Condo Blues: How to Make a Compost Bin Out of a Plastic Storage Tub

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How to Make a Compost Bin Out of a Plastic Storage Tub

My Home Owners Association (HOA)  lawn service killed the compost bin I made from a garbage can with a lawn mower last summer.

A moment of silence please.

During the winter I researched and pseudo-shopped for a replacement. A Bokashi Bin like this one looked interesting but higher maintenance than my old college boyfriend. (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links for your convenience.)

A worm compost bin (learn more about it here) would freeze in my garage. I didn’t want to be known as a Stewart of the Earth and Mass Worm Murderer. A tumbling compost would work best for us, and if it was smaller than the garbage can model that would be perfect.

I had my heart set on an electric composter similar to these because I liked that it did all of the mixing and tumbling for me and you got a batch of compost every few weeks instead of my year long wait till it rots method.

But before I make the spendy investment I vowed that if I can get the green to brown ratio right, don’t have slime mold or maggots, and get at least one batch of compost out of a new homemade compost bin then I will consider buying the electric composter. Don’t judge me Internet. I know I’m a little more than pathetic because I dream of compost bins instead something important like world peace.

Pin this tutorial for reference!

I found my compost bin to be at Odd Lots. They had locking Rubbermaid tubs marked down to $5.00 a piece. I think the square size will be easier to turn with a shovel than my old tapered garbage can compost bin. However I prefer the locking the lid and kicking the bin on its side and rolling in around the yard method because I don’t have to stick my hands in the bin and get them all ookie.

My plan is to make two compost bins. When one is full I’ll let that sit and cook while I fill up the other bin. Sneaky eh?

How to Make a Compost Bin out of a Plastic Tub

You will need:

The dog as Project Manager is extra. You know how Blitzkrieg likes to pose for photos.

20 gallon plastic storage tub with a lid like this one - Try to get a locking one. You'll thank me later.

An electric drill and the largest drill bit you have -  I used the largest drill bit from this drill bit set  

Safety glasses

Marker (optional)

4 bricks or flat stones
Make it:

1. Use the marker to mark the areas with a little “x” where you plan to drill the drainage and aeration holes in the top, bottom and sides of the tub. Marking the holes before you drill ensures you have an even number of drainage and aeration holes throughout your compost bin to be. This is an optional step but highly recommended!

2. Put on the safety glasses and drill drainage holes in the bottom of the tub so your compost won’t develop dog vomit slime mold or maggots (true story.)

I chose to use my single speed drill for this project instead of Mommy’s Little Helper - my multispeed, mega torque cordless drill. Sure, I could have used a lower setting on Mommy’s Little Helper but I wanted to show my very first Single Girl Power Tool some love because it doesn’t see daylight very often these days.

3. Turn the plastic tub on its side and drill a series of aeration holes in the side of the tub. Drill slow/low power so you don’t crack the tub.

Lisa didn’t listen to me about drilling slowly and that’s why some of her holes are a little wonky. I had to manage this project by watching her through the patio door from inside the house while Lisa worked on the patio because I refuse to wear these sweet Doggles. She’s all about that safety thing.

4. Put the lid on the tub to stabilize it and drill a series of aeration holes in the lid.
Tip: By the way, did you know that if you drill a bazillion holes in a Rubbermaid tub you void the warranty on the tub? Me neither. I had no idea Rubbermaid tubs even had warranties until they rejected this project for their blog because it voids the warranty.

5. Set the completed compost bin outside on 4 bricks or stones so air can circulate around the compost bin and to encourage excess water from collecting in your bin after a heavy rain. I can’t emphasize that enough. You’re just asking for trouble with constantly soggy compost, trust me on that!

Why yes! Those ARE leftover bricks from my reclaimed brick garden border project!

I got into trouble the first go around because I had less brown or carbon material in the form of grass clippings, leaves, paper, sawdust, or wood shavings/pellets than green material (kitchen scraps) in my compost bin. My bad.

Fortunately paper and cardboard also work nicely as brown material. I’m shredding paper, cereal boxes, toilet paper tubes, and telephone books in my paper shredder so it composts faster. I'm adding shredded paper to my compost bin for every layer of food scraps I put in.

