Making A Cheap, Recycled Compost Bin

My latest homemade project here at Bee HQ is a compost bin. When I googled “compost bin made from recycled wooden pallets” there were 1.7m suggestions, so you might ask, why add one more? Well, I hope you will find this simple and clear.

I have an 8-9 step guide below, and, in case you worry it is difficult and time-consuming, I found it surprisingly easy to make, bearing in mind I am a very amateurish DIY-er. How wrong could it go?

First up, find yourself a kindly local company willing to let you have the pallets. You need four, roughly the same size and shape. Some pallets (which tend to be painted bright red or blue) are not to be recycled; they belong to the company who own them, CHEP, who are very clear on the subject:

CHEP equipment cannot legally be bought, modified, exchanged for non-CHEP equipment, sold, or otherwise disposed of. Unauthorised appropriation, use or disposal of CHEP equipment is strictly prohibited.

However, there are many other pallets around, and I have never been turned away when I have asked for them from companies where I am a customer (thanks Hillier Garden Centre, Wickes and Topps Tiles). Indeed, they seemed happy for me to have them, especially when I explained why I wanted them. Obviously you need to be able to transport them (they fit in the back of our trusty Volvo with the seats down) and, while rather unwieldy, are not too heavy.

I did read a handful of the million or so internet articles and forums, and was slightly concerned that some of the pallets are stamped MB which means they have been treated with methyl bromide, which is a pesticide. One article said to avoid using them if you are going to be then putting the compost you make onto crops (which I won’t). All the other articles I read (The Telegraph, Guardian and Gardeners World) didn’t mention it at all. In the end I made an executive decision to not worry about it. Also, sorting through the pallets searching for the stamps (many not easily visible) made me look pretty damn fussy. I reckon life is a little too short and delaying making the compost bin (and therefore the compost – which is a fairly long process anyway) seemed a bit silly and counter-productive. More to the point, I just wanted to get on with it. Patience is not my middle name….

Four pallets later, I started the project by getting some chicken wire from the shed and pegged it out onto the area I had chosen for the compost bin. This is to prevent vermin from burrowing and tunneling into the compost from the bottom.

Chicken wire at the bottom of the compost bin

Next step is to get the first two, then three, pallets roughly into the right place and tie them together with some wire once you are happy they are about right.

Roughly tie the pallets together

Three pallets in place

Stand back. Admire. Have a cup of tea.

Maine Coon 'helper': Huck

At this point our one-year-old Maine Coon, Huck, decided I needed some ‘help’.

Saw the gate in half

Get a saw and cut the fourth pallet in half.

Screw and nail the pallets together

Get a drill, some screws, a hammer and some nails and secure the entire structure together.

Gate hinges for the final pallet

This is the only part where another pair of hands is welcome, and I luckily had my nephew staying who was able and willing. You want this bit of the compost bin to open so you can fork your waste in from the wheelbarrow. You could have the entire fourth pallet opening in this way of course. Initially I used some small hinges, but realised the weight of the ‘gate’ required more substantial ironmongery.

Attach a cabin-hook

An alternative to a hook would be some farmer’s twine but this looks elegant ….. for a recycled compost bin.

Hook it on

All done. Now the far more difficult business of making good compost begins. And more to the point, one compost bay in isolation is not ideal, so I will need to add at least one other pallet-structure to this first one. However, I can wait for a few months before I need to go scouting for more pallets. This is what I will be aiming for:

Ideal 3 compost bays

Overall cost?  Under ten pounds for the hinges, screws and chicken-wire.

Cheap. Cheerful. Recycled. Fun.

What’s not to like?

Annie Bee x

Annie Bee blog signature

Annie’s (Early) Annual Autumn Project

Often while I am away for my summer holidays, I hatch a plan for my annual autumn project. Somehow sitting on a sun-lounger, reading and relaxing takes my mind off to a place where I seek to improve things on my return home. They tend to be house or garden related and have included over the past few years the following, with a rating system out of 10:

1. Create a little sitting room area in the playroom where I can relax with my gardening books and a cuppa on cold winter afternoons: √√√√√√√√√

This turned out to be a winner – it looks pretty, is tidy and, when the kids aren’t in the room watching TV, it is a haven for me.

