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Go Green This Fall: Build a Leaf Composter

Make the most of the seasonís castoffs by composting leaves and other yard and kitchen waste

Building a compost bin is a simple low-cost project that can be easily done in less than half a day. Gardeners love compost bins because they’re ideal for recycling leaves and twigs from the yard, along with scraps of organic matter from the kitchen, into a nourishing material for plants and shrubs in the garden. By using compost as mulch or to enrich the soil in your garden, macro and micro nutrients will gradually release into the soil, pH levels will be optimized and healthy root systems in your plants will emerge.

In addition to fertilizing the soil, compost improves its texture and ability to hold water and air, minimizing runoff. You can build this practical, multi-segment bin using scrap lumber if you have it. Or try an exterior lumber, such as pine or Western red cedar, which doesn’t need to be treated and will last for years. Pile up the compost gradually, adding new sections to the bin as it grows. You’ll have a nice load of finished compost in about a month and a half. Here’s how to make the bin:

What You’ll Need:

60 feet 1x6 boards (no plywood, as the layers will delaminate over time)

Hand or circular saw

10 feet 2x2 wood

Eighty 2.5-inch woodscrews

Drill driver with screw and drill bits


1. Saw the 1x6 boards into ten 36-inch-long pieces and ten 34-inch-long pieces lengths.

2. Saw the 2x2 boards into twenty 6-inch lengths.

3. Place a 34-inch-long piece on top of two 2x2 pieces, with each 2x2 piece flush with the side edges of the 34-inch board and offset 1 inch from its top edge. Drill starter holes about 1 inch from the top and bottom of 1x6 board about 1.5 inches from the ends. Drive two screws through the 1x6 board into each 2x2. Repeat with all other 34-inch-long boards and 2x2 pieces.

4. Position one 34-inch-long board on a flat surface with 2x2s facing up. Place a short end of a 36-inch-long board against one end of the 34-inch-long board, flush with the top, bottom and outside edge. Drill starter holes and drive two woodscrews through the 36-inch-long board into the 2x2 pieces. Repeat on the other side. Then complete the 36-inch square by attaching the last 36-inch long board in the same manner. Repeat step No. 4 for each of the remaining four sections.

5. Stack each square as needed as your compost pile grows.

Easy Compost Recipe

1. Gather the waste. Round up grass clippings, dead leaves and vegetable kitchen waste, separating brown matter, such as leaves and twigs, from green matter, like grass clippings. Do not include diseased plants or those that contain thorns or weed seed heads. And never add meat, fat or bones from kitchen waste. Chop or shred each pile to speed decomposition in the compost pile.

2. Create the compost pile with alternating layers. Start with a 3-inch layer of brown matter, such as shredded dead leaves, which contain a lot of carbon that absorbs moisture. Top it with an equal layer of green matter, which contains plenty of nitrogen that speeds decomposition.

3. Aerate and moisten the pile. Keep the compost pile damp like a sponge that’s been wrung out by sprinkling it occasionally with water. Use a pitchfork or spading fork to mix the ingredients as they compost and aerate the pile. You’ll know the compost is ready when its texture is like fine soil.

Tip: Reduce odors by adding lime or calcium or topping the pile with some carbon-rich elements like straw or peat moss.