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Compost Bins

Bins are an affordable, low-maintenance option for slower composting of greens and browns. Bins require manual aeration, though they also feature plenty of air holes to help do the job. Bins are typically a lot bigger than tumblers, with most ranging from 75 gallons to upwards of 200 gallons of holding capacity. If you have a big yard with a lot of trimmings, this is a good place to start.

Composting in bins is a slow, continuous process that can take many months to complete. The upside is you can just keep adding materials to their amply sized interiors. Additional factors to consider include:

Open slat or mesh bins made from wood, vinyl, or wire provide superb aeration and easy access. These are particularly good for yard wastes. Vinyl is an exceptionally durable and weather-resistant material.

If you're composting food scraps that may draw raccoons or rodents, a plastic compost bin with a locking lid is a smart choice. Black plastic is better at drawing and retaining heat.

Compost Bin
Compost Bin

Bins are stationary, so if you have a big yard and find wheelbarrows unwieldy, consider going with two smaller containers at either end of the yard, or one rollable tumbler.

Worm Composters

Worm composting, known as vermicomposting, is a process in which red wiggler earthworms (Elsenia fetida) eat organic waste and "replace it" with droppings known as worm casts, an exceptionally rich soil conditioner for plants. The biggest advantage of worm composting bins is that they can be used year-round indoors or out, and can compost kitchen waste and scraps.

With these tiered, multi-tray systems, worms eat through the waste and move on, so there's no need to pull worms out of your compost. Place your bins in a shaded or insulated area, with temperatures no more extreme than 45°F to 85°F (60°F to 77°F is ideal). Don't forget to add worms to your purchase!

Worm Composter
Worm Composter
Compost Tumblers

Composting is an "aerobic" process, one at which compost tumblers truly excel. Tumblers, as their name suggests, are barrels that can be rolled or tumbled for aeration, which helps give microorganisms the oxygen they need to make compost as quickly as possible - often in a matter of weeks. If you need compost fast, put a tumbler on the job.

There are three basic tumbler types available:

  • Stationary: These are rotating drums supported by a legged base, and are typically turned with a handle. They can get heavy to turn, so some designs allow the tumbler to turn on its axis for easier rotation.
  • Mobile: These barrel-like designs sit on a concave base directly on the ground, with wheels built into the base surface that allow you to roll the tumbler in place by pushing it, or remove it and roll it on the ground during yard work.
  • Ball: This unique design can roll on its base or on the ground, and makes for an eye-catching addition to home landscapes (though it's probably a little too big and heavy for lawn bowling).

Important compost tumbler features to consider include:

  • Dual chamber designs. Once your tumbler's full, you have to wait until the composting process is complete. But with two chambers, you can get a new batch started in one while the other is cooking.
  • Hollow bases. Many mobile compost tumblers collect leachate in the base, which can be diluted and used as compost tea.
  • Lid/opening size. Compost tumblers with big mouths are a lot easier to feed when you've collected giant servings of grass clippings or raked leaves.
Compost Tumbler
Compost Tumbler
Kitchen Composters

These indoor compost systems are great for urban dwellers, allowing apartment or condo residents to go green for their small gardens, without stinking up the kitchen.

Compost containers such as crocks, buckets, and pails with tight seals or odor-reducing charcoal filters make composting easier for anyone, reducing your daily trips to the backyard bin. You can even reduce bag waste by using biodegradable caddy liners!

Kitchen Composter
Kitchen Composter