Sitting room

2. Make 3 raised vegetable beds at the very top of the garden: √√√√

Although beautifully built by my friend’s husband, Bradley, they have been rather useless due to their position (under a massive tree, so shaded and very dry – but it was the only place they could have gone). However, all is not necessarily lost as I subsequently learnt that raspberries might well thrive there with a bit of tender loving care. So far, so promising.

3. Tidy up and re-organise the study (where I am writing this): √√√√√√√√√

I bought cheap and cheerful stationery holders/organisers from Ikea, all in one colour, got rid of mountains of old paperwork that was not needed anymore ( e.g. bank statements from the last century ~ all shredded and added to my many compost heaps). This is now a lovely space in the house – quiet, well lit (thanks to a beautiful Anglepoise lamp bought by Granny Bee for my birthday) and perfect for getting on with writing and admin.

study pic for blog

4. Completely refurbish one of the Baby Bee’s bedrooms: √√√√√√√√√√

For this project I had a lengthy deadline of 4 months, so had a huge amount of fun buying junk/charity shop items, chalk paints and doing much of the work myself. It is now the nicest room in the house. When it is tidy………

bedroom refurbished

5. Get a greenhouse. √√√√√√√√√√

This meant coercing various members of the family over a period of months to come on board to make it a very special 50th birthday present for me. We built the concrete base ourselves (thanks to 2 of the Baby Bees who seemed to know what to do, despite the land being on a slight slope) and the ever-generous Mr Bee who persuaded me to get a bigger greenhouse than I originally thought I would need. Many a plant has been raised from seed since I got it, and it too is a retreat of peace and industriousness with the added benefit of divine, fresh tomatoes.

greenhouse base

April greenhouse 008

6. Buy an Eglu and have a few chickens. √√√√√√√√√√

One of the best autumn projects without a doubt. While the Eglu ( was quite pricey, it is a very solid piece of engineering, is easy to clean and I think, healthier for the chooks than a wooden alternative. My chickens  (~ over the years: Molly, Bidge, Gertrude, Emily, Florence, Edie, and my current pair, Alabama and Georgia) have come and gone. Illnesses, pecking and a fox have all been problems so we have had our ups and downs, but when they are producing fresh eggs and entertaining me, there is no better pet. Characterful, sweet, cheeky and great fun. The chooks are also an example of an autumn project idea (get a micro-pig) which was vetoed after some proper research.

garden and wet junior (27)

This year I took my summer holiday early, so my autumn project has already begun, despite it only still being mid-July. Of course, this might leave time for another one later in the year – I am looking at you, laundry room.

On my recent travels I visited some very good friends in NZ. They have an amazing eye for design, have built an award-winning house in one of the most beautiful spots of this earth and are the best hosts I have ever encountered. I had a sneaky look in their purpose-built pantry/utility room and realised my kitchen storage, such as it is, was due for some serious work and a very big tidy up. We have lived in this house for 15 years, and the kitchen cupboards were full to brimming with equipment, bakeware, utensils, not to mention food. Every item is in the process of being taken out, examined for its worthiness to stay (not been used in the past 18 months? ~ fare thee well)  cleaned and audited.

Before and after photos of the main food cupboard below:

kitchen cupboard before

kitchen cupboard after

Kilner jars ( are my new best friend, as is clear labelling and good cupboard storage solutions (Lakeland have some good products if you can avoid buying even more equipment to fill said cupboards while you are looking at their site Shoe boxes and old biscuit tins are also very useful.

Spring-cleaning has never been big with me, but autumn, with its feeling (in the UK at least where the new academic year commences) of new beginnings, is my time to find a worthwhile project and enjoy making small but significant improvements to my home and garden.

Let me know if you have similar projects, whether in spring or autumn, or just when you can make time.

There are some good pics and ideas here if you are looking for some kitchen inspiration:

Annie Bee x

Annie Bee signature