Shopping for/or building your own Compost Bin

Four composting options

Pictured above are four options, an open pile (with pitchfork in the foreground), a commercial bin (with a Nuc – a small beehive for swarm transport sitting on top), a leaf mould pile (behind the movable wooden fencing), and a plastic garbage can containing weed tea.

If you want to buy or build a compost bin, here are the key features you need. Anything else is a waste of time and money.

  1. The single most important feature of a bin is its size. A 3x3x3 foot cube is ideal. A few inches short isn’t a big deal, more than a few inches too small and the pile will not heat up properly.
  2. The bottom needs to be open so that the pile is in contact with the soil. This is the principal pathway for the microbes and bugs that drive the composting process to access your pile.
  3. Some sort of venting in the sides to improve air circulation helps move the composting process along with less turning.
  4. An ideal bin would be easy to move to make turning the pile easier. You should be able to lift it off the pile as a unit or in pieces. Then set it down or reassemble a foot or so away. Turning the pile is then a simple matter of forking it over into the new location.
  5. A top is important for keeping unwanted visitors like skunks and raccoons out of your compost pile.
compost pile
Weed tea and leaf mould are easy alternatives to a conventional pile.

For those who want to build their own bin: A large tarp used to cover an open pile and weighted around the edge with bricks is probably the easiest and cheapest way to go and meets all the requirements for effective composting.

When purchasing a commercial bin, size and an open bottom are key, along with sufficient venting for air circulation. Most commercial bins are far too small to work properly. Silly little doors on the sides are useless. See the previous post on tumbling or spinning compost bins about why they are a colossal waste of time and money.

If the way the bin looks is important some of the simpler commercial bins made of recycled plastic will work just fine. If you must, you can paint the outside of a plastic or wooden bin with exterior acrylic latex paint to match your house, fence, or shed. Read directions on the paint carefully and test on an unobtrusive area first.

It is really easy to save the world, but having the right equipment helps.

One Comment on “Shopping for/or building your own Compost Bin

  1. Could you write post about compost solutions specifically for people living in a suburban environment? Lots of other factors (HOA regulations, neighbors, smell, appearance, pests, land availability) also have to be considered. I’ve no doubt a boxed in pile covered with a tarp held down by bricks is the cheapest, most cost-effective solution, but that wouldn’t work for many people.

Leave a Reply

Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That's how we're gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch and Tim Ferris for the inspiration regarding user-friendly comment rules)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *