Making compost bin out of a garbage can

Augusta, GA

Does anyone have plans for, or can tell me how to make a compost bin out of one of those large garbage cans you roll to the street for pick up. I am feel sure there must be some way to convert. Thanks in advance for the help. J

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

betleyoun - I think those large roll-out garbage cans are the property of your local municipal authority.

Augusta, GA

Yes they are, but luckily have a son in law that owns a garbage company in an area that has private contracted service, so he has plenty of damaged or old can, one of which I got to convert.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Here in Phoenix the city recycles those bins and sells them for $5 as compost containers. They cut off the bottom (wheels plus a couple of feet of so) and drill 1" holes all around. I bought one but did not use it, gave it to a friend - only because I already had a system for composting that works well for me and my friend needed it. You need lots of holes, way more than the city drilled but otherwise it works well. The only cautionary note is that those bins are heavy and moving one off of the compost is hard work. You need to periodically redistribute the composting material to get good aeration so place it so that you can just push it over and shovel out from the bottom. HTH.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

betleyoun - I wish we had access to some of those cans. They would be great to store fall leaves in. I think you should ask your son in law for one or two and do what MaryMcP suggested.

Hmmm.... now I'm wondering if our local Municipality sells their old ones.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Part of my composting system is a standard rubber/plastic garbage can (55-gallon??), DH cut off the bottom and drilled holes all over it. When the barrel composter gets full and hard to turn, the compost goes to the plastic barrel to finish its work. Much easier to lift off for redistribution from time to time. Cover it with some straw to control odor and pests.

Sundance, WY(Zone 3b)

Hmm, wondering if you could leave the bottom attached, and drill tons of holes in the bottom too, and then tie the lid on well to roll and be able to mix that way? Has anyone tried such a thing?

Virginia Beach, VA

Home made compost bins,

Our garbage containers that the city gives are too huge for me so I buy the smaller ones from Lowes which i have 2 of. I also have the rubber maid with lids.

You need to make the holes big at the bottom so the earthworms can get in.

This message was edited Mar 12, 2012 4:42 PM

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

skellogg, I guess you could do that. All those holes are a lot of work and if that lid pops off when rolling.....well it could get messy. I've seen barrel composters at CostCo for $99. I got mine at a yard sale for half that. You could also use four bales of straw to pen the pile in, move one bale out of the way and pitchfork the pile from time to time. I would cover the pile with loose straw to control odor and flies. Hope this helps.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I only have a small compost heap, and it's just that: a heap.

Periodically it mess it around with a pitchfork so the drying stems that stick out ffrom the surface go back inside. Also, when I add kitchen waste to it, I dig down from the top to create a hole, dump iinto the hole, stir, and then pull material from the bottom and sides to cover the hole.

So I don't know what would be best for a bin, but here's a thought. If those trash bins or tubs are wider at the top than the bottom, maybe they would be better compost bins if used upside-down. Maybe cut the bottom off, then let that slightly narrower opening be the top.

It would certainly be easier to pull the tub up and off the heap if it "sloped in", opposite to the way a the way a clay pot "slopes out". You could just rock it back-forth-and-sidewaiee a little to loosen it, then lift it straight up. Or, if the bin is too heavy for that, tip it over and drag it off.

Just a thought.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Regarding a compost heap. I need some input.

I have an entire side yard where my A/C unit sits. Unfortunately, this side yard seems to have been filled with sand (probably dumped when the house was built), and English Ivy had taken over. The drought last summer beat most of it back. Then, when I had my fence installed and I had good access to that side, I pulled out as much as I could, and laid down heavy cardboard and weed block to keep it smothered back. It's still clear, but I see little sprigs of Ivy trying to poke through.

I have been wondering how to make use of the space in this side yard. It's about 5x25' feet, on the NORTH side of the house.

I have been storing contractor bags of leaves and the chopped down cole crop from last season (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, and greens).

Could I possibly start a compost pile over there, and if so, how do I proceed?

Also, I've noticed there are tons of grub worms right under the surface, but a couple applications of Grub Stop should handle them.

Should I cover the entire ground surface with more heavy cardboard, then just start dumping the leaves and grass and other spent vegetation? What about heat building up so near the house and the fence? Will it combust into flames? LOL!!! (But not really laughing cause I don't wanna see my house on the evening news and some reporter laughing about how the compost pile caught the house on fire!!!)

Please lmk. Instead of just having this dump heap there, I could build a closed pallet bin (possums? squirrels? racoons? cats? mice?, etc.).

I'd be putting together a small pile, roughly 3x10' to 3x15'.



Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I think that it's more true of composting than any other garden topic that "any way works". The more effort you put into it, the faster things will break down, but if you pile some stuff together, it will break down in a year more or less.

It won't combust spontaneously: if it gets dry, it will slow down and generate little heat. You should keep it moist.

