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How to Compost at Home: Bins, Kitchen Composters and Tumblers

Updated on December 27, 2015
Two home / garden composting bins: a closed PVC style, and an open wooden composter.
Two home / garden composting bins: a closed PVC style, and an open wooden composter. | Source

A Guide to Home Compost Bins: Reviews

When I was growing up, composting was always that icky chore I avoided. Now, I'm obsessed with it! Every year, humans throw away a huge amount of trash and waste products. As much as 50% of our trash is biodegradable. Rather than just throw it out, why not make use of our organic waste? By learning how to compost at home, you'll reduce your garbage output and get rich soil in return!

There are a lot of different ways to go about it, but a home compost bin is probably the best way for most households to do it. These bins are simple to use, sanitary, and they do most of the work for you. Certain kitchen and home composter bins work better than others, and that's the primary focus of this article.

We'll be looking at a couple of the best home composting bins, giving a brief review of each one and giving some pros and cons. I'll also touch on some of the best strategies to produce compost easily. I've tried a lot of different methods, so I'm hoping to help steer you away from common pitfalls. Let's begin!

Compost Bin Basics: Home Methods That Work

OK, so if you're planning to start composting, that's a great thing! To make sure that you'll have a good experience, avoid frustration and maintain momentum, I've compiled a couple of things to keep in mind.

Mind Your Mixture:

When you're learning how to compost at home, you need to make sure that you use the proper mixture of materials. Basically, you want to use equal parts 'wet' and 'dry' materials. If you just dump in all your tomatoes, eggs and lettuce, you'll end up with soupy mess. Make sure your kitchen / home composting bin also receives some dry materials, such as cut grass, soil, wood chips or sawdust.

Open Versus Closed:

There isn't anything particularly complicated about composting. You can literally do it with nothing but a big pile of organic material in your back yard. Some open home composter bins are just a basic wooden frame. This works well if you're mostly composting grass and leaves. Open composters take longer to do their thing.

Closed composting bins work faster, and they're better if you're composting kitchen organic waste, because they prevent scavengers like racoons from getting at your scraps and making a mess. They're also tidier to look at.

The home and kitchen compost bins I'll be reviewing today are all closed style, simply because that's what I have the most experience with!

Collectors Versus Bins:

You'll find a lot of small compost 'bins' on the market, but they're really just collectors. You need a bin of a decent size to properly compost and produce soil. Collectors are really just to keep scraps until you can carry them outside. They are usually sealed to prevent smell. I have reviewed one compost pail at the bottom.

A small, tumbling home composter bin by Forest City

This is such a great little composter! It's a great choice for city or apartment dwellers who don't need a ton of space or volume, and it has a very quick turnaround time, taking as little as two weeks to produce a complete batch.

The primary advantage of this product should be readily apparent. It spins to let you tumble your compost materials easily and without any mess. Mixing greatly speeds up the process and allows quicker breakdown of organic materials.

It also has two compartments, one on each side. This lets you have multiple batches going at the same time, ensuring you'll have loads of compost soil ready at all times. Removal is super easy as well: just open the door and rotate it to let the material fall out into a bucket or whatever you have.

The unit is not entirely leak proof or bear proof, so keep that in mind. But with a 37 gallon capacity, you can make a surprising amount of compost in a small amount of space. It's durable, versatile, inexpensive and one of the best backyard compost bins around.

Worm Factory: An ingenious way to fast track your backyard composting

I know, worms are gross, right? Wrong! Worms are a great thing, especially for your home composting bin. Once you get it set up, your new little 'pets' will devour all your kitchen and yard scraps in no time flat, leaving you with nutrient rich soil as a by-product.

The Worm Factory 360 is a really smart composting bin for your home. It is made up of tiers of trays, built to stack up on top of one another. As one gets full, you add another to the stack. Once a tray is full, the worms have access to the next tier, where they can continue to eat and multiply.

Once the bottom tray is fully composted, you can use it in your garden, and then add the now empty tray to the top and fill it full of kitchen scraps again! It's really a smart system.

A couple of nice features of this kitchen composting kit:

  • It is virtually odourless, when use properly.
  • It can be used year round, since compost produces heat as a by-product.
  • It can be expanded if you find you need more trays. Just add a tray or two to increas the capacity!
  • It's easy to set up, and it comes with an instructional DVD.

On the whole, this is one of my absolute favourite backyard composting bins, good for home and kitchen scraps primarily, but also able to take on some yard waste. It's definitely worth your time to check out.

