Urban Food Garden

Straw Compost Bins.

As straw compost bins are large they are more suitable for use on a couple of hectares of land, but if you have an urban block that you are just starting to develop then this method is a good way to generate a lot of compost in a relatively short space of time.

Straw compost bin description

A straw compost bin is one where the walls are made of straw bales.  They are unique amongst compost bins as the actual walls of the bin are part of the composting process. Basically it involves using bales of straw like giant Lego blocks to build the walls of your bin.  Any number of bales can be used depending on how big you want the bin to be.

Example of what a straw compost bin looks like. I have only ever made one straw compost bin, but as it was built before the era of digital cameras I did not take any photos of the original construction. This photo of a straw compost bin was set up years later as a reconstruction of the original and was not actually used as a compost bin.

Building and using a straw bale compost bin
A: place bales of straw to form a bay

Place bales of straw to form a bin. The configuration can vary depending on how big you want the bin to be. You can also use pea straw, hay or lucerne bales as well. This illustration shows how I configured the straw compost bin that I originally built. If the bin is to be placed on lawn containing couch grass then put down thick layers of cardboard or some weedmat, making sure that it reaches well beyond the edge of the bales. This is to stop the couch getting up into the bales and compost.

B: fill the bin with green waste and food scraps

Fill the bin with soft green waste and food scraps, occasionally turning it with a fork as the compost builds up. This will take several months. Over that time occasionally water the bales to keep them moist.

c: turn the compost and straw bails

After several months both the compost in the straw bale bin and the bales themselves would have rotted sufficiently. Cut and pull out the strings holding the bales together and pull them out. Then using a fork thoroughly turn the compost and bales until they are mixed together. What you will have won't be completely broken down compost but it will be good enough to start new vegetable beds or for general spreading on your garden.


The compost you make using a straw bale compost bin will not be of the best quality but it is a good way to make a large amount of compost in a relatively short space of time, which makes it ideal for starting a new vegetable patch when a lot of compost is required.

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  • Easy to construct.
  • Produces a large amount of compost in a relatively short space of time.
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  • The compost it makes is of a relatively poor quality.