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Gardening and maintaining your land come with a lot of financial obligations.
The true way to be self-sustaining and environmentally friendly (while still being economically friendly as well) is to make your own compost. If you aren’t already doing that, or you’ve tried and failed in the past, you could benefit from a compost bin.
There’s a science to making compost: knowing when to turn it, when to let it sit, what to add to enrich nitrogen levels. Physically churning your compost shouldn’t be a difficult task.
But unless you have the best compost bin, composting becomes a major source of physical strain. You could be spending that stamina enriching your land, crops, plants, and mitigating your ecological footprint at the same time.
Let’s take a look at the most efficient way to make compost on your own property without making a mess of things.
Best Compost Bin Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Best Overall – Algreen Products Soil Saver Classic Compost Bin
To kick things off, we’re going for the all-around best compost bin. It’s not measured off of the strongest material, but instead off of the value per gallon of compost that you can make.
Algreen uses nothing but 100% recycled materials, ensuring there’s no BPA in here along the way. While BPA certainly isn’t as bad as everyone thinks, it’s still good that they’re avoiding it so that it doesn’t sap into the compost, and then into your plant life.
While we were doing this compost bin review, we were a bit perplexed at the slot along the bottom. It allows you to scrape out compost as it’s completed, but the issue here is that churning becomes a bit difficult.
Alongside that, you also have to be wary of what you compost. Larger kitchen scraps will not break down the way that they’re supposed to if they don’t have direct airflow.
Compost requires a blend of nitrogen and oxygen, and this bin isn’t the best for aeration. There are some dime-sized holes throughout this bin, but they’re not strategically placed the way that they should be. Most of them are going to be on the top of the lid, with a few on the sides.
That being said, it’s important to know that this is waterproof, but it is not impervious to leaks. Because of the holes on top are fairly wide, rainwater can get inside, so you’ll have to cover this with a tarp if you can see the rain coming in. As a stationary bin, it works well and the lid stays on nice and tight.
RUNNER UP – Compost Bin by GEOBIN
Depending on what your composting needs are, for gardening, the GEOBIN might be the perfect pick for you. This recycled and synthetic material is ultra durable and designed to last through just about anything that mother nature throws at it.
This ships to you in a fairly unorthodox way: you have to snap the pieces together to form a bin. It’s good for shipping and costs, but unless you have something inside of it, the bin is a bit lopsided.
If you’re using your yard scraps like leaves and sticks (which you should be), then you’re going to have to position them in this bin right away, especially if it’s going to be left outside in a non-enclosed space.
Structurally, the material is solid and very resistant to tearing. However, there are some reports of people getting this in the mail and the material already being severed (usually a defect/issue, like someone using a boxcutter to open a pallet). The good news is that GEOBIN has a fantastic customer service team, so you can usually get it replaced in no time.
Half of the construction here is made out of recycled plastics, which is what makes this so excellently green for those of you looking to feed the earth with your compost.
GEOBIN also provides a pretty good warranty on this, as well as an amazing capacity. You can store up to 216 gallons worth of compost in here, but as we mentioned earlier with that flimsy sidewall, I’d imagine you would cap out around 150 gallons.
BEST KITCHEN – EPICA Stainless Steel Compost Bin
This isn’t about high capacity, but it is about high quality. If you’re fighting for earth by providing compost to your yard, every little bit helps.
The EPICA compost bin is a small stainless steel container with just enough air circulation to be viable. You’ll see some dime-sized holes on the top of the lid, which helps to keep airflow going in, but there’s a secret to this compost bin, which is why we love it.
This compost container comes with an embedded charcoal filter that eats up all the odors escaping your bin. You can use this every single night to put your table scraps into, and leave it in the kitchen. Air can enter the container, but you won’t have to Febreze your kitchen every single morning. It’s the perfect solution that’s also fantastically convenient.
But that charcoal filter will eventually run out in one to two years. Replacements aren’t hard to find, but they can be a pain to install. Still, at that point, you might consider upgrading your bin size.
EPICA charges a lot considering the amount of compost you can make, which is 1.3 gallons, but because of how durable and sustainable the stainless steel container is, it’s worth the cost. You even get an attached pail handle to help carry this outside and dump it in the yard when it’s ready.
The entire thing weighs 2.5 pounds, so it’s easy to position and move in your own home, or you can just leave it out on the back stairs throughout the day if you wish. Because of the filters, it’s only going to take what air that it needs, so putting it outside won’t expedite the composting process at all. It’s a small compost bin for the person that’s just getting into composting.
