5 Easy Steps To Build a Backyard Compost System

cinderblock_compost_diagram.jpgThere are tons of ways to go about composting and probably even more ways to build your own backyard compost system. This is one simple design of our own. The cinder blocks are easy to work with and difficult to move once placed on the ground, making a bin. The retractable cover helps protect the compost from getting too wet, too dry or being pilfered by birds and other critters. Once all of your materials are gathered, your building time will probably take less than half an hour.

Material Needed:

  • 14 - cinderblocks - standard size (16” × 8” × 8”)
  • 1 - 6’ x 8’ heavy duty general purpose tarp
  • 1 - 4” x 4” or 2” x 4” cut no longer than 3’ and no shorter than 2’ 10”
  • A staple gun or a hammer and a few 1 ½ - 2” nails

Before step one, find your ideal ground. It should be flat with a very slight slope towards the front of your bin (promotes drainage) and free of weeds such as bamboo, ivy, etc. If your ground is not flat, consider leveling it a bit. If you are in a weedy mess, consider laying a few sheets of corrugated cardboard on your site - it will suppress the weeds, which will later be smothered by your compost.

Step 1 - Lay out your bin
Placing them so the holes are exposed, use 6 cinder blocks to make your back wall and 4 cinder blocks for each side wall as illustrated above. Make sure that your side walls are built to be inside of your back wall to make a roughly 2’ 8” space between the side walls.

Step 2 - Start your cover
Fold your 6’ x 8’ tarp in half the long way to make a 3’x8’ tarp. Place your 4”x 4” or 2” x 4” at one end of the tarp.

Step 3 - Finish your cover
Roll the 4”x 4” or 2” x 4” piece of lumber up into the tarp so all four sides are covered. Leave between 6.5’ and 7’ of tarp unwrapped. Use your staple gun or hammer and nails to secure the tarp to the wood. This will act as a weight to keep your compost tightly covered.

Step 4 - Attach your cover
Remove the top three cinder blocks from the back wall. Place the back edge to the tarp on the top of the three bottommost cinder blocks making up the back wall. Replace the three topmost cinder blocks, securing the back edge of the tarp into the bin.

Step 5 - Cover and uncover the bin (repeat for the life of your compost) 
Pull the tarp completely over the top and the front of your bin so it is on the ground in front of the bin. There may be some excess tarp, causing the cover to be loose. If this is the case, then roll the tarp around the wood until all of the slack is taken up and the cover sits taught with the wood weighing it down in the front.

To add food scraps, add water, expose the compost to air, turn, or harvest your compost retract the cover by rolling the tarp around your wood, and resting the wood on top of the tarp as shown in the first image in steps 5 - to ∞ above. Once you are done with your activity, cover the bin by rolling your cover back down until the wood is flush with the ground.

Want to learn more?
Get the dirt on soil health, and understand what "healthy soil" is made of, or read our guide on how to compost in just 5 easy steps, and, take the Earth Day Every Day pledge to join our community who is committing to make a difference with the way that we treat our soil and our waste!

Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson 

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