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Building a Bin at Little Cost


January 27, 2020

I'm very interested in building a compost bin on my property in ABQ, NM .  I'm a senior on limited income (SS) and was wondering if you may know of  anyone that might have materials to donate for building of a compost bin in my yard?  I would really appreciate any help I could get.

I will also try to attend one of the seminars offered this spring.


Answer by JZ:  Good for you.  Other colleagues may also have ideas and answer your questions too.

You may make your own compost bin from a plastic trash can of any size. A 30 gallon trash can works well. You will find directions for making such a bin on our website.  Go to Composting Info/Homemade Bins. Yes, I would encourage you to attend one of our home composting basics classes in the future.

I do not know of anyone who has materials to donate to you. Best.

From original questioner: Well--OK.  I'm surprised Home Depot or Lowes etc...would not have materials to donate to needy folks.   I'm wanting to build a much larger bin than a 30 gallon plastic trash can.

I will visit a few of the box stores and speak with a manager to see if they might have materials to donate.   Seems like that would be a great community service/outreach for them. Even though I have built bins in the past I will plan on attending one of the seminars.

Answer from WR: Brian, I hope you are able to build the bin you have in mind, but I wanted to let you know that I have made excellent compost for years without any bin.  I am lucky to have a remote shady corner of my back yard where two concrete block fences come together. I throw my food scraps and leaves and yard clippings, etc. into the pile.  Keep it more or less moist (if I'm around to do it) and stir it around occasionally with a garden fork.  I call it lazy composting.  It's the cold composting you hear about.  It takes a little longer to get finished compost than it would in a hot pile in an enclosed bin, but it works great and costs nothing to build. It's biggest drawback is that it probably takes more water to keep it moist since a lot of it is exposed to evaporation.  However, I really don't use a whole lot of water on the pile.  And you can always keep it covered with an old tarp or rug or blanket to help keep the moisture in. I've had lots of red worms show up in my compost and it seems to be a great environment for them.

 I know JZ and others aren't as crazy about this method since it does take more water, not a good thing here in our desert.  It would be important not to do a pile like this in full sun unless you keep it well covered.  Also you can cover it with straw or a thick pile of leaves to help keep in moisture, something I often do  I've become more careful about that after talking to JZ about this. Usually these days you see all my fresh stuff mixed in better with leaves and other "browns" with a thick pile of leaves on top.)

Also, people have had good luck using hay bales to enclose their compost.  Not sure how much those would cost and, of course, they do take up a bit more room.  Best luck to you.

From original questioner: Thanks SO much for the great info.   I also had a similar compost pile to yours at one of my previous houses.  Amazing how simple it can be sometimes.  I do have a shady spot to locate a compost pile at my current house but the issue in this neighborhood would be with all the stray cats adding "material" to the open compost pile...haha   I have enough to do keeping them away from the bird nests and families in my yard.

I just took a drive around the neighborhood and saw some landscaping timbers strown about one of the lots so will ask the owner if they are available.  When I was younger (in the 70s-80s) one could go to the landfills around ABQ and find a lot of great lumber and  other material to repurpose.  But of course that is not allowed any longer.

I was just curious on a limited income if there were places who donate material for compost bins...If I am successful in finding a source I will let everyone know.

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