Big piles "cook" faster. If you have enough "stuff" to make a heap 3-4 feet tall, the insides will heat up more, digest faster, and kill more weed seeds. Then when it cools down, worklms will move in and put on the finsihing touches.

Piles with a balance of green stuff (nitrogen) and brown stuff (carbon) break down faster. "They" say that the ratio of green to brown "should" be 20-1, but the ratio I use is "whatever I can get my hands on".

If TOO much green goes in (like, no leaves or paper or sawdust) , it can get slimy or even smelly. Add shredded paper or cardvboard or brown leaves, then instead of smelly, it becomes "rich".

If you turn the pile every few weeks, it will cook faster.

If you chop hard things smaller before adding them, they will break down faster. Stiff plant stems or grapefruit rinds are well worth chopping up. (That also makes the pile easier to turn.)

If you add wood, I WOULD urge you to chop it with a lawn mower, or better, let it rot in a separate pile with a few greens for as many years as it takes to get soft - then add it to the main heap.

If you have big or hard pieces, and you're like me, you'll wnat to USE that big pile of black gold beforfe the wood breaks down. Then you might have to screen the big pieces out.

I'm kind of sympathetic to the attitudes of the very most organic and no-till people: once you have that marvelous living compost, full of organisms including fungal hyphae, screening it is like breaking up a party. Better to deliver the whole living commuinity intact to your garden. But personally, I turn it under once it's there, because my beds are still awfull and I want to get the orgaqnic matter down below the first few inches.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Rick!

So, should I put something down on top of the ground to smother down the English Ivy? I have a couple sheets of plyboard that would take a couple years to degrade. But, the Ivy would work it's way up into the compost pile.

And, the pile would be in my side yard, between my brick house and my Cedar Fence...will this be ok? It won't touch either structure, or I could put some treated lumber against the side of the house to contain it.

LMK soonest.

Thanks, again!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Hey Ya'll,

I need some mathematical calculations checked. I'll be filling my RBs tomorrow with Al's mix, and I can't get a hold of him -- he's outta pocket.

Anyway, here're the calculations I need checked:

I'm filling ONE 4x8' raised bed with the mix below to a depth of 11"

The online conversion programs says I'll need approximately .99 cubic yards to fill to that depth. This is about 27 cf, which equals 202 gallons.

I'll be mixing :
5 parts Pine Bark Fines
2 parts Turface
2 parts Vermiculite
2 parts Sharp Sand
1 part of Reed/Sedge Peat, for a total of 12 parts (My "part" will be a 6.5 gallon bucket...)

So, 202 gallons divided by 12 parts = about seventeen 6.5 gallon buckets per part.

So, converting that to 6.5 gallon buckets would be:

Bark: ??? cu ft or 85 gallons or 13 buckets
Sand: 3.2 cu ft or 34 gallons or 5.2 buckets
Turface: 3.2 cu ft or 34 gallons or 5.2 buckets
Vermiculite: 3.2 cu ft or 34 gallons or 5.2 buckets
Peat: 3 cu ft or 24 gallons or 4 buckets




Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I get 4'x8'x11" = 29.33 cubic feet = 219.4 gallons = 1.1 cubic yard

I would work more approximately, and with a bigger measure than a 6.5 gallon bucket.
Like a wheelbarrow. See how many buckets fill a wheelbarrow, and make that two "parts".
For some things, you'll wnat "1/2 wheelbarrow" or '2.5 wheelbarrow".
I think that using a small measuring thing 32 times will be extra work.
And precision isn't needed.

Then make extra, becuase it will settle ... maybe settle a lot.

Something like: equal size piles or bags of sand and Turface and verm
Make a half-size pile of peat.

mix sand and Turface = 4 parts.
Make a pile of bark fines about 1/4 bigger than the sand/Turface pile, and mix those.

mix peat & verm gently.
combine that fragile mix with the rest.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Call it 36 cubic feet: 6 cubic feet extra = 20% extra.
36 / 12 parts = 3 cubic feet per part.

Buy enough bags to get that many cubic feet:

5 parts Pine Bark Fines - 15 cubic feet
2 parts Turface - - - - 10 cubic feet
2 parts Vermiculite - - - 10 cubic feet
2 parts Sharp Sand - - - 10 cubic feet
1 part of Reed/Sedge Peat, - - - 5 cubic feet

Or, repeating your calcs but using 219 gallons instead of 202

219 / 12 parts = 18.25 gallons / part = 2.8 "buckets" per part

5 parts Pine Bark - - - 14 buckets
2 parts of Turface - - - 5.6
2 parts Vermiculite - - - 5.6
2 parts Sharp Sand - - - 5.6
1 part of Sedge/Peat - - 2.8 "buckets"

But, once again, I would make some extra to allow for dsettling: let 1 part be 3 buckets

5 parts Pine Bark - - - 15 buckets
2 parts of Turface - - - 6
2 parts Vermiculite - - - 6
2 parts Sharp Sand - - - 6
1 part of Sedge/Peat - - 3 "buckets"

Virginia Beach, VA

Good job Rick Corey!!!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Rick!

