Tuesday, January 5, 2016

DIY Pallet and Wire Compost

Our very simple yet stable new garden compost areas, made from six old pallets and wire.

Need a place to put compost to use in the garden, but only have minimal materials? If you happen to have access to no-longer-used pallets, here’s a dead-simple guide (with pictures) to create two composting areas for your garden, made from pallets and wire (henceforth referred to as Pallet And Wire Composts, or PAWCs).

Note: This design can very easily be extended to creating more than two PAWCs. I wouldn’t suggest just creating one PAWC, however, as having more than one means you can fill one up, then fill the next one up while you use the compost from the first (now ready) PAWC, and repeat ad infinitum.

Choosing an area

Before we get right on to assembling these PAWCs, we need to choose a good spot. An area which is not too close to the house is a good first point to keep in mind, as many animals (especially various insects and spiders) will love the composting material, and places to hide or set up webs in the pallets. And if they’re close to the house, they might decide to wander over to the structure which always seems so warm and lit up during cold nights…

Next up is proximity to where you want to use the compost. This is not as much of an issue, but in general the less moving stuff around, the better (no point maximising your work for no good reason).

We chose to place our new PAWCs on the top of a slope, above and right next to our various raised garden beds for our vegetables, and near much of the rest of the garden. This way, we have relatively easy access to the compost practically anywhere we decide to use it.

The Ingredients

There’s very little to this recipe for PAWC creation.
  • Six wooden pallets – absolutely don’t need to be new, but retaining at least some of their original structural stability is recommended. Depending on how many you want to create, you will need six pallets for two PAWCs (as in this guide). If you want to create a different number of PAWCs, you will need three and a half pallets for the first PAWC, and two and a half pallets for each additional PAWC.
  • A length of wire – to join the pallets together. The wire should be a minimum width of 1.5mm.
  • Wire cutters.
  • A wood saw.
  • Leather gloves to wear – recommended, especially if you’re worried about accidentally poking yourself with the ends of the wire.
That’s it. Already shaping up to be quite easy, right?

If you don’t have old pallets lying around, try asking your friends, or try asking your local hardware or farming stores. Some sell their pallets off for cheap, and others (like the one we got our pallets from) give them away free.

If you don’t have any of the rest of the required materials (wire cutter, wire, saw), also try asking your friends as a first step. Most people won’t mind lending this kind of stuff. If they do, just invite them around for an afternoon to bring the stuff (to watch over it if they’re that protective), and then share a drink after the project is completed in half an hour.

If you absolutely can’t find any of the items required for free, any good hardware store will sell them for reasonable prices. It’s probably a good idea to have these items if you’re into DIY projects such as this one, anyway.

The Method

One of the six pallets needs to be cut in half, in the same direction as the outside boards. Look through your pallets, and try to find one which doesn’t have a board right along the middle – this pallet will be the one you cut in half. If you don’t have a pallet which isn’t covering up its middle (we didn’t), it’s no issue. Simply choose any of the other pallets, preferably with a gap between the boards as close to the centre as possible.

Cut through the centre pieces of wood to create two halves of the pallet. These halves will be used for the front “doors” of the PAWCs, so that you don’t need to lean over a full-size pallet when the time comes to get the compost out for use.

You should now have five full-sized pallets, and two half-pallets. The next stages can be done by one person, but will be made significantly easier if you have someone else to help you hold the pallets in place.

Creating the first PAWC

Two pallets held upright, forming
the rear-right corner.
Hold a pallet upright with the slats horizontal, such that it will form the right wall. Hold another pallet upright, at a right angle to the first one, so that its edge is touching the rear edge of the first pallet – this will form the rear wall, and together, these are going to form the right-rear corner of the PAWC.

Wire around the two pallet edges.
Beginning at the highest point on the pallets possible, measure out and cut a length of wire such that it can be used to go around the touching edges of the pallets. Pull the wire through the gaps, then twist the wire tightly (at least five half-turns) so that the wire holds the pallets in place.

If there is any extra length of wire sticking out, either cut it off, or bend it back into the pallets.

Wire twisted, to hold the pallets together.

Wire all the way down the pallets.
After wiring the pallets together at the top, at a minimum you should wire the pallets together twice more, for three times total (top, middle, and bottom). If you want to wire the pallets together in more than three places, it can’t hurt.

Three pallets wired together.
The first two pallets are now wired together, forming the right side and the rear. Next up is to add the left side/wall.

Grab one of the other full-sized pallets, line it up with the rear pallet on the left side in the same manner as the right side pallet, and wire it together as per the previous steps.
By the end, you should now have both sides and the rear of the PAWC (made up of three full-sized pallets) completely wired together.

First PAWC completed!
Taking one of the half-pallets, stand it up so that the slats are horizontal, and the side which was not cut through is laying on the ground (i.e. the side which was cut through forms the top edge).

Slide the half-pallet in place, and wire it in on both sides (in three places per side, but two wired connections will probably be sufficient if you don’t have much wire, or simply don’t feel the need for wiring it in three places).

Congratulations! You have just completed your first PAWC.

The second (and any additional) PAWC(s)

The following steps will show you how to create the second PAWC, and can be extended into creating as many of these PAWCs as you like.

Next pallet placed for the rear wall.
Stand another pallet upright, and place it such that it continues the rear wall.

Wiring rear wall in place.
Wire the new pallet in place as per the previous instructions. There will now be two pallets connected to the middle pallet (which was originally the left-most wall on the previous PAWC).

New rear and left wall added.
Add another pallet to the PAWC to form the three main walls of the new PAWC. Wire it in place as per the previous instructions.

Additional PAWC completed!
As with the first PAWC, take one of the half-pallets, stand it up so that the slats are horizontal, and the side which was not cut through is laying on the ground.

Slide the half-pallet in place, and wire it in as per the previous instructions.

Congratulations! You have just completed yet another PAWC.

Possible changes

Given the absolute simplicity of this design, it’s completely up to you for if you want to make these PAWCs as-is, or change them in minor or substantial ways. For example, in future we’re thinking of hammering in some garden stakes to the front of the PAWCs. This is so that, instead of the front half-pallets being held in place by wire, they will be held in place by the stakes pressing them against the other pallets. In this way, the front half-pallets can slide up and out, granting easier access to the compost.

Or, you could take the basic idea of using pallets for compost and put them together in another way. You could join the pallets via hammer and nail, join the front half-pallet up via hinge so it acts as a swinging door, etc.

Something I like about simple designs such as this is their ability to be used as-is for ultimate simplicity, or altered to be as complicated as you like. Yet at the same time, using pallets for compost storage may simply be something you hadn’t thought of yet. So I hope, however you decide to use this PAWC recipe, it helps you in some small way, and you get some amazing compost out of them.

(Originally published, by me, on Hubpages.com - 24/03/2015)