How to build your own compost
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

June 19, 2011

The simple act of gardening is an expression by the individual towards self-sufficiency and a sustainable lifestyle. Our understanding of sustainability continually evolves to this day, but maintains fundamental roots in a maintained closed energy loop. A food web in nature describes a sustainable system for the simple fact that there is a closed loop from growth, to predation and decay, and finally back to growth again.

It is in our human actions that we have developed a linear consumptive system which has broken the loop and put us on the path towards an overall non-sustainable system. So how can we keep moving towards a closed loop regarding our food production? Well there’re many answers to this question and when that is the case, I like to begin with the simple ones that I myself have control over.

One beginning step that I have found to be incredibly important, easy, and gratifying is to start one’s own compost. It is affordable, economical, fun, and I’m going to show you how to build one.

all I had to buy was the chicken wire, hinges and handle

What you’ll need:

4 pallets

4 meters of chicken wire

2 hinges

Screws and either staples or short wide flat head nails

Plastic covering or a thin board for a top

I have found pallets to be extremely effective. They allow for air to flow into the compost causing the organic material to break down within a few weeks while preventing odor from building up. If you go to your local grocery or hardware store you can often pick them up for free. You’ll want four and because some pallets have seen better days, try to find four that have the same dimensions, are sturdy, and void of rusty outcropping nails.

Choose where to build your compost. Compost breaks down best when it is moist. Not dry, not wet, but moist. So if you live in a dry climate, shade might be the best bet. If you live in a wet climate like it is here in the Coastal Temperate Rainforest, than sunny spots are great.

Getting it done one step at a time

Dig the four pallets about half a foot into the ground arranged in a box.  Screw them together at the corners. Line the outside with chicken wire and either staple it to the pallets or use the short flat head nails to pin it in place. Fill in the dirt around the base. The chicken wire should line up with the top of the pallets and hopefully extend a few inches into the soil.

All we need now is a lid.

Put your covering over top of the compost and either use screws to attach your lid or string to hold down your plastic covering. This will help maintain the microclimate and prevent animals from getting in.

Finished, one has reduced their trash output significantly by keeping all their organic waste within a closed loop and created fertilizer to be used in the garden within a few weeks. They don’t call it “Black gold” for nothing.

Use these with any lid to allow for easy opening and closing.

The growth in our knowledge regarding sustainability lies in our realization that a sustainable loop does not only allow us the ability to maintain an action in perpetuity, but that sustainable actions results in more efficient practices, which translates into fewer materials with smaller energy inputs. This results in greater economic gains and healthy lifestyles over the LONG TERM.

Hope it helps. Would be great to hear some feedback or see some pictures of your finished compost! Happy gardening all.

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