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Building compost bins from pallets

LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 6,635
We've inherited 9 pallets of various different sizes and designs in our new garden.  I'd like to build a 3-bay compost bin.  Would you use the pallets as they are, or deconstruct them and use the wood?  Lazily, I'd prefer the former solution... but can see the advantages of the latter one.  

I've seen videos on Youtube but am not convinced the bins they produce will last long enough to be useful, given they are softwood and will be in contact with damp.  Plus the gaps between the boards are large, so grass cuttings etc will tend to fall through.

I also have a good supply of plastic sacks, if it would be useful to line the pallets with something.  Also an almost endless supply of cardboard boxes, emptied after moving in...

Design ideas gratefully received.  And any other ideas what to do with pallets (used by the previous owner to stop his little dog escaping the garden)...
"The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
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  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,307
    Have you tried You Tube for this? I bet they have demonstrations. You need to fasten the pieces together with metal braces and hinge the fronts  for access. They don't last as long or look as elegant as the ones in the catalogues but they do the job and are virtually free.
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 6,635
    Thanks, @Posy - yes, I've watched some Youtube videos.  Just wondered if anyone on here had actually made any...
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • BenCottoBenCotto RutlandPosts: 2,191
    edited December 2019



















    Here is ours. It’s a bit crudely built but very effective. The timber cladding on top of the pallets is more for aesthetics than heat retention. The tarpaulins in camouflage design were sourced very cheaply on eBay.

    We generate a lot of grass clippings and rarely enough brown material so I scrounge a couple of bales of hay from a friend in the village who keeps horses.

  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 6,581
    It's far easier to use them as they are @Liriodendron , it doesn't matter really what they look like. It's also easier and quicker to tie the corners together using long plastic ties.
    You could staple mulch fabric (rather than plastic sacks) to the inside if the gaps are too wide, or take one pallet to pieces and use the wood to fill the gaps on the others but that is very hard work. They don't come apart very easily I found. Once they're done if you really want to, you can paint them to pretty them up. I've had two builders crates  (which contained stone slabs) which have lasted for over 6 years.
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 6,635
    Thanks very much, @BenCotto and @Lizzie27.  Some useful information from you both... I wonder if I should line them with cardboard?  Obviously only a temporary solution to stuff falling through the gaps, but I suspect I'll have more "green" than "brown" to compost anyway (lots of grass) so I can just mix the soggy cardboard in, when it starts to break down...
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 23,540
    In our Belgian garden we made a 3 bay compost heap from pallets as they are.  I seem to remember we put in vertical posts for the corners and then just made an E shape with 4 bars instead of 3.   

    We had some old black corrugated plastic sheets form an outhouse that had been torn down and nailed one of those along the back to help hold it together and keep out the prevailing northwesterly winds.  We cut one or two up and smotted them inside the 4 "arms".  

    For the fronts, I attached smaller rods of wood to the verticals to make slots into which we fitted planks we could slide up and down to empty and turn the heaps.   Worked a treat.  The one that was being fileld was left open and the other two had covers on to help with the "cooking" - cardboard and then more corrugated plastic.  We made sure they were dampened before covering.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    @BenCotto's look excellent. As the others say - just use as they are. They're a bandit to get apart IMO. It's just the 'sliding front' that needs to have single boards. 
    If you had some old compost bags or similar, you could use them for a lining, with some holes punched in,  but I expect you don't have many of those yet! The cardboard should work quite well though, and be breathable too.

    I used an old cover I had for a table, for lining mine - a green fabric one. It meant decent airflow, but a bit of extra protection. I eventually gave up on the timber ones though and got plastic compost bins earlier this year. I couldn't get a good site for the wooden ones to get enough heat. It took forever to make any worthwhile compost. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 6,635
    Thanks, @Obelixx.  Very helpful.
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 6,635
    Sorry, @Fairygirl - you snuck in there!  Thank you.
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 23,540
    Found a photo from April 2015 when we'd been doing a spring cleanand filled the bins again.   They're ticked away at the end of the veg plot and disguised by the clematis that scarmble up those metal grids once the get going in spring.


    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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