The Lee Reich
Compost Bin Design

Dateline: 30 May 2016
(click on pictures to see enlarged views)

There it is. Thank you, Lee Reich!
(click the picture)

Back in 2007 my family went to the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Festival. While there, I attended a presentation by the garden writer, Lee Reich. In the course of his talk, Lee showed a picture of his compost bins. Someone asked how he made them, and Lee provided a verbal explanation of how he made the interlocking side boards.

Shortly after I got home, I figured out how to make the  sides and built a couple of the bins. The pictures below give you an idea how the bins go together. 

Lee uses 1 x 12 boards to make his compost bins. I used 1 x 8 boards. The finished bins ended up being kind of expensive but they have lasted 9 years and will likely last quite a bit longer. 

The secret to getting maximum lifespan out of your boards is to not leave them outdoors, full of compost, year round. If you take the bins apart at the end of the garden season, let the boards dry out, and store them out of the weather in the winter, they will last. 

Click Here for an article showing how Lee Reich makes his compost bins.

This pile of old boards will fit together to make my compost bin.

I attached the end cleats with Gorilla glue and three wood screws. Two screws through one side and one through the other. None of the cleats have come off in nine years.

This picture shows how the boards interlock at the corners.

I made two bins nine years ago. One is bigger than the other.

Yesterday I mowed and raked up a truckload of grass and weeds to fill my compost bins.

I layered in the fresh-cut greens with some comfrey. I'm not using any animal manure because of  a bad experience I had with herbicide residue in horse manure a few years ago. I think the fresh-cut weeds and comfrey will have enough nitrogen and moisture to compost without manure.

Full compost bin, for now. It will settle considerably, of course. I filled the other bin after taking the picture.
A well-tended compost bin should be covered.

This is the desired final result. I sifted this compost from the remnants of last year's compost pile.


Dan Grubbs said...


Questions on your composting methodology.

1 - Do you turn or mix your compost? If so, at what frequency?
2 - How long do you compost?
3 - If you're using a short period of time, do you monitor temperature?

Take care, brother.

Herrick Kimball said...


I don't have a compost-making system that I would recommend to anyone. For the most part, I just pile in as much organic matter as I can and let it decompose down, then use it the next year. But I have also gone to the effort of layering and mixing and taking the temperature. This year I hope to spend a bit more time and turn the piles. My sandy/silty soil really needs a lot of organic matter to maintain fertility. I'm persuaded that the best compost has animal manures in it, and I've gotten some great compost with animal manures. The straw and horse manure I used to get from my neighbor was amazing. He would bring it over in the early spring, fling it off his spreader into a small mountain and it would start steaming in no time. But the herbicide put an end to that. We hope to get some cows to graze our field next year. Then I'll get a little manure that I know is safe.

Pam Baker said...

That herbicide is ruining so much lovely manure. Didn't David the Good post about that recently? How is it that anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together can think that using herbicide in any quantity will not have consequences? Of course, if I was a conspiracy theorist, I would spout all manner of allegations.
Who knows, maybe it is a well engineered plan to undermine all of us self-sufficient types.
I personaaly really suck at compost.
I've tried vermicompost, tumbler bins....measuring temps etc. I read books on it. I have never had a hot pile. But I keep trying.
Good post. I love to see other folk's methods. Gives me something to ponder as I go about my day.

Herrick Kimball said...


Yes, David has written about the herbicide residue problem several times.

The important thing is that you keep trying. :-)

Don't feel bad.... as I understand it, Eliot Coleman buys his compost.

deborah harvey said...

read about a fellow who ruined a considerable and expensive part of his raised beds and food trees-- thank God he hadn't spread all of the manure--
using manure from a farmer who had provided good manure to him for several years.
found out the farmer had decided to use 'grazon' to kill 'weeds' in his pasture.
stayed in the plants, in the animals who ate the hay, and in their manure. makes you wonder about whether milk animals are eating it. the milk has to be contaminated.
i think the gardener said he is growing only flowers in the affected beds and treating with ashes[?] but will take 5 years to clear the worst and still not usable for food. cannot remember where i read it.
does make you think of conspiracies, though.

Anonymous said...

These may seem like dumb questions but don't herbivores process "weeds" the same as other plants? and I believe many of those "weeds" have medicinal and healthful properties. What are they trying to improve?

Everett R Littlefield said...

Hi Boss, I had turned my 25 turkeys loose in my 35' x 40' garden for about 2 months before they were butchered. After that deed was done I went in with the skid steer and scraped about 4 inches of whatever that dirt could be called as well as all the corn stubble into a pile. I let it sit till the hogs were butchered, right over the top of the pile, and added all their guts and blood. Covered it about two feet with a bunch of partially decomposed stuff from last fall. Then along came deer season, and to date there are 42 doses of deer offal in that pile. Mixed it all up with aforementioned machinery after mixing in three or four buckets of already cooked compost. Covered it with an old tarp full of holes to keep the rain from redistributing all over the place. Stuck a two foot thermometer in there yesterday and it is 135 degrees in there right now. By late spring all the guts will have disappeared and only small bits of the skin will remain.

Working on # 11 thru #30, 30" sq. frames. Just got the ditch dug all around the perimeter of the High Tunnel to anchor the bunker cover. Still trying to figure out in my head the logistics of getting the plastic in there, spread out, anchored, and the placing of all 68 of the frames. The tilth is about 7" deep and I'm trying to figure out about raking out the foot step holes as I back down the length of the joint! Wondering how far into the dirt I'll sink when walking on top of the cover for placement of the squares. Oh well, it will give me something to ponder for the next month or so and then "doing" time will be here again..

Sorry about taking up so much space here! I get more verbose and windy the older I get. I'll see. if I can remember how to get pictures in an email, and send some along.

Love the updates and the new Upland format! I'm here twice a day to make sure you don't slip anything past me!! Stay Warm, Everett

Herrick Kimball said...

Sounds good, Everett.

68 Minibed Frames! Wow, that's more than I have. Now I'm going to have to add more to my garden. ;-)