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DIY: $5 Compost Bin for Leaves

A compost bin next to a wooden fence.

This month the leaves have been falling in Houston. In my neighborhood, lawns are covered with them and landscape crews are blowing, raking and bagging. As I drove around I thought what a waste. All this rich organic matter being tossed in plastic bags, piled up at the curb, and headed for a landfill.

A wire fence covered in leaves serves as a compost bin.

This year I reserved a small area in my backyard to compost my leaves. My yardman bagged them as he usually does, but I asked him to place them in the backyard INSTEAD OF THE CURB. Today, I made three VERY low cost compost bins out of fence material for around $5 each.

I bought a roll of REDBRAND Welded Wire Fence 3 ft x 50 ft (around $27). This should be enough to make 4 or 5 bins depending on the diameter of each. It is made in the USA, 14 gauge with 2″ x 4″ rectangular openings. A good pair of wire cutters will make it easier. Wear gloves and eye protection to be safe.

A pair of pliers near a compost bin.

Roll out the wire, (about 10 feet worth), cut the wire on the far right side just before the next cross. Fold the wire over the other end and wrap it around to form a cylinder. Fill the bins with leaves…

A compost bin sitting on the ground next to a fence.

A wire compost bin with leaves on it.
and wait… Keep it moist. I put mine facing the sun, to keep them warm in the winter. I do not plan on turning these bins, I am going to wait and let them compost down naturally. I will be not be adding any more material to them, so that when they’ve composted down, all I have to do is remove the wire enclosure and fill the wheelbarrow. These bins will take time to decompose but I’ll have rich leaf mold compost for my veggie garden when its ready.

A wooden compost bin.

9 thoughts on “DIY: $5 Compost Bin for Leaves”

  1. My dad does this, and it does work really well, although it may take two or three years to get a really good compost. He screens them from view with a woodland planting of azaleas and hollies and mountain laurel. :)

  2. Jacqueline,
    I made basically the same bins last spring. It is producing compost that I use in my plantings. I put green lawn clippings in with the leaves and it heats up and breaks down faster for me. It’s a great idea as most everything now gets thrown in the compost bin and not in the garbage .

  3. This would be a great gift for my mother for Mother’s Day. I know it seems silly to most, but she seriously does have EVERYTHING. This would be something unique and useful for her garden– something she would love. Thanks so much for the pictures.

  4. Jan (ThanksForToday)

    Hi Jackie, You have some great ideas to share! I’d love it if you’d participate in my garden bloggers sustainable living project. It’s in recognition of earth day. Take a look. Jan

  5. You’ll be glad you saved all those leaves! The bins can also be used for the center of a keyhole garden. Basically you put the compost in the middle and plant around it. Then you water the compost and let it drain into the plants. You’ll get nutrient rich water as it percolates down and it helps your leaves turn into compost as well.

    However… this comes from someone in Minnesota where we have plenty of water and rain — this advice may not work well in Texas.

  6. I did this…but here, where we get no summer rain, the material stays too dry. I switched to old trash barrels that are cracked or with holes in the bottom and are no longer good for trash. I cut the bottoms cut out. These keep the material moist enough to compost properly. Where the area gets regular rainfall, the wire fencing probably works fine.

  7. Great idea! I’m ready to do something with all of those black bags stacked behind my shed.

  8. Thanks. This is what I am looking for.

    And I wonder if there is a even more easier way…

    I will try to punch some holes in black plastic bag, and put leaves into it. The idea is let oxygen comes in. Plus black plactic bag will absorb sunlight and trap heat inside.

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