How to Make Your Own Compost Bin With Straw Bales

by Rebecca Simpson on August 14, 2013

build your own compost bin with straw bales

Why Make You Own Compost Bin with Straw Bales?

The benefits of adding compost to your garden are well known.  There are many devices you can buy to help you process a moderate amount of compost.  But if you are looking for an inexpensive way to make your own compost bin that is ideal for making larger batches of compost, a straw bale compost bin might be for you.

What are the Benefits?

Using straw bales to make your own compost bin has many advantages.  The building materials (straw bales) are easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and the bins can be built by one person in one day.  Additionally, the straw bale compost bin is not a permanent commitment.  If you don’t like it or want to move it, you’ll have that chance once the bales decompose.  Third, the bales are thick and do a great job retaining moisture and heat, ensuring your compost doesn’t get cold or dry out. Finally, it is 100% recyclable.  At the end of your bin’s life, you can compost the bales themselves.  No waste!

How To Make Your Own Compost Bin

The beauty of this system is that it’s easy to build, highly configurable, and can be customized for your space considerations.

You will need:

  •  Straw bales (minimum of four)
  • Composting materials (greens and browns)
  • Pitchfork
  • Wheelbarrow (optional)
  • Weed mat or cardboard boxes

Begin by laying down weed mat or clean and flattened cardboard boxes over the level area where you will be building  the compost bins.  This will discourage grass and weeds from growing into the bales and compost.

Next, build a rectangle out of the bales. The most basic straw bale compost bin is made from four straw bales.  You can make a nice batch of compost with this simple setup.  If you want the deluxe version however, you can expand to seven or ten bales to build a two or three bin system.  Simply use extra bales to lengthen the walls and as dividers to form the extra bins.  Alternatively, you can build three separate bins using four bales each and place them in separate locations if you are low on space.  This option may require a little more work to move materials around, but it will still accomplish the goal.  Take measurements and see which configuration will work best for you.  The video demonstrates some possibilities.

In order to get really hot compost time after time, I suggest building a storage bin, an active composting bin, and an extra bin for turning the pile.  Using these three bins, you’ll be able to make your own compost that easily reaches  the hot zone (140°F/60°C).  The separate bins can be built together or apart, although the closer they are, the less work you’ll have to do to move material from one to the other.

Finally, fill the finished bins with well balanced composting material.  Moisten the material with a hose if necessary to the consistency of a wet sponge.  Cover the compost with straw and let it rest.  The temperature will quickly rise within a few days, and your on your way to making your own compost!

Tips and Tricks

  • Straw bales are rather heavy when dry, extremely heavy when wet.  Be sure to keep them dry until you know exactly where you want them. 
  • Use straw, not hay.  Hay contains seeds that may cause weed problems.  It’s generally more expensive, too.
  • If you build a storage bin, there may be odors from such things as decomposing grass clippings.  Be sure to place the bin in a place where the odor will not offend.
  • If you are using a storage bin to accumulate such things as green kitchen waste, you may get flies.  Locate the bin in a place where this will not be bothersome.  Covering the waste with straw may help somewhat, but be prepared for the fact that small flies may hang out there no matter what.
  • The straw bales will get discolored with age.  This is natural and in my opinion, beneficial.  To me, the discoloration is a sign that microbial life is inoculating the bales, which will in turn help inoculate your new batches of compost.
  • My straw bale compost bin is almost one year old and still going strong.  I am estimating the lifespan of a straw bale compost bin to be roughly 1-2 years, depending on your climate.  The beautiful thing is that when the bales are too old, they can be composted too.  There is no waste, and you are free to start over in the same spot or try somewhere new.
  • The ground under your compost bin will seethe with life.  Worms love living under the bales’ walls.  Should you choose to move your bins to a new spot, you’ll be leaving behind a beautiful patch of super fertile ground behind you.   Knowing this means you can use a straw bale compost bin to expand your future gardening options!

Sharing is Caring!

If you found this post useful, please feel free to share.  Have questions? Leave me a comment and I’m happy to help.  I hope you enjoyed learning how to make your own compost bin with straw bales.  Happy gardening! [sharexy]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

meridiangardener May 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I think a compost area like this will be a perfect solution for our community garden!~ Thanks for the post

Reply

Suburban Stone Age May 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Wonderful, so glad you found it useful! :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: