Yard piles and pitchforks can get the job done, but for ease of use and composting efficiency, there’s really nothing better than a composting bin. So which type is the best compost bin for your needs? It’s a big question, but just like aerobic organisms, our guide breaks it down for you into helpful little details.
4 Types of Compost Bins
The closed-in environment of a compost bin helps keep out pests and reduce odors, while giving you more control over heat, moisture, and oxygen conditions. Compost bins confine unsightly organic wastes within a colorful, durable container that spruces up your yard with modern style. Let’s take a look at the top rated compost bin designs:
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 types of compost tumblers 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.
2. 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.
- 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 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!
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.
Are You Ready to Compost?
Choosing the best compost bin to buy for your home or garden largely depends on the composting method you prefer, and the area you would like to devote to the process. Many people prefer a compost tumbler on wheels, but there are several great compost container ideas for every need. Either way, you’ll end up with a rich soil additive that your plants will love.