The final cost? $12.00 for two compost bins and 2 packages of hamster bedding/wood shavings to use as backup carbons for my bin. Not a bad deal, don’t you think?

Do you compost? What are your secrets to getting nice, rich non slimy non maggoty compost?

If you'd rather buy than DIY check out the options - and more! - below!

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mudnessa said...

This is the type of bin I have had for the past 2 years. It has worked great for me. I didn't have a drill at the time and made nail holes, they don't drain very well. I also don't have it up off the ground, again drainage is a problem. Luckily I haven't had any issues with the drainage up until now.

It really needs to be drained. The only problem now is that I live upstairs in an apartment and I get in trouble when water drips down below, EVEN IN THE RAIN! How am I suppose to stop the rain, Southern Californias have an odd fear of water.

So I'm worried about properly draining my bin. I think I am going to have to put it over a tray to collect the moisture. Then I can use it on my plants. I'm sure they'd love that.

Robj98168 said...

Thank Gawd the city sells me composters for $20... I wouldn't want to be a serial warranty voider like you. LOL I cant get Romeo to wear doggles either.

Susie - said...

I love this idea - perfect for me! thanks! :)

Life in Rehab said...

I'm glad you popped by my blog, because now I've found yours, and I love it! I need a composting bin, and this idea is just fabulous.

Crystal said...

love this idea! i have been wanting to compost for awhile but didn't know where to start...this idea is perfect! glad i hopped over from made by you mondays for this fab idea! hugs!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the info. I've started a new garbage can composter this year. I need to elevate it. I'm going to bookmark you and comeback to read you links to more composting in. Sounds like you've documented your questions and trial etc. Thanks for the help.

JEANNE said...

A great tutorial on composting in a garbage bin. We just started gardening in containers. The compost could be very helpful in the planting. Thanks so much.
Hugs, Jeanne

Liz said...

Did you know worms will not freeze in a garage if you simply put a lamp next to the bin?
Give worms a chance! Lol

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Liz - I've heard good things about worm bins. We know someone who has one in their basement to keep it from freezing. I have a small garage and had to choose between making room for a worm bin or a workbench. The work bench won - as soon as I find one that I like!

Rory from Tools Are For Women Too! said...

Thanks for linking and making this the most successful Modern Craftswoman Monday so far! Rory

Sew Can Do said...

I requested a compost tumbler for my birthday last year, but I didn't have my ratio right either. Here's to us both getting it working this year. Thanks for linking to Craftastic Monday!

Jenn said...

Toss a handful of regular garden dirt into the bin. This contains all the 'starter' critters you could ask for to eat and process the compost.

Don't spend money on 'compost starter'.

This tip also works if you get the balance wrong and start getting odor issues. It'll need mixing and a few days to a work to 'cook', but it will work out the odor.

LindieLee said...

Thanks for sharing how you made you composter. Can you tell us what happens next? Layers of organic material, and paper? Do you turn it? Keep out of the sun? Can you give a follow up?

Anonymous said...

I have a Bokashi but it's too small for my scrapes (and expensive). I am going to use it as the first step though - from counter to bin, and the homemade composter as the second (long term storage!). Question, as the compost seeps out the bottom holes do you catch it? I have pets and am worries about the juice getting everywhere.


Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I don't catch the juice that comes out of it. Between me and the neighbors we have 4 dogs that play together in our yards and around my bin. The juice doesn't run everywhere because I have the bins up on bricks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Making mine now :)

Anonymous said...

The rubbermaid tub is the only way I compost. It works faster the smaller you cut the pieces of stuff up. I also started mine with some spend soil from a flower pot. Turn it often.In the fall I also add kitchen scraps to my raised bed and let the worms take care of it for me.I wish I could make a ton of this stuff.

Megan said...

I am going to try this! My last go at it was very unsuccessful...

realtalknic said...

This is a great idea! Will try for sure!

realtalknic said...

This is great. Will try for sure.

ChrisBy said...

Do you start with Brown then green or does it not matter? Is the goal for them to be 50/50 green and brown?

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