How to Make and Use a Straw Bale Compost Bin

Stacked hay bales, close-up, full frame
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There are several easy ways to start a compost bin or pile. The simplest way, of course, is to just start piling your compostable materials in an area of your yard or garden. You can build a simple compost hoop with wire fencing, or even compost in a plastic storage bin. If you'd like something larger, and still easy to construct, a straw bale compost bin may be the perfect solution.

Advantages of Straw Bale Compost Bins

Aside from the ease of constructing one, there are several advantages to composting in a straw bale bin:

  • The bins can be any size you want, from compact ones that are composed of one bale per side, to larger ones, depending on how much space you have.
  • The straw bales help insulate the bin, which helps maintain the heat and moisture levels. This results in quicker compost.
  • As the straw begins to break down, you can start incorporating it into your compost as a "brown," or carbon-rich material.

As great as the advantages are of using straw bales for your compost bin, there are also a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Straw bales are heavy and somewhat difficult to transport. You need to be able to lift at least 50 pounds to pick them up and move them around. And you'll need a truck (or delivery service) to transport as many as you'll need.
  • As the straw starts to decompose, the sides of your bin will start becoming a little messy looking. They'll sag, and discolor. For this reason, it may be a good idea to construct your straw bale compost bin in an area out of view.

    If you decide to go ahead with a straw bale bin, here's how to make it.

    How to Make a Straw Bale Compost Bin

    Once you decide on the desired size of your bin, it's really just a matter of making a box from the bales and stacking them as high as you want to -- usually two to three bales high is perfect.

    For stability, it's a good idea to stagger the bales. For example, don't just stack one bale on top of another, because then the sides won't be very stable. Instead, place the bales so that the bales on the next highest level span the spot where two on the lower level butt together.

    You can construct a straw bale bin right on the ground; there is no need to put a bottom of any kind on it, though you can place bales on the bottom if you really want to, then build up from there. This isn't really necessary, though.

    Gardening in a Straw Bale Compost Bin

    One of the nice advantages of composting in a straw bale bin is that you can also garden in it! As mentioned above, the bales help keep the heat and moisture fairly consistent. Consider planting pumpkins, or zucchini right in your compost pile. How many times have you seen pumpkins growing in your current bin from last year's jack o'lantern? The high fertility, heat, and moisture make a straw bale bin the perfect place to grow this year's pumpkin crop as well.​

    A straw bale compost bin is an easy, effective way to start composting in your own yard. You can build it to whatever size you want, without picking up a single power tool. And, even better, you can garden in it the whole time!

    This is about as easy as composting gets.