So the last scenario posted actually uses my 6.5 gallon buckets?

Virginia Beach, VA

It is very hard to get rid of ivy and I think the only way to kill them is round up and digging the roots.Then place those bords for your compost pile.

Are you going to use trash cans? I have 2 of them as well as a pile for yard waste.


SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Belle!

My ideal scenario would be to kill the Ivy, lay a couple sheets of plyboard down and have some nice neat garbage cans.

Now that I'm thinking, would this work:
Spray the entire area with Roundup. Then, cover with the plyboard. But the plyboard would have holes cut out to sit the bottomless cans in or, at least cans with lots of holes in the bottom, so the worms and organisms could get inside. I know the compost should make contact with the ground. The plyboard would keep ME outta the mud, and smother back the Ivy, grass, and weeds.

Lemme know Whatcha think.

Virginia Beach, VA

Spray with round up but wait few weeks before starting your compost. my concern is the chemicals from the round up.
Can you put your bins temporarily somewhere for few weeks?

Rick Corey what do you think? Does earthworm thrive where round up been sprayed?


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

I would go with a pre-emergent like corn gluten meal, wet it down well then cover with newspapers, wet again and finally cardboard and wet again. Then your plywood etc.

Running for my flame retardant suit - some folks are opposed to anything with the word corn in it.....but this stuff works well for bermuda grass.

Virginia Beach, VA

Where do you buy the corn gluten meal? thanks


SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thank you, guys!

I don't have any cans yet. Need to get that growth under control first.

Where DOES corn meal gluten come from (to purchase)?

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

I have found it at the nursery - it's a well known organic pre-emirgent so look in that section, and also the feed store - those places where they sell horse worming tablets, saddles, upscale kibble. It's a bit pricey......but I like the non-RoundUp solution. I think the RoundUp can collect in the soil and, if you get a heavy rain or flooding for some household reason, the latent RoundUp may leach into root systems you don't want to remove. That's my idea anyway, fwiw.....

This message was edited Mar 18, 2012 6:08 AM

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Mary!

Brady, TX(Zone 8a)

Here's where I've found it --

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Thanks TX - here's another good link:

Just Google corn gluten meal pre emergent, you'll find lots of good reading.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> So the last scenario posted actually uses my 6.5 gallon buckets?

I intended it to! If it were me, i would try to go by the cubic foot, becuase i would be buying my things that way.

Earthworms and Roundup? I just don't know. Sorry!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I got the bed filled, and heaven help the tomatoes! I know there are 4 outta 5 ingredients mixed together, but I would be hard-pressed to tell what proportions they got mixed in!!

I think I'm gonna take your advice and go with a larger "part" when I mix it next time. I was trying to use the wheelbarrow as my "part" and that was going well, until after I made 4 trips to the dirt yard for the sharp sand. Ya'll know how heavy sand is? Builder's sand? Damp, builder's sand? IT WEIGHS A TON!

Subsequently, I have NO idea how much sand got shoveled in. In any case, the box is filled. No tomatoes planted, yet, but the box is filled.
Regarding the compost bins, I'm gonna go with the DIY garbage can compost bins. I'll look for some corn gluten meal as recommended, then lay down the newspapers, and plywood to smother back the Ivy. I think I can put together something nice and tidy over there. Just having the plyboard down will be wonderful! At some point, I may even pour concrete. Or not. Once the ivy is gone, I may be able to have a nice little root veggie patch. We'll see.

I'll post progress pics.


Virginia Beach, VA

I checked the corn meal gluten and very pricey!! We use pre emergent for crabgrass and i i am not sure if the gluten works the same way.


I will be watching your photos.


SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Belle!

I'll post as I go.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Linda said:

>> I know there are 4 outta 5 ingredients mixed together, but I would be hard-pressed to tell what proportions they got mixed in!!

YEAH! Good on you. That's the way to go. There's no place for a milligram balance when making soil!

>> I have NO idea how much sand got shoveled in.

Sure! That's why the last step is like a wine taster rolling a sip around her mouth, or a cook tasting the soup. "You know, I think this could use some more garlic!"

Like soup can always use more garlic, soil can always use more compost.

I know what you mean about wet sand being heavy! I went to pushing half-loads of sand, but a heaped-tall pile of bark. The sand kind of messed up my cheap wheelbarrow's axle, but fortunately I also have a wheelbarrow-with-a-big-ball for a front wheel. That's sturdier than I am.

Good luck with the ivy. For tidyness around the sides, I always admired people who used a big loop of garden fence or chicken wire. It keeps things from blowing around and looks tidy. (They say.)

Me, I dunno nothing about "tidy". My neighbors probably wish I did!


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