3-Bin Compost System Using Pallets

compost-bins-all-finished1Compost bins assembled by Dan Kostek* and Janet Hall**
Step-by-step written by Dan Kostek




– shovel
– hard rake
– 8 wood pallets of the same size (They don’t have to be in perfect condition)
– durable/malleable wire
– pliers (preferably with some sort of cutters)
– hammer
– pitch fork
– “greens” such as green grass, green leaves, garden thinnings, manure (no dog, cat, or bird poop)
– “browns” such as dead plant stocks, brown leaves, straw


1.  Before you start any building, make sure that you have a level surface of soil where you want to build the compost bins. Use a shovel and hard rake appropriately to level the soil.



2.  Once the soil is leveled, stand up two wooden pallets up lengthwise (taller is better) at a perpendicular (90 degree) angle. Once the corners meet, have a helper hold the two pallets in place.
Learning Curve! Place the pallets with the long side on the ground, and the short side perpendicular to the ground. We re-oriented the pallets after taking these photos as it works better if the bins are short and wide, rather than tall and narrow.


compost-bins-turn-wire compost-bins-tighten-wires

3.  Cut a piece of wire just long enough so it wraps around a vertical board on at the base of each of the two pallets and will give you room to twist (about 2 ½ inches on each end). Making sure that the wire is as taut as you can get it, use your pliers to twist both ends of the wire together until it is safely secured (about 3 revolutions). Now do this again towards the top of the two wood pallets so that they are firmly secured.



4.  Attach a third side to create another perpendicular angle. Again secure by twisting a wire together at the base and at the top of the two parallel vertical boards. You should end up with a three sided open faced box now.



5.  Repeat steps two and three to add the 4th wood pallet.



6.  Repeat step four to add the 5th wood pallet.


compost-bins-third-section compost-bins-finish-3rd-section1



7.  Now that you have the hang of it, add the last two pallets to complete the final bin. Make sure that everything is sturdy and can stand up on its own when you finish.  You may have to add a wire here and there to make it more secure.



8.  Lastly, hammer a metal stake on the two outside end pallets. Secure each one to the pallets again by using wire and pliers.



9.   Throw a good base layer of browns into the first bin. (Browns are dead plant stocks, brown leaves, straw)


compost-bins-manure compost-bins-mix-straw-and-manure

10.  Shovel an equal amount of greens on top of the browns, and use a pitch fork to mix them evenly. Continue this process of alternating and mixing and adding water as needed until the bin is close to full.
(Greens are green grass, green leaves, garden thinnings, manure (no dog, cat or bird poop.)



11.  Add water, as moisture is essential to the composting process. All materials should be moist like a wrung-out sponge.



12.  Lastly, add a wooden pallet and lay it length wise so that you close off the last side. Again, secure this with wire. The browns and greens will start to heat up and compost.

Remove the front pallet as needed to access the compost pile.

Once it breaks down more you will want to transfer to the next bin, and start over in the first bin with a new base layer and so on. The same goes for the third bin.



Congratulations, you now have a working 3-bin system!


April, 2013. Greetings to all the folks who visit this page, written when we started the Good Cheer Garden in 2009. Our bins are still going strong. We now have eight of them!

If you are interested in another way of creating great “compost” with vermicastings that we’ve been doing at the Good Cheer Garden, check out our wood, and concrete block, in-ground worm bins.

*In 2009 Dan Kostek was a senior at Coupeville High School and also a running start student at Skagit Valley College. He will be graduating with his AAUCT degree in June. Dan attended Western Washington University with a major in Environmental Science.

**Janet Hall is the WSU Extension Island County Waste Wise Coordinator. She has been educating Whidbey residents about the joys and benefits of composting for 18 years.