I want to start composting.

I live in a house of 2, and a fairly large garden, in Australia, and I am renting (therefore do not want to spend a lot of money on something that I can't take with me).

I was googling at the various approaches to DIY compost bins and was not sure on a clear winner.

What is the best approach to begin composting in my situation? Should I pop down garden center and buy something or is it fairly easy/cheap to build something myself? I would like some experienced suggestions.

4 Answers 4


I have never purchased a ready-made compost bin, but I have made many cubic yards of compost by one of three approaches:

  1. Make a big pile (very roughly: 4-5' high by 5-6' diameter). (Yes, it's that simple.) This is obviously the cheapest and simplest approach, though if you need to keep a very tidy appearance it may not be an option. The other problem is that I've occasionally had skunks dig into the pile to get at kitchen scraps. Not sure what critters you get in Australia, but this could be a problem for you too. I use this approach now.
  2. Construct a "bin". I used purchased lumber and chicken wire to enclose a bin on 3 sides. I found this difficult to turn, though it did keep everything contained. I gave up on this design after we moved from the house where I built this.
  3. Use a piece of welded-wire fence, connecting the ends to each other to create what looks like a pen. Dump your materials into it. This keeps everything contained. You have to take the fence apart (not hard) to turn the pile. It may help to pound in some stakes to keep the fence in place (I didn't do this). I used this for a big leaf pile and let the leaves compost in place, unturned, for a couple of years with beautiful results at the end. (And huge amounts of worms.)

I suppose a fourth "bin" that I've used is to simply dig garden waste into the soil and let it rot in place.


Totally agree with "bstpierre" answer.

Personally I wouldn't waste your or my money on a ready made compost bin (tumbler).

Here is what I did:

  • Picked a location in the garden.

Location for compost pile in a garden

  • Cleared that area.
  • Bought 4 (cheap) light-duty steel fence posts.
  • Bought a small roll of Garden/Fence hardware cloth eg ½inch (12.5mm) spaced galvanized wire.
  • Had some spare cable ties laying around and decided to use them to attach the hardware cloth to the fence posts.
  • Assembled a simple three sided structure (see below photo) using the above mentioned materials.

Assembled, a simple three sided hardware cloth compost pen

  • Installed the simple three sided structure in the location picked out previously.

Installed, a simple three sided hardware cloth compost pen

  • And here is the same compost pile 3 years later (photo taken today).

A simple three sided hardware cloth compost pen

  • that's pretty neat! How do you keep the flies away? That's always been my problem with open composting... Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 1:49
  • 3
    @yoda, (touching wood as I type this), I've not experienced any fly (or other pest) problems using this method. During the year when the pile isn't frozen I go out & turn the pile once every week (or two). When putting any kitchen type scraps on the pile, I always! bury them at least 6inch (150mm) beneath the top surface of the pile ie I never leave tasty food scrapes on the surface, thus attracting such things as flies (& other larger pests, such as mice, rats, raccoons, etc).
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 2:36
  • ah! That's the mistake I was making... I would just pile them on top each day and turn them over once in a while. Thanks for the tip! brb, off to fix my compost pile! Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 3:10
  • 3
    @yoda: always put browns (e.g. fall leaves) on top of your greens (e.g. kitchen scraps or weed clippings). It prevents fly problems as well as preventing loss of nitrogen as ammonia. Even better is to sprinkle a little garden soil with the browns -- organisms already in the soil know how to quickly capture the ammonia and convert it to nitrates which are more stable.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 12:12
  • @Mike: Nice pix. I would go out and take a picture of mine, but you wouldn't be able to see it under the giant (volunteer) pumpkin that I decided to let grow...
    – bstpierre
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 12:14

Another cheap solution is to get a plastic bucket/pail drill several holes in it then dig a hole near the center of your garden to accommodate the bucket/pail leaving approximately 5-10 cm above the ground. Put the scraps in the bucket and apply moist bedding then put a lid over the bucket/pail to keep the moisture in. Apply worms or let native worms find the scraps through the holes and go in and out as they please. Depending on your environment (heat and rainfall) you may have to monitor the moisture so that it doesn't dry out.

When full you can harvest the vermicompost after a few months.

I've done better with small plastic tubs with newspaper or burlap covering the tops to keep in the moisture because I can move them to cooler or warmer areas as needed. I just feed them and monitor the bedding and usually after a few months I harvest and swap out containers. I've also done the commercial versions with stackable trays, but in my opinion they are overpriced.


I did similar research a few months back and have also posted similar questions. General consensus is to build your own vs. buying something readymade. Having said that, not all situations are the same so you will have to decide which one works best for you. I ended up purchasing something because of a few reasons.

(1) I live in a residential area with neighbors so I had to be mindful of that. If I was living in a farm or a ranch, my decision would have been different

(2) I am composting for the first time so instead of potential making a mess (foul odor, mosquitoes, rodents, etc.) I opted for something enclosed that let me to purchasing something off the shelf

(3) I wanted to try it out so instead of building something permanent (structure), I opted for a commercial version that I can discard if I don't enjoy it any more.

No results to share as yet about my experience since it has only been a few weeks

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