Compost Bins - Exploring Compost Bins and Systems

Selecting the Right Compost Bin For You

Sifting compost in a bin

When selecting a compost bin, there are many things to consider, but we can break it down to these three main questions:

  • Continuous or batch? If you’re looking for a quick way to produce a whole bunch of compost, then a batch composter is best (tumbling composters and rotating composters fit into this category). They allow you to add a bunch of organic material, and with a little turning/tumbling, you’ll have mature compost in four to eight weeks. If, however, you want a steady supply of compost and don’t want the hassle of spinning or rotating a bin, then a continuous composter is best. One bin and two bin systems are then perfect for your requirements.
  • Indoors or outdoors? If you’ve got a backyard and plenty of space in which to build and maintain your composters, then the sky’s the limit—you can choose from any of the continuous or batch compost systems mentioned above. But if you have no outdoor room in which to set up a compost system, then you’ll need to look at indoor composters, such as microbe, electric, or vermicompost bins. Find out more about these options in our guides to kitchen composters and worm bins.
  • Space requirements? You’ll need to estimate the amount of organic waste you’ll generate in an average week and measure the space you have available to you, whether it’s at the side of your house or under your kitchen sink, and then shop around to find the perfect fit for your particular needs. If you’re a DIYer, then build your own custom-fitted to your available space!

 

Outdoor Compost Systems

When it comes to setting up composters in the great outdoors, the possibilities are nearly endless. Whether you build one yourself or purchase one of the many commercially available options, you should be able to find a system that suits your personality!

One and two bin systems

Perhaps the simplest of all composting systems, the one bin composter is just that: one bin! Whether you build one yourself or buy one commercially made, the process is the same: add organic material in alternating layers of brown and green as you generate the food and yard waste. As the compost matures, you can pull it out of a bottom hatch.

 

Advantages

Disadvantages

Great for people with limited space

Slow compost maturation (six months to two years)

Looks neat and tidy

Volume is limited by the size of the bin

Low-cost

 

Very low maintenance

 

Easier to control moisture levels

 

In a two bin system, you add organic material to the bin and harvest your compost out the bottom exactly like you would with a one bin system, but instead of waiting on just one bin, you have two going at the same time on different schedules so that you can assure a steadier flow of mature compost. To speed decomposition, you can turn a pile out of one bin into the other, adding oxygen in the process—the first bin is for initial collection and the second for further maturation. Add a third or fourth bin to further increase your capacity and output.

 

Advantages

Disadvantages

Same advantages as one bin system. Additionally, with two bins (or more) developing on different schedules, you’ll have a steadier supply of compost

These require more space as you add additional bins to the mix

There are numerous building plans for those interested in DIYing their way to composting outdoors, but here are a few good options:

 

Of course, there are also a plethora of premade bin options you can buy. Many will be available at your local garden or home improvement store, but there are also dozens to be found online, with the following at the top of the pile:

  • Garden composter - This simple one-bin style composter comes with a tight-fitting lid and a sliding bottom door to harvest your matured compost. Made of 100% plastic. $70.
  • Eco Stack Composter - This durable bin system allows you to add and remove sections to harvest compost or relocate the bin as needed. It’s fitted with a rain catching system to maintain optimum moisture levels and aeration vents on the bottom, and is made of recycled plastic. $119.
  • Double cedar composting bin - Put this compost system together yourself using the adjustable cedar slats and galvanized screening and hardware in a double-bin structure. $259.99.
  • Earthmaker aerobic composter - This one is billed as the world’s first continuous cycle compost bin that produces compost faster by aerating as it falls to the bottom of the bin. $249.

 

Compost tumblers and rolling compost bins

If you want fast results and are willing to wait to harvest your compost all at once, than these are the systems for you. Compost tumblers and rolling compost bins require regular (almost daily) turning and tumbling to ensure maximum aeration and heat for the speediest results. These systems are somewhat more expensive than one or two bin systems, but work very well for impatient composters especially in multiples.

 

Advantages

Disadvantages

Great for people with limited space

Higher up-front cost

Looks neat and tidy

Somewhat higher maintenance

Easier to control moisture levels

Need to wait until compost is mature before adding more material

Very fast compost maturation (four to eight weeks)

 

 

Although perhaps a little more complicated, you can attempt to build your own compost tumbler if you’re a hands-on person looking to save some money. Some plans can be found here:

A quicker way to get into compost tumbling is to buy a bin, and there are many options now on the market:

  • Tumbleweed compost tumbler - Made of 100% recycled plastic, this vertical tumbler makes aerating your compost simple. It assembles quickly and can produce compost in as few as 21 days. $199.99.
  • ComposTumbler 334 litre - This easy to spin drum provides efficient compost production with effortless loading as well. Made of galvanized metal and includes a sifter screen for finer compost. £279.95.
  • Compost wizard hybrid - This is a rain barrel and composter combined with a wheeled base that allows you to turn the bin regularly. With it you can produce compost tea in a short period of time. $249.99.
  • ECOmposter - This other-worldly composter is fun and efficient. Made of recycled materials, simply fill this composter with organic material and then roll the ball around your yard to stir the contents and make collection easier. Can be purchased with a sturdy base to allow for in-place rotation. $225.

 

Unstructured compost options

Some consider unstructured composting options the lazy way to make compost, but they produce compost just the same. Rather than building a structure to contain your organic material, you simply heap one layer on top of another in an open-concept style. Most of these options require turning to speed the process of decomposition, but can be great for people with large volumes of organic material and unlimited space.

 

There are several types of unstructured composting:

  • Compost heaps or piles: This involves choosing a corner of your yard or garden and just starting to pile organic material in that spot. The pile can be either left covered or uncovered and turned regularly or not—it’s up to you! MasterComposter.com has lots of information on building compost piles.
  • Compost pits: To build one of these, simply choose an outdoor location and start to dig and then begin layering your organic material inside. Again, covers and turning are both optional. You’ll want the pit to be at least 18 inches deep and 3 feet wide. Check out GardenGuides.com for extended information on this method.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Requires no set-up

Can appear messy

New piles can be started in alternate locations easily

It’s difficult to control moisture without protection from the rain

Size is limited only by your space

Slow compost maturation if you don’t turn the pile

Can be low maintenance

Prone to more pest problems






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