A Bevy of Bins

So you want to get started composting, but you know you don’t want to build your own bin. Fortunately, Planet Natural offers a large selection of compost bins and tumblers that are designed for backyard use. While each may vary in price, style and function, all are designed to help you compost more efficiently. They look good and provide some insulation against heat and moisture loss, too! Here are a few of the different types of bins that are commercially available:

Enclosed Bins

Enclosed Composter

Composting at its most basic.

Best For: Growers with limited space. Neat appearance and low cost make this the most popular compost bin available.

Advantages: Low maintenance, for example, you don’t have to turn a holding unit. Lid keeps rain off compost and helps deter animals.

Downsides: Low maintenance means slower composting. The composting process can take from six months to two years using this kind of container. Decomposition can occur quickly if aerated.

Rolling Bins

Rolling Composter

As the name implies, a rolling composter can be rolled to your yard waste, loaded up and then rolled away. A quick tumble every day or two mixes and aerates the pile, eliminating the need to aerate with a pitchfork or compost aerator.

Best For: Homeowners and others with sufficient space.

Advantages: Low maintenance, plus they make aerating the pile easy. Lid keeps rain off compost and helps deter animals.

Downsides: Fully loaded bins can become heavy and difficult to roll.

Compost Tumblers

Compost Tumbler

One notch up on the evolutionary scale from the spherical and enclosed bins, compost tumblers are designed so that they turn their contents easily.

Best For: Homeowners with limited space that are willing to invest in a compost bin. Neat appearance and quick composting times make these units a popular choice.

Advantages: Energy-efficient design is relatively easy to aerate. Supplies bacteria with the oxygen it needs and consequently speeds up decomposition. Available in various sizes. Lid keeps rain off compost and helps deter animals.

Downsides: Once these units are full and the composting process begins, you have to wait before adding additional materials.

Tip: Store kitchen wastes in plastic buckets, or compost pails with tight fitting lids during this time, using carbon filters or similarly absorbent materials to minimize odors.

Worm Bins

Worm Bin

Using redworms to compost (aka vermicomposting) is a convenient way to dispose of kitchen scraps and turns them into a rich, organic soil conditioner known as worm castings. If you supply the right ingredients and care, your worms will thrive!

Tip: Planet Natural carries a wide array of worm composting products, from worm farms and castings to the worms (red wigglers) themselves.

Best For: Homeowners and apartment dwellers with limited space.

Advantages: Worm composting bins can be located anywhere from under the kitchen sink to outdoors or in your garage. Once up and running they require very little maintenance. A worm bin can be used year-round.

Downsides: Temperatures need to be considered. Ideally a worm bin should be located in an area where the temperatures are between 40-80˚F. In cold climates, bring your bin inside during the winter to avoid freezing. In hot climates, keep it wet and cool. On occasion, unpleasant odors may waft from the container when it’s overloaded with table scraps. If this occurs, stop adding food until the redworms have had a chance to break down what is left in the bin.

Recommended Products

Alternatives to Bins

Heaps or Piles

The lazy man’s entrée into composting. If you don’t want to build or purchase a bin, simply start heaping your compost in a corner of the yard.Best For: People with adequate outdoor space and who are willing to invest time — if not in building a bin — then in turning their compost.Downsides: If not properly aerated, heaps can take a long time to decompose. Since they are not enclosed, they can also attract pests if you’re not careful.

Click on Step-By-Step Instructions to Build a Compost Pile for more information.

Pit Composting

Uses shallow pits dug in the ground as opposed to above-ground structures. The pit should be no less than 18 inched deep, 3 feet wide and any length. This method produces high temperatures and relatively quick decomposition.

Best For: People who want to contain and shelter the compost pile. Minimal investment is required, except for time.

Downsides: Requires regular maintenance or anaerobic conditions can take over quickly due to poor ventilation. Only small amounts of organic waste can be used at one time.

Learn more about pit composting here.

Sheet Composting

Definitely an activity that’s best done in the fall. Simply put, you place a thin layer of raw materials, such as leaves, and incorporate by raking it into the soil of your garden. Over the course of the winter, the material will break down into compost.

Best For: People with large gardens who aren’t afraid to experiment.

Downsides: Using your garden as your compost “bin” means tying up the nitrogen which your plants normally would use. That means you have to do this in the fall when your garden is fallow.

Visit the University of Illinois Extension for more about the benefits and concerns of sheet composting.