Thirty years ago when I started vegetable gardening, I also decided to make a homemade compost bin, and settled on a design for a 55 gallon compost tumbler. (Jumping ahead: this was not the Best Homemade Compost Bin Ever…)
I spent about a week on the project, using an empty plastic phosphoric acid drum (with lid) that I got, believe it or not, from the local Coca-Cola bottling company for free. I drilled a hole in each end for an axle made of steel pipe, and rigged up an elaborate bearing system on 2x4s. I cut out a little door with a saber saw and fastened it back on with hinges and a clasp.
It worked… sort of. The compost hung up on the axle, the thing weighed a ton when only a quarter full, and it became one of those “it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time” projects. I gave it to the community garden.
I tried several other homemade compost bin designs, most of them from the old 1960 edition of the Rodale Book of Composting, until I finally hit on this one.
It is by far and away the most practical, easy to build, easy to turn, easy to move, easy to work with, fastest-breakdown homemade compost bin ever. I love this design so much that I have built many of them in different places: for Naropa University, for a homestead in Montana, for a community garden in Boulder. Some things you just can't buy. This homemade compost bin is the best-working compost bin I’ve ever used, and I’ve tried them all.
When you stack one tier on top of the next, they nestle onto one another and kind of "lock" together, while leaving a nice 1 1/2" gap between tiers around the sides for good aeration.
But the real brilliance of this design is that when you go to turn the compost, you simply lift off the top tier and set it on the ground next to the bin and start forking the compost over into it. As the pile in the original bin gets lower, you move over the next tier, and fork some more compost over, and then move the next tier, etc. As the pile on original side gets lower and lower, the new one gets higher and higher, until the whole pile is moved over, fluffed and inverted, right next to where you started.
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