How To Compost In A 5-Gallon Bucket? Here’s What You Need To Know

You can use a 5-gallon bucket compost bin if you lack the space or time for a large one. A DIY compost bin with a 5-gallon bucket is simple and does not cost a lot of money.  In this guide, we will introduce you how to do 5 gallon bucket compost.

How To DIY 5-Gallon Bucket Compost Bin

Before you jump into the task of making your DIY compost bin, you want to gather all the necessary supplies. Here is the materials that you will need: 

  • 5-gallon bucket with a secure lid
  • A drill or another sharp device to make holes 
  • Small sticks or wooden dowel rods 
  • Green materials, including kitchen scraps, grass clippings, or other organic items
  • Brown materials, including paper, leaves, mulch, or manure 

How To Do It In 5 Simple Steps 

By following these five simple steps, you too can have an easy-to-use, space-saving compost bin. 

Step 1: Drill Holes In a 5 Gallon Bucket And Lid

Drill or punch several holes on the bottom of the bucket, around the bottom half, and through the lid. This way, your compost bucket has enough air circulation for all of the matter to decompose properly. 

Step 2: Arrange Sticks Across the Bottom 

Arrange sticks or wooden dowel rods across the bottom, so the matter does not sit on the bottom and block the air holes. They should fit tightly across the bottom and not be rolling around loosely to be effective. 

Step 3: Put Your Green and Brown Matter Over the Sticks, Add Dirt and Water

Start adding your brown and green matter on top of the sticks in layers. Do not fill it too full since you need air circulation. 

Sprinkle a handful of regular dirt on top of each layer in your compost. Stay away from packaged potting soils since they are sterile, and you want to ensure you include those healthy microorganisms you find outdoors. 

If it is too dry, sprinkle a bit of water halfway through your layers. 

Step 4: Secure the Lid and Leave In a Warm Place 

Tightly secure the lid and leave it in a warm place but where it will not become too hot. Heat will help break down the organic matter quicker. 

Step 5: Shake and Roll the Bucket On the Ground

Shake or roll the bucket around on the ground sideways each time you add a layer to your 5-gallon compost. This action helps aerate the contents and distribute the heat evenly. 

Editor’s Recommendations for DIY 5-Gallon Bucket Compost Bin

  • 5 Gallon Bucket With Lid : This food-grade bucket is BPA-free and ideal for making a compost bin. It has an air-tight seal and a built-in second handle for easier lifting and shaking. 

  • GALAX PRO Cordless Drill : Make holes in a bucket easier with this hand-held cordless drill with a keyless chuck and multiple drill bits of various sizes. 

  • Wooden Dowel Rods : You can cut these wooden dowel rods to fit your 5-gallon bucket to keep your compost matter from settling on the bottom. 

How to Do Worm Composting In 5 Gallon Bucket Compost Bin

If you want to try your hand at worm composting, you can easily create a setup with 5-gallon buckets. 

Here are the supplies you need for a worm bin: 

  • Three 5-gallon buckets, only one lid
  • Drill or another sharp object to punch holes 
  • Shredded paper or cardboard
  • Green and brown matter 
  • 250 to 500 red wiggler composting worms  

How To Do It In 5 Easy Steps 

Step 1: Drill Holes In Two 5-Gallon Buckets And One Lid

Drill or punch several holes on the bottom of two buckets and through the lid. The holes should be large enough for your worms to work their way through; a 3/16 bit works best. Make small holes in the sides of the buckets near the top to promote air circulation. 

Step 2: Stack The Buckets and Fill

Use the bucket without holes for the bottom. This one will catch any excess liquids, which creates a compost tea, perfect for watering your plants. 

Stack a 5-gallon bucket with holes inside and layer damp paper shreddings, cardboard, and other organic matter to reach three or four inches per layer. Next, add your composting worms, close the lid tightly, and let them do their work. 

Step 3: Add Vegetable Scraps As Needed

Continue to add kitchen scraps to this compost pile as the worms break down the matter. Finally, it’s time to add the third bucket when the matter inside is mainly broken down. 

Step 4: Add the Third Bucket 

Remove the lid from the second bucket and place the third bucket inside. Fill the bottom three to four inches with damp paper or cardboard and organic material. Secure the lid on top, and the worms will work their way up through the holes for more food. 

Step 5: Harvest the Composted Material and Tea 

Remember to harvest the compost tea in the bottom bucket regularly so it does not smell. Once the worms migrate to the top bucket, you can gather the nutrient-rich matter from the first bucket with holes. 

As you empty this bucket, it can cycle through and go on top of your stack to continue the composting cycle. 

Recommended readingThe Ultimate Guide to Vermicomposting


Do you have any further questions? Take a look at what others are asking. 

How Many Compost Worms Do I Need For a 5 Gallon Bucket?

One 5 gallon bucket requires about half a pound of red wiggler compost worms. This amount will equal approximately 500 worms total. 

How Long Does It Take To Compost In a Bucket?

Depending on your composting routine, it can take anywhere from six or eight weeks to upwards of six months to compost your organic material in a bucket. 

Do I Need To Add Water To My Compost?

You want your compost to remain moist and not dry out. Although many food scraps will bring moisture to the bucket, you should check it periodically and add a small sprinkling of water if necessary. 

Does a Compost Bin Need Sunlight? 

A compost bin does not need sunlight, but it does need to stay warm to work more effectively. If it gets too hot in the sun, it can cause damage to your compost and encourage mold growth. 

Does a Compost Bin Need Air Holes?

A compost bin requires air circulation to work correctly. Without air holes, the matter will not break down correctly. 

Enjoy Your Compost

Setting up a 5-gallon bucket compost bin is inexpensive and easy to do. Once you begin the process, there is hardly any work to maintain it. In no time, you will see the results of your hard work, and so will your plants. 


Download Your Free eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Compost at Home

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