Friday, August 24, 2012

Pallet Compost Bin - The Plan

I have been tossing around the idea of building a compost bin from pallets for quite some time. After recently picking up 10 pallets for $1 each I decided it was time to get serious about the plan. While I'm sure that I may have to make some adjustments once I start building, I feel like I have a pretty solid design.

I have two primary reasons for wanting to build a new compost bin. The first is simply that my existing bin is much too small for the amount of yard waste I have available. The current bin is actually built with a single pallet as the base, so is approximately 4' x 4'. The sides are made from a 10' length of wire fencing, which only completely covers two sides and just a bit of the 3rd. For this reason, I am not able to completely fill the bin without material spilling out of the front.

The other reason that I want to build a new bin is to place it closer to the garden. The current bin is near the house, just passed the shed, which does make it convenient for disposing of kitchen waste. By building a bin closer to the garden, however, I will have less distance to move finished compost when its time to apply, as well as less distance to move any organic material from and around the garden that needs composted.

The pallets I will be working with are 48" x 40". I plan to stand them on their side, so that they stand 40" tall and cover 48" of linear distance. This gives me a nice number to base my figures on. I plan to make the bin 12' x 8 ', which will have the potential for holding nearly 320 cubic feet of material. This is 6 times the volume of my current bin.

The bin will be constructed with 3 pallets making up the back, and 2 pallets making up each side. I initially planned to leave the front open, but have decided instead to only leave the middle section open. To do this I will use 2 pallets for the front, one on each side, which will leave me a 48" opening in the center.

I've considered various methods for connecting the pallets. My current plan is to use pieces of wood as brackets to tie the pallets together. Many of the pallets have extra slats on the bottom that are not needed for what I'm doing, so I plan to pry a few of those loose to use for brackets. I will place 2 pallets end to end, then position one of these slats so that it is positioned across both, with the center at the joint between the pallets. By screwing the slat into each pallet, I hope the result will be that the pallets are fairly well joined. I'll probably put two or possibly three slats at each joint. For the corners I plan to use some small pieces of 2"x4" that I have left over from other projects. I will position these inside the structure in each corner, and put screws through the pallets into the 2"x4" blocks. My hope is that this provides me not only with a convenient way of connecting the pallets, but also provides some added strength to the corners.

I think that this bin is going to work out well. My thought is that I can begin by building the compost pile over to one side so that it is boxed in by 3 walls. If that side gets full, I can move to the other side and do the same, leaving the area in front of the opening mostly free of material as much as possible. One thing I look forward to with this bin is having a good place to shred material. I've avoided doing that in the past, because its a pain to collect the shredded material. With this new bin, however, I can pile leaves or other material up in the middle of the bin, then use a lawn mower to shred it. By making sure the discharge of the mower is pointed in the direction where I want to place the shredded material, I should not have to collect and relocate it. I also should be able to turn the pile much more easily in the larger bin. For times when only one side is full, I can simply use a pitch fork to move the material from one side to the other, effectively flipping the entire pile.

I have a spot picked out for the new bin. It is maybe a couple hundred feet from where we are planning the garden to be next year. The spot is currently shaded part of the day, and will, hopefully, be mostly out of my way when I'm mowing over there. Since the spot is relatively level, I don't think that I will need to do much prep work other than cutting the weeds down so they are nice and short. I've already stacked the pallets next to the spot where I plan to build the bin, so I'm nearly ready to get started.

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