Gardeners have called compost “black gold” for as long as they have been making and using it in their gardens. The reason is simple: hands down, it’s the best thing to add to your soil to produce the lushest, most productive plants, whether you are growing them for food or for beauty in your landscape.
Plus the materials to make compost are free. You’ll find them in your kitchen, yard and garden. You can dump all the ingredients into a pile somewhere in your yard, or you can contain them in a compost bin. There are many different types of compost bins available and you should have no problem finding the perfect one for your garden.
A Quick Guide to Composting
You can make compost simply by tossing into one pile all the weeds, grass clippings and dead plants your garden produces, not to mention all the fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen. Eventually they will break down into the rich, black dirt known as compost that is so nourishing for your plants.
The trouble is, the simplest method to make compost also takes the longest. Tossed into a pile, your yard and garden waste, plus kitchen scraps, will break down into compost in about a year.
The secret to successfully making compost is for the ingredients to begin decaying rapidly, which creates heat inside the compost pile. The heat accelerates the decomposition process, which is absolutely necessary for transforming the raw ingredients of compost into the rich, dark soil known as black gold.
Fortunately, you can make compost fast, slow or both, if you like, by using a manufactured compost bin. Read on to see what your options are.
Types of Compost Bins
Manufactured compost bins come in two varieties: the first is a bottomless box with a removable cover that you set on top of the soil in an out-of-the-way place in your yard. The second type is a compost tumbler that is enclosed and you can put virtually anywhere in your yard.
Compost Bins vs. Compost Tumblers
A compost bin is essentially a bottomless box with a removable cover. It has the benefit of hiding the unsightly pile of scraps and refuse, unlike traditional compost piles or bins which are usually enclosed with chicken wire or wire fencing. The unsightly pile is in full view unless you put it in a back corner or rarely-traveled area of your yard or garden.
A compost tumbler is usually a barrel-shaped container attached to a frame, with a crank to turn and rotate the container. This has the same effect as manually turning the compost with a shovel or pitchfork. Turning compost helps the ingredients break down faster. Some models of compost tumblers claim to be able to produce compost in two to three months.
Outdoor Compost Bins vs. Indoor Compost Bins
Outdoor compost bins have the advantage of harnessing the heat from the sun to help accelerate the breakdown of the raw ingredients. Another benefit of outdoor compost bins is they won’t smell up your house.
Although most outdoor compost piles do not “stink” in a way offensive to humans, depending on conditions and the specific ingredients, a compost pile can emit an off-odor that some people may find unpleasant.
Indoor compost bins have the benefit of being conveniently close to the kitchen and are great for recycling kitchen scraps into compost. Indoor compost bins are actively decomposing all year long, unlike outdoor ones that slow down the decomposition process during cooler weather and usually stop altogether during the winter months.
To make indoor compost bins work it is necessary to add worms to the container. The worms do the work for you. It is not necessary to turn the piles; the worms eat their way through the ingredients and leave behind finished compost.
They also create some liquid, so the indoor compost bin has holes in the bottom to remove the moisture the worms create. You will need to set the compost bin into a larger container to catch this liquid. It is the odor of this liquid that may be offensive to some people. By the way, the liquid itself is full of nutrients and can be mixed with water to create a compost “tea” to feed to you plants.
What Are the Ingredients to Make Compost?
The best way to make compost fast is to mix up the ingredients you put inside. Compost is made of basically two ingredients: green and brown.
Green compost ingredients are grass clippings, pulled weeds, living plants pulled from your landscape and kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables. No meat, bones or oil please. A home compost pile does not get hot enough to break down these items. You can, however, add both egg shells and used coffee or tea grounds.
Brown compost ingredients are fallen autumn leaves, dead or dried plants from your garden or landscape, sawdust, wood chips and paper products. Newspaper, cardboard boxes and used coffee filters will all break down into compost given enough time. While it is okay to add manure from herbivores, do not add dog or cat feces.
How to Use a Compost Bin
Try to add about two parts of green ingredients to one part of brown ingredients to create an active compost pile.
Seed your compost pile by adding a shovelful of finished compost. If you have no finished compost, add a shovelful of rich black soil, preferably soil that has earthworms squiggling through it. Either one of these will help the decay process start.
Moisten the ingredients as you add each layer to the pile. First add a green layer, moisten it, then add a brown layer, moisten it, then add a sprinkle of finished compost or rich black soil and lightly moisten it.
Close up your compost container. Let it sit if you are using the pile method and turn regularly if using the tumbler method. You can also turn the ingredients in the pile method every two to three weeks to speed up the process.
Our Compost Bin Reviews
#1 – Redmon Green Culture 65-Gallon Compost Bin
The Redmon Green Culture Compost Bin is unique because you can order it one of two ways. You can purchase it with just the bin, or the bin and aerator. This is a beneficial option, because the aerator is designed to help reduce the moisture content in composting.
This compost bin takes a little effort to put together but isn’t difficult. It has a convenient lid that can be easily lifted off to add stuff to the bin. It has four doors on the bottom, one on each side, for simple access to the rich soil you will create. This is a 65 gallon compost bin, so it’s suitable for not only your kitchen scraps, but any yard waste you might obtain.
The Redmon Green Culture comes with a composting guide with excellent information to help you if you have never composted before. It also made with a sturdy plastic resin design to stand up to the worst outdoor elements.
#2 – Exaco Juwel Austrian Compost Bin
The Exaco Juwel Austrian Composter holds 77 gallons of compost. It is crafted with a recycled plastic and is simple to put together. This compost bin allows the moist air to travel out of the composter. It also has a ventilation system that is a maze, allowing oxygen to transport into the composter while the moisture goes out.
This bin has several large discharge flaps, as well as a grate that is designed to keep rodents out of the composter. The hinged lid is on top to prevent it from blowing away, and it has a sliding lock that can help to keep rodents out as well.
The composter is made from a high grade polypropylene copolymer resin, which can also help prevent color fading.
#3 – Geobin Compost Bin
The Geobin Compost Bin is a great choice among compost bins with a more affordable price range. It’s excellent for those who are just beginning to compost or only use it for small amounts. It’s also unique because the size can be adjusted, and you can make it to be up to three feet tall.
It will hold about 14 bushels of waste. It does need to be assembled, however it’s quite simple to do. It is made from a rugged plastic design that will retain heat as well as moisture in the bin. There are holes to allow for ventilation. Unlike many other compost bins, this one is designed to be open aired.
#4 – Algreen Products Soil Saver Classic Compost Bin
The Algreen Soil Saver Compost Bin is able to produce dark compost from your food scraps and garden waste within six to eight weeks. This compost bin is good for all different climates. With it, a family can recycle about 30 percent of their household waste.
It has self-watering and a locking lid that can keep rodents and vermin out of your composter as well as give you the ability to have easy access. Heat is produced through the dark walls, and this can help the bacteria and organisms that allow the breakdown of the waste to make wonderful soil.
In order to access the soil there are two sliding doors. This design is useful to prevent stink from emanating from the composter.