided since gain it won’t breakdown properly and could contain toxins you don’t want in your soil. Lastly ash from coal fires or charcoal-briquet fires should be avoided since they can make your soil too acidic, and that can harm your plant.

Setting up your backyard compost bin:
There are tons of different models and designs to chose from when it comes to compost bins. You *could* buy a $400 counter compost bin or a $90 tumbler bin. But if you just want to do you part to save the earth and save some of your own green, I would suggest getting a simple bin like mine. I have the Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin. Love it! Simple to use and clean. From there I built my own backyard compost bin for just about free! Heres what I did:


Find some pallets – I found 4 pallets for free from my local hardware store. Some places might charge you but most are happy to get rid of them. You will need 4 of roughly the same size. Be ready to lift. The ones I got were heavy and I carried them an acre to get them set up.

Get some zip ties – I bought a few zip ties for about $5 at a local store. These ones worked great. Plan on using 3 to make one loop.

Plan your area – Take a minute and think about where the best spot would be for your pile. I chose a spot a little out of the way. Not as much sun as I would like. But I have two curious boys, so out of the way was best. Plus I wanted it far enough from the house that if any critters did start digging around they wouldn’t be tempted to check out my fridge. You will also need to have enough air flow around your pile to help with the decomposition. Make sure the area can drain well and is relatively free of ground plants and vines.

Set up your bin – Take two pallets and tie them together. Tie one more pallet to create a U shape. For the last pallet attach one side and leave the other one open so you can get in to turn the pile.

That’s it! With a little care and some time you will have a great pile of gardening gold.


Just to touch on the concerns of composting. It is extremely rare for composts pile to catch fire on their own. They will generate heat and steam, but if you turn the pile from time to time there should be no issues. Practice good hygiene when dealing with compost. Don’t have a picnic on top of one and you should be fine.

Happy composting!!


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