How to Choose a Composter For Backyard Composting

Let’s start our discussion of composters by establishing exactly what constitutes a composter. A composter is a bin or container in which organic waste material are placed to breakdown and decay through the process of decomposition. The result is a nutrient-rich compost, which is great to use in your flower beds or your garden. A composter can be as simple as a homemade compost bin made out of recycled pallets or it can be a manufactured compost bin or compost tumbler.

Two benefits of manufactured composters are they usually do a better job of keeping the critters out of your organic waste, and in most cases manufactured composters speed the composting processing by containing the heat generated by the composting process thereby speeding up the decomposition of your organic materials. Thus, you end up with compost for your garden more quickly than composting in a pile or heap and often with less effort.

What kinds of composters are available? Basically, composters come in three different types: compost bins, compost tumblers and worm composting bins. Each composter has its advantages and disadvantages.

The most basic composter is a compost bin. The average compost bin on the market is made out of heavy-duty plastic and is usually black or dark-green in color, which is great for retaining heat (remember heat is good to help speed up the composting process).

Compost bins are simple, easy to put together and are usually less expensive than compost tumblers. Most of the bins are no more than three feet high and are very unobtrusive and can be placed in a discreet location in your yard. Again, most manufactured compost bins have a lid to keep out varmints and some sort of door to allow access to the finished compost. One disadvantage is that it is sometimes difficult to turn or mix the compost materials. Turning or mixing the compost materials helps ensure more thorough composting. Compost bins hold an average of 80-160 gallons of compostable material and can produce finished compost in several months.

The next type of composter is a compost tumbler. A compost tumbler is usually a little more expensive than a compost bin, but it has definite advantages. A compost tumbler, as the name implies, allows the composting chamber to be turned on its axis, which makes for easy mixing of the organic materials. Compost tumblers can produce finished compost more quickly than most compost bins because of the ability to turn and mix the compost materials.

The only work required when composting with a compost tumbler is to give the compost tumbler a spin or two each week and when new organic material is added. Most compost tumbler hold similar volumes as compared to compost bins and can produce finished compost in several weeks.

The last type of composter is a worm composting bin. As you might suspect, worms are involved in the composting process with worm composting bins. The nice thing about a worm bin is that it can be used indoors. Now I know it sounds a little freaky to have worms in your house, but a worm bin is made to safely house the worms and compostable materials so that you don’t have to worry about a smell or a mess.

The typical worm used in worm bins is a red brandling worm-the kind of worm most people use for fishing. The worm bin typically has several trays. The bottom tray is filled with moist bedding materials, such as shredded newspaper. Worms are then added and another tray is placed atop the tray containing the worms. In this tray you place your organic materials. The worms find their way into the upper tray and begin feasting on your garbage. The worms leave behind castings or worm poo, which is some of the most nutrient-rich compost available. After several weeks, these castings can be harvested and used in your garden.

The only concern with a worm bin is that you need to avoid temperature extremes if you keep your bin outside. It does not need to be in direct sunlight and as the evening temperature nears 40 degrees, it will be necessary to bring your worm bin into the garage or basement.

How much do I need to spend on a composter? The typical price range for a composter is from under $100.00 to around $400.00 depending on which model you purchase. Most compost bins are in the $100-$150 price range, and most compost tumblers are in the $200-$400 price range.

What is the best composter for me? To answer this question, you need to figure out what kind of composting method you might prefer. There are basically two kinds of composting methods-I call them the “patient composting method” and the “results-oriented composting method.”

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