Envirocycle: A clever home composter bin made in the USA

If you want a simple, sturdy and smart composter for your home garden, this is a wonderful one to check out. It's durable, smart and capable of holding a lot of compost at one time.

The durable BPA-free plastic construction is built to last, and it's made from recycled materials. It's a really simple design: basically a big barrel with a hatch on one side to add or remove compost materials.

The whole thing sits on a plastic base that has wheels on it, so you can easily spin and churn your materials to speed up the composting time. That churning action also means less work for you, and no need to pitchfork through it. If you want to move the bin, just roll it across your back yard!

It has quite a large capacity, holding 52 gallons at max capacity. It's actually pretty difficult for critters to get in there too, which is a nice thing.

Here's one of the best parts: Envirocycle recognizes that most home and garden composters will leak. That liquid is actually a powerful fertilizer on its own. The base of this compost bin actually collects this liquid so you can use it later on!

It's made in North America and the company really backs up their product. Definitely in my top three!

A smell free kitchen compost pail by Full Circle

If you're composting on a regular basis, a kitchen compost collector pail is a necessity, unless you want to make a trip to the back yard every time you produce a bit of veggie scrap! Unfortunately, not all of them are very good.

They are required to have a bit of air circulation, and unfortunately in many cases that means that fruit flies can get in and out. They can also cause a bit of odour, which isn't ideal. This little pail, called Fresh Air, is designed to combat those two issues.

The concept is pretty simple, with a double lid design. The secondary lid is filled with tiny holes, allowing some oxygen flow to slow down the composting process. There's no guarantee you won't get a few flies, but it pretty much works as advertised and unwanted house guests shouldn't be a problem.

This system is designed to work with compostable bags, so you'll want to keep a good supply of them (the ones it comes with are rubbish).

All your composting could pay off!
All your composting could pay off! | Source

How To Make Compost at Home: Bin Placement, Starter and Ratios

Now that we've looked at the composters themselves, let's talk about the mixture and the conditions to get rich, nutritious soil for your garden projects!

Where To Place It:

Be sure to put your bin (whether closed or open style) in either a full sun or partially sunny location. The heat from the sun will help speed up the biological processes. You can produce good quality compost in a less sunny spot, or in full shade, it will just take a lot longer.

Also, try to keep it out of the rain. If you live in a rainy climate, you'll want to cover it somehow, or be sure that your bin is mostly waterproof. Too much water will make your mixture too soupy to use.

Try a Starter:

If you're new to it, buying a compost starter is a good idea. This mixture is a lot like soil, and it will help to kick start the biological process and speed things up. It removes a bit of the guesswork, and I recommend it to anyone starting out. That being said, it isn't strictly necessary to use a starter.

Proper Carbon To Nitrogen Ratio:

An essential part of composting is ensuring that the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is around 25 parts to 1. That means you'll want a lot more dry, slow to decompose elements in your mixture than wet.

Carbon rich elements include straw, wood chips, sawdust, leaves and cardboard and newspaper. Nitrogen rich elements include veggie scraps, fresh grass clippings, fresh fruit scraps, egg shells, tea bags and things like that.

Don't stress too much about precise composition. If it's looking too wet or smelling rank, add some dryer organic components, and vice versa if it's too dry and not decomposing. You can always add a bit of fresh water if it's too dry.

If you have questions about mixtures or processes in composting at home, please leave a comment below! Thanks for reading and good luck!


Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios, Planet Natural

Any questions, comments or personal anecdotes?

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    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      I am trying to compost, but the materials are overwhelming. Leaves and branches fall off the trees daily. I weed a lot of betony out of flower beds.

      When I did community gardening in Torrance, California, we had a group compost pile,which I rarely used. We met as a group, though, and discussed how to manage the pile. The rules were simple: no processed or cooked material; raw plant matter only.

      I understand the most efficient compost dimension for a pile or bin is 3' X 3' because it's fairly easy to manage, yet deep enough for the biodegradable reaction to take place.

      About a foot layer of either green or brown is placed in the bin, followed by a foot of the opposite type, sprinkled then with manure (or compost starter) for bacteria, and wetted. The process is repeated until the 3-foot depth is achieved. Whatever is on top gets thoroughly wetted.

      After 3 or 4 days, the pile is rotated and the top is wetted again. This process is repeated periodically until the heat goes up to 140 degrees F. and begins to drop.

      When the temperature drops down after heating up, that's when the compost is ready to place in the garden. The heat kills seeds and roots, so you've got clean compost when it's done.

      As I have said, my pile is overwhelming. To manage it well, I need to invest in a compost shredder. My neighbor already supplies me with manure.

      Thank you for sharing.