There are so many ways of garden composting and so many different sorts of garden compost bin available how do you choose what kind of garden composter to use?
Obviously the choice is a very personal one, dictated by budget, style and how quickly you hope to be making garden compost. We’ll have a look at those you can buy and those which are free, to help you decide which option to go for.
To get started lets have a look at the most commonly used styles of garden compost bin available to buy:
Enclosed Static Garden Compost Bins
These are compact garden composters which keep vermin and rain out, while keeping warmth in. These tend to be the most cheaply purchased types of garden compost bin, and the most favoured by those new to garden composting. They keep everything neat and tidy.
You can choose between wooden beehive composter or cheaper plastic compost bins. Make sure there are ventilation holes to allow oxygen in to your compost.
Ideally go for a model which has an opening at the base to allow for easy removal of the finished product. Garden composters are readily available made from 100% recycled plastic so do not be overly concerned about the environmental impact of buying a plastic model.
The drawback with enclosed bins is that it can be difficult to turn the compost, unless you have a very strong friend to help take the bin off the compost itself.
On the plus side, because they keep the garden waste warm and moist composting is relatively quick and you should have created some rich compost even without turning. Generally these sealed garden compost bins should provide you with good quality compost within six months.
Using these in particularly cold regions or where the amount of garden waste and kitchen scraps is very small, could mean the compost takes up to two years to be created. But, that is the worst case scenario and not a common one. In the United Kingdom (not known for pleasant summers) a sealed budget plastic compost bin always provided good hummus in under six months.
Rolling Garden Compost Bins
These are a quite new and stylish innovation in the normally staid world of garden composting. The rolling bins can be rolled to wherever your garden waste is, filled, then rolled off to wherever you like. Giving them a quick roll every few days will mix up the garden waste and kitchen scraps, allowing oxygen in and speeding up decomposition.
These keep vermin and rain out, and heat in just like the static bins. But they make aerating the pile very simple. The downside is they do get pretty heavy when full. They are useful if you have lots of flat space as you can roll the bin around your garden from project to project for filling.
Compost Tumblers or Rotating Compost Bins
These plastic garden compost bins come in a variety of styles. All of them allow the entire bin to be turned on its axis to mix up and aerate the contents. So efficient are these, that they make it possible to create useful garden compost much more quickly than normal.
Some gardeners claim they can create compost within weeks using these bins. They will easily halve the length of time it takes your compost to be created.
Some models come with a collection system to provide you easily with compost tea, which is a great concentrated plant food. Several have two chambers which is a great option (funds permitting) as it means you can always have one compost pile ready to use, while another is being created.
If considering a Compost Tumbler make sure to try and avoid those which rotate on their short axis (ie those which stand upright). Although these are often the cheaper options, and great to begin with, they quickly become very heavy to actually rotate. Much easier to use are those that are horizontal, rotating on the long axis means it takes much less effort to get them spinning.
Although more expensive than static compost bins these are growing in popularity because they produce the finished compost so quickly.
The only real drawback with these bins is that they tend to be a little larger and more costly than static bins. But, their speed and efficiency more than makes up for that.
Vermiculture or worm composting is also increasing in popularity. Worms create compost very quickly and are happy to consume a wide range of kitchen scraps to do so. Such a small, contained system is ideal for those with limited space.
But, worms need management. This is not a system you can forget about. Temperature in particular can be an issue, so considering where you can site a worm farm out of cold drafts, and hot sunlight is important. Worm Farm Garden Compost Bins are easiest kept indoors where temperature fluctuations are less likely.
Correctly managed worms will break down your kitchen scraps very quickly and once again you can easily collect the compost tea they produce. So as well as quick compost, you get instant liquid plant feed too.
These are a good way to recycle kitchen scraps but you will still need a garden composter if you create much garden waste. However, this keeps all vermin attracting food waste indoors so means you can opt for a more open (and cheaper) garden compost bin.
Open Garden Composters
In the interest of fairness I include these open garden composters. They are a valid option. We have used open systems to create marvelous (if slow) garden compost. However, I cannot recommend paying for one.
They are not that expensive but I am sure you could use scraps of wood or wire fencing to create the same thing. For double the money you can get a large plastic compost bin and create your garden compost in a fraction of the time.
They are useful if money is no option. These are a good way of keeping different composting materials tidy and ready to put in a hot garden composter.
How to Choose a Garden Composter
Really budget is key in which garden compost bin you choose. There are differences in size but most varieties of garden composter can be incorporated in even the smallest garden.
For me, a compost tumbler is probably the winner just because it works so quickly, but I have to say the humble static plastic garden compost bin is always a favourite. They are cheap enough to buy a few over the years so you can have different states of compost avaiable. They are usually pretty fast acting and they last forever.
Sometimes I think basic is best, so I am a fan of the basic plastic garden compost bin, but that’s just my point of view. One note – consider the colour. Many of the garden compost bins come in a bewildering range of shades of green.
Not all will disappear into your garden view. Black, on the other hand always disappears into the background. Now you have some information on what your options are if looking to buy a garden composter.