How to Make Pallet Compost Bins

I think compost is the best and most important soil amendment that you can use in your garden and it’s incredibly easy to make your own compost. One way to do it is with bins made out of pallets. So join me as I show you that process and make some pallet compost bins. Hi, I’m Gardener Scott and because I think compost is so important in gardens I think every gardener should be making compost and there are a number of ways to make your compost, from a pile to fancy roller bins that you buy. But one of the cheapest and easiest is to take three pallets and build your own compost bin. With the billions of pallets in use around the world, and that’s right billions of pallets, you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding someplace near where you live that has pallets that they’re willing to give away. You’ll probably have to talk to a manager and you might have to present your case that you’re a gardener and you want a compost pile for your garden, but many warehouses have them stacked in the back and they’re very willing for you to take a few away for your own personal use. The pallets that you’ll come across are going to be either National pallets or International pallets and that means how they’re being used for shipment. International pallets will have an IPPC code on the pallet that identifies it as certified for international shipment. The reason that’s important is because that stamp has some very important information on it for you and your safety. Because of the potential for pests and diseases that might reside in the wood when it shipped from one country or another, the pallets will be treated to eliminate any of those problems. And so that code that’s stamped on the pallet becomes important for you in identifying how it was treated. If it has an H T it was heat treated and that’s perfectly safe for you and your garden. If it has a K D, that means it was kiln dried and that’s also very good. But if it has an M B that means that the wood was fumigated. It was treated with methyl bromide, which is highly toxic. If you find a pallet with an M B on that stamp on the pallet do not use it, do not cut it, do not put it anywhere near your crops. In fact leave it behind at the warehouse or wherever your source is because it’s a bad idea. Look for the HT or the KD. Now, if it’s a national pallet, like these that I have behind me, it’s not going to have that international stamp and in almost all cases those pallets will be safe for use. Many of them are just one-use pallets. These are pallets I got for a landscape project. They had landscaping bricks on them. They don’t have an international code. They were made here in the United States for use in the United States. I did try to track down the name of the company that built these and couldn’t find anything, but I feel good about it because in almost all cases there’s no reason to fumigate the pallets that are being used within the country of origin. Now, let’s build our compost bin using these pallets. These pallets are three feet wide and four feet long. Many of the pallets you’ll come across will probably be between 3-foot wide and 4-feet wide. Almost all of them are going to be 4-feet long. The 3 feet by 4 feet is about the minimum size that I would recommend for a compost pile and I think the 4 feet by 4 feet is virtually ideal. But it comes down to what you can get your hands on. I like to have the slats horizontal in my compost bin. Now, you can, especially with a four by four pallet, put them vertically. But as the compost develops and starts to settle down, the sides, the horizontal slats will tend to hold it in better. With these vertical slats there’s lots of space for the compost to just fall outside the bin after it’s gotten to a real small size and it’s decomposed. The cheapest way to build these pallet compost bins is to take some wire that you have around your house and just loop it around the corners to hold it all together and then your bin will be free. Free pallets and leftover wire. You can also do the same thing with any screws you have lying around the house. I’m actually spending a couple pennies on this compost bin by using some of these screws that I recently purchased. They’re exterior deck screws and all I’m doing is just screwing the pieces together at the corners. I’ll add some more screws on the middle and lower part of the pallets and then I’ll repeat the process on the other side The pallets I’m using have 2 x 4 supports in the corners because their national pallets are not intended for heavy-duty use. You can expect that the International pallets that you use will probably have 4×4 posts in the corners, so I’m able to go directly in with my screw but with the four by fours you’ll probably have to angle in to get a good grip from one pallet to the next. If you’re using those international pallets with the four by fours that you have to angle in, you’ll get better strength if you add an angle corner bracket to help strengthen the joint. And you just put it in place and then screw it in position and it will make it a much stronger bin. This is also probably a good idea if you have the four feet by four feet pallets because it’s a much bigger structure. If you have a lot of space between the pallet boards or if you’re worried about vermin getting into your compost pile, you can also wrap the inside with chicken wire. That also acts to help hold in some of those bigger pieces of material while it’s composting. If you’re able to get a fourth pallet, you can actually put a door on the front. Now you can use the full pallet and make this just a big box, but I think it’s better to have a half door on the front. That makes working the compost a little bit easier. So what I did was to take that extra pallet that I had and cut it in half. First I used a circular saw to get the exterior boards and then I finished it off with a hand saw to get the internal board supports Now that I have this half wall. It’s in place. It’ll help keep the compost from spilling out. It’ll help keep animals from getting in and I think it’s one of those extras that you can add, but don’t have to. You can put this on hinges to open up. I do not recommend making it a permanent part of the structure because when it comes time to get the compost out it’s really hard to scoop with this in place. So I’m just going to put a couple screws for now, just to hold it in position, and then I’ll have hooks that allow me the opportunity later on to just unhook it and move it out of position when I’m ready to make the compost. So with those few additions this pallet compost bin is now stronger and more suitable for making a lot of compost. And for many gardeners this is probably all you’ll need is one bin. But if you got a big space and you want to make a lot of compost I recommend making a multi-bin system and this design makes it real easy to just add more pallets to extend the compost system. And so that’s what I did following the exact same method as I did with this bin. I just added two more sides and made a second bin. And since I already had half of a pallet, now I’ve got two complete compost bins ready to go. So, why are two bins better than just one? Well to do it right you want to fill this bin with all of your compost ingredients. And then let it start decomposing. Well, while this is decomposing you really shouldn’t be adding any more material to it because that’ll slow down the process. You’ve got this filled. It’s decomposing. You want more compost. So what you do is you take this pile and actually put it into this bin That helps aerate it and speed up the decomposition and then you start all over again with the material in this bin. And it works even better if you have a third bin. And I actually have some extra pallets that I can make that third bin and you just keep that rotation going. And the third bin is always compost that can be used as a mulch or if just left a little longer will actually decompose completely into beautiful “black gold” compost. So these bins are built. They’re ready to go and I’m going to start loading this up with my first compost. There is another addition you can make that could improve your process and that’s to put a top on these bins. If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain you probably should consider that so that your pile doesn’t get too wet. I have the opposite problem. It’s very dry here. So I’ll actually cover the pile with a tarp as it grows and as it decomposes to help hold in the moisture. If you have any comments or questions about this entire process, please let me know below. If you’d like to see more of these gardening videos, well then subscribe to the Gardener Scott channel, if you haven’t already done so. And click on the bell. And if you like this video you can give me a thumbs up and share it. I’m Gardener Scott. Enjoy gardening.

