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Hands sift through compost ready for use


Wooden pallet compost bin

A wood holding unit is one of the least expensive and easiest units to build. It can be made from old pallets or scrap wood (untreated). Turning can be a challenge with this system unless provisions are made for easy removal of the front panel. Typically, setting at least two bins up will be easiest for turning. Remove the front panel of one bin and place it on the second bin. Then pitch fork the materials into the second bin. You can also use aerating probes, like rebar to allow oxygen to infiltrate the pile.


  • Four wooden pallets (five if you want a bottom in the container), sized to make a four-sided container at least 3 feet wide by 3 feet long by 3 feet tall
  • Nails
  • Baling wire
  • Two 8-foot lengths of 2-inch x 4-inch, pressure-treated lumber
  • Five 12-foot lengths of 1-inch x 6-inch, pressure-treated lumber
  • Galvanized 8d nails (one pound)


  • Saw
  • Sledgehammer
  • Claw hammer
  • Work gloves

Construction Details

  1. Saw the 8-foot lengths of 2x4, pressure-treated lumber in four pieces, each 4 feet long, to be used as corner posts.
  2. Choose a 3-foot square site for your compost bin. Use the sledgehammer to pound the four posts into the ground, 3 feet apart at the corners of the square.
  3. Saw each of the five 12-foot boards into 3-foot pieces. Allowing five boards to a side and, starting at the bottom, nail the boards to the posts to make a four-sided container. Leave 2 inches between the boards to allow air to get into the pile.
  4. If you wish to decrease your composting time, build a second holding unit so that the wastes in one can mature while you add wastes to the other.

Used with permission from "Composting to Reduce the Waste Stream, NRAES-43" by NRAES, The Natural Resource, Agricultural, and Engineering Service, Cooperative Extension, 152 Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-5701 (607) 255-7654