Can You Use Wood for a Compost Bin?

by Eulalia Palomo, Demand Media
    Wooden bins made out of pine, hemlock or fir trees will last several years without treatment.

    Wooden bins made out of pine, hemlock or fir trees will last several years without treatment.

    Wood compost containment bins keep compost confined during the decomposition process. When building a compost bin from wood, take a few minutes to choose the right material. Not all wood holds up well to the elements and some wood can even leach poisonous materials into your compost pile. Starting with the right materials saves time and trouble later.

    Creating a Compost Containment Bin

    Compost containment bins keep compost in place while it decomposes. Compost decomposes in a heap on the ground, but placing the material in a bin has two advantages -- the compost stays neat and contained while it breaks down, and more heat builds up inside the compost.

    Wood compost bins blend with the environment, are cost effective and easy to build at home. In order to decompose properly, the temperature should be between 135 and 160 F (see References 1). At this temperature, the microbes that break down plant material in compost flourish.

    Wood Outside

    A wood compost bin is comprised of posts at the corners with boards attached to the sides to create the holding area. Not all wood holds up well outside without paint or treatment. Wood breaks down over time as moisture penetrates the grain starting the rotting process. Insects eat wood as it breaks down, further leading to its disintegration. Pine, hemlock and fir are soft woods that will last several years outdoors without treatment. These types of wood are suitable for building a temporary compost containment bin. (See References 4)

    Cedar Wood and Redwood

    Cedar wood resists decay caused by weather and insect damage. Natural oils and compounds in the wood make cedar some of the most resistant woods without requiring sealants and other weathering preventing treatments. A wood compost bin made from cedar is natural, does not contain harmful toxins from paints or chemical sealants and it blends in with the environment. Cedar wood fades to a silver-gray color over time as it is exposed to the elements. Some cedar woods to use include Western Red Cedar, Northern White Cedar, Atlantic White Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar. (See References 5)

    Pressure-treated Wood

    Pressure-treated wood resists decay from insect damage and the elements, making it well suited for a wood compost bin, provided it is non-toxic pressure-treated wood. The chemicals used to treat pressure-treated wood help seal out moisture and discourage insects. Traditional formulas used for pressure-treating wood contained arsenic and many products still do. When selecting pressure-treated wood for a wood compost bin, look for products that do not contain arsenic as the poison leaches from the wood into the compost material and then onto your veggie garden or other areas where you use the compost. (See References 2)

    About the Author

    Eulalia Palomo has been a freelance writer since 2009, with her work appearing on various websites. She has studied herbal and alternative medicine and worked as a landscape artist and gardener. Palomo holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from Boston University.

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