13 thoughts on “How to Make Pallet Compost Bins

  1. Using compost is one of the best things to do with any garden. Thanks for the info–inspiring! And easier than I thought!

  2. Thanks for the info! Though it would make construction slightly more complicated, you could have the front panel hinged on carriage bolts and leave them loose so that it would swing up and out… instead of screwing it in. That would give better access to the bottom of the pile where the compost is in its furthest stage of decomposition!

  3. Impressive design 👌. If you interested in making quality compost check out Dr Elaine Ingham information on this process. It sounds like your static composting, we use thermo composting methods. I think you would like the results

  4. I tried to build an elevated raised garden out of pallet wood. The first year it was good and a fun way to garden. But over winter, the bottoms rotted thru and we gave it up. Lesson learned. I reused most of the soil. Thanks for the video. As always you did your homework. I want to try again to use them as you do.

  5. Now that you mentioned it, I went to check my pallet pile and saw one labeled "MB." I understand you wouldn't want it to come in contact with food, or what will become food. What's your opinion on using it in damp basement to keep things up off the wet floor? I'm thinking of putting a shelving unit on top of the pallet.

  6. I've been collecting all year and have lots of piles all at various stages. Rather than use when ready I need to use all I can get in the spring of next year. Do you see any downside to mixing finished compost in with new so it all finishes at the same time? I figure that would be better than trying to store the finished.

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