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DIY Diva: Composting Bins for Under $20

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Compost bin ala

Compost bin ala

Heyo- the DIY Diva here with part two of my “grossest project yet” post about building composting bins.

So, faithful readers, I took a bit of crap last week from commenters who objected to my post about the process of researching how to build a composting bin to prepare mulch for the spring planting in my new urban farm-garden thingie.  I was called a failure twice by two different people.


I’d like to think that I provided some valuable information about FREE farming/gardening resources in Oakland, finding FREE lumber on Craigslist and where you can borrow a plethora really expensive tools for super cheap in that post… But, I guess I was not spot on with what I thought was a good, funny, informative post.

My bad.

The other main bitch about the post was that I spent too much $$ on my “broke ass” DIY compost bin.

Fair enough.

So, taking this into mind, instead of posting the schematics for the bin I built in my backyard on Sunday, I thought that I would devote this column to providing instructions on how to build composting bins that range from FREE to under $20 in cost.  (Perhaps this will appease my vocal critics.)

#1 FREE Composting Bin for your Balcony
What you need:
-One gallon milk jug
-One plastic bag (like those you’d get at the grocery store)
-One large rubber band or 12″ piece of string

-Puncture the jug about two inches from the top with the scissors.
-Cut the top off, leaving the handle on so that it creates a spout.
-Fill with compostable materials.
-Cover the large opening with the plastic bag, leaving the spout open.
-Tie the string or place the rubber band around the top so that the bag is secure and somewhat airtight.
-Set it out on your balcony in the sun.
-Stir every week with a stick or trowel to ariete the compost.

*Your compost will be ready in one to two months. Make sure to add dry compostable materials into your mix when you put it into the jug so that it doesn’t get too slimy. This is perfect for those of you who have a little balcony herb box or planter. You can even make two or three of these and have them in various stages of decomposition, they don’t take up very much room at all.

#2 $5.99 Paint Bucket Composting Bin
What you need:
-One very clean five gallon paint bucket with a lid
-A heavy rock or brick
-A drill

How to:
-Use the drill to make ten holes in the lid of the bucket.
-Fill with compostable materials (including dry leaves, grass or dryer lint).
-Cover with lid and place the stone or rock on top to keep critters out.

*The compost in this will be ready in about two to three months.

#3 $20 Kiddie Pool Composting Bin
What you need:
Jungle Babies Snapset Wading Pool ($11.99)
5X7 foot blue tarp ($2.13)
Tent stakes via ($3.19)
-Four or five additional bricks or heavy rocks

How to:
-Assemble the kiddie pool following the instructions.
-Fill the pool with composting materials.
-Cut four or five 2X2 inch flaps in the tarp so your compost mix can ariete properly.
-Use the tent stakes to secure the tarp over the pool.
-Use the bricks/heavy rocks to further secure the tarp to keep critters out.

*The compost in this bin will take two to three months and will be enough to fertilize a decent sized backyard garden.

NOTE: Make sure to stir your compost on a weekly basis, this will ensure that the nutrients mix throughly with your dry stuffs. Like Charlotte recommended in the comment section of my last article, making sure you have a decent mix of “green” to “brown” materials will ensure you don’t have a gross and slimy compost when you’re done.

If you would like the schematics for the 8X8 wooden composting bin with the hinged side and top that I built for myself, please feel free to shoot me an email at katek[at]brokeassstuart[dot]com — I’m happy to share!

Happy Crafting!

PS: To answer my critic, Meg, I am indeed taking a knitting class.  My “Shit Why Can’t I Knit?” post wasn’t supposed to be instructional beyond where you can take some good knitting classes in the Bay Area.  I will post a “how-to” on knitting when I successfully complete the scarf I’ve set out to make in my class. 🙂  Thanks for reading!

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Kate Kotler - DIY Diva

Kate Kotler - DIY Diva

Kate Kotler is a freelance writer and professional blogger. IRL she is a very nice person, regardless of what you might have read about her on the innerwebs. Kate lives in Berkeley with her dog, Max. You can follow her on Twitter @adorkablegrrl


  1. October 2, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    I neglected to state that you can buy a paint bucket for $5.99 at your local hardware store if you don’t happen to have one laying around in your garage.

  2. Megan
    October 3, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Thank you for responding to me directly. I guess my greatest criticism of you is that you seem to write a DIY column where nothing gets done. You never put needle to thread in your knitting article, and you failed to put hammer to nail for the compost pile. This new post sure was informative, but I must have missed the part where you explained how you did any of it yourself. Even the photo belonged to someone else. Did you actually build your own compost bin or did you just paraphrase someone else’s how to? Am I crazy for expecting you to Do Something Yourself?

  3. October 3, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Megan – I have made two of the three composting bins that are featured in this column myself. My camera is broken, otherwise I would have taken a picture of the milk jug composting bin in my kitchen or the new one in my backyard for this column. The photo from my column last week features a photo of the paint bucket composting bin on my balcony. You can’t really see the holes in the lid b/c they are rather small and the wall behind it is too similar in color.

    I am knitting. Badly. You’ll note that I have not posted a HOW TO KNIT column, because I don’t do it very well. Yet.

    Every other article I have posted is something that I’ve made, personally. Including the friendship cuff, the DIY beauty supplies (my housemates LOVE those, we save tons of $$ by making our own facial products) the pet toys, the fleecie blankets, the ironic t-shirt totes and the chicken soup (a column for which I took crap, too, because people claimed it’s not “broke-ass” to make a chicken soup from scratch… um, what)?

    But, you know what, I know several people who write DIY columns where they only research how-to make something and then write about it. I also know a lot of people who write craft columns where they *occasionally* write something *other* than step-by-step instructions how to make something.

    You can’t expect me to know how to do everything that I would or should be covering for this column. Occasionally I’m going to be throwing in a column about learning how to do something or talking to someone OTHER THAN ME who knows how to do something cool that we would want to feature in this column.

    I write three weekly columns, a monthly column for a print magazine and am in the middle of writing a book for which I’m on hard deadline. Give me a break, m’kay?

    I think it’s really easy to sit back and criticize from a-far when you’re not the one who is writing the weekly column you’re criticizing.

    But… thanks for your feedback and thanks for reading. Clearly, the feedback of the readers is influencing what I choose to write about. If you have a craft or project you’d like me to research or try out, please feel free to hit me up by email: katek[at]brokeassstuart[dot]com


  4. October 3, 2009 at 11:11 am

    I have made two of the three composting bins myself and the third is a design that I created myself, trying to come up with something that is easier to make than a bin you have to construct out of wood and nails, yet could fit the same amount of mulch. I suggested the kiddie pool design to one of my pals and they have tried it in their own backyard with much success.

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  6. October 22, 2009 at 5:46 am

    A: Not sure what this means, exactly. ,