How to Make and Use a Straw Bale Compost Bin

Stacked hay bales

Isabelle Rozenbaum / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images

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.

Disadvantages of Straw Bale Compost Bins

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, although you can place bales on the bottom if you really want to and build up from there. This isn't 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. The high fertility, heat and moisture make a straw bale bin the perfect place to grow this year's pumpkin crop.

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 you can garden in it the whole time.

Article Sources
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  1. Making and Using Compost. University of Missouri Extension.