BEST TUMBLER – Miracle Gro Small Tumbler Composter
Miracle-Gro makes compost bins. It only seems fitting, right? This 18.5 gallon bin does wonders, because it’s attractively priced despite coming from a major brand, and having a high capacity in a tumbler-style model. In a hexagonal bin design, you get a plastic bin that’s easy to move, with plenty of slats to aerate for optimal composting.
As the best compost tumbler on our list, it also comes with a very sturdy stand that doesn’t dig right into the soil. It has a hollow aluminum frame with a slight bow in the feet, so all of that weight is actually being distributed in the center. If it rains and it gets muddy out, this isn’t going to sink in the ground like 18.5 gallons of compost would if it were in a solid bucket.
Along with your compost bin, you’re also going to get a pair of gardening gloves, which is a nice little touch, and for the price it’s something we didn’t expect. There’s a locking mechanism for easy loading and unloading of your compost, as well as an easy churn function. Overall, it’s a very easy process from start to finish.
The entire bin is UV-protected, so that plastic isn’t going to wear down from sun exposure. Well, not at first. No UV coating is perfect, so it will still wear down over time, but it will wear down before the plastic in the bin does, buying you additional years of usage.
Besides, you shouldn’t leave your compost bin in the open all too often with direct sun exposure; the chemical reaction in your compost will warm it up plenty.
RUNNER UP – EJWOX Large Composting Tumbler
As a close second to Miracle-Gro’s tumbler compost bin, EJWOX comes in with a heavy duty, albeit more expensive, rolling bin.
You can hold up to 43 gallons of compost in here, which is pretty impressive, but there are some issues with the high capacity. You’re still dealing with plastic, and when this thing is jammed full of compostable items, it gets very heavy. The sidewalls can warp and pop out a bit when it’s at or near peak capacity, so be careful of that.
That problem comes into play, especially as we look at composter reviews, when you’re placing this on uneven ground. It becomes very topheavy, because as you can see, the stand is very linear.
It’s not like the Miracle-Gro tumbler, which has an altered frame and feet at the bottom to help with the maximum load. Some of the pressure here is going directly on the legs instead of hanging in the middle, so this might not last as long as some other models.
So how did it make it onto this list? It’s still a very good buy: high capacity, acceptable price, and an overall easy experience. Thanks to where the aeration slats are located, you don’t have to do much of anything to churn your compost once it’s in here and the process begins. The handle is super easy to use, so if you have to turn this oven, it feels as simple as opening a door.
I will say that the frame being made out of steel is a nice touch, mainly because it’s anti-corrosive. Rusting isn’t going to happen for years to come, and deterioration in general won’t be a problem. Just hose it off every now and again, and you’ll be good to go.
Compost Bin Buying Guide & FAQ
What is the Difference Between Compost Bins and Compost Tumblers?
If someone just says compost bin, they’re referring to a stationary compost bin. This includes bins, barrels, and anything that cannot move, or sits completely still while the components begin to compost away.
These will have large holes on the sides for aeration, as well as a very wide open top that may or may not come with a cover, depending on which model you go for.
With a tumbler, they’re more complex systems. Generally speaking, it’s a horizontal barrel, which looks much like a stationary barrel, but it’s on a stand that keeps it elevated. Using a crank or handle, you can turn the barrel by spinning it around to aerate your compost and turn it.
Tumblers generally have air holes or aeration slats on the sides so that you can introduce oxygen if your compost is too nitrogen-rich.
The best home composting system varies depending on your own preferences, though. We have some pros and cons of compost tumblers up ahead next, so you can decide what you want to try out.
Are Compost Tumblers Any Good?
Tumblers come with their own sets of pros and cons, and it’s important to weigh their differences to see if it’s right for you.
Some people I know prefer stationary bins, and some can’t get by unless they’re using a compost tumbler. Your garden compost bin has some ups and downs.
- Benefit #1 – Clean Garden: With a compost tumbler, you don’t have a big stationary bin on the ground that takes up actual ground space. Stationary bins can kill the grass beneath them, but they also usually show what you’re composting through the slats and aeration holes. If you’re gardening, not farming, and you care about the appearance of your garden, a tumbler is usually a tidier look.
- Benefit #2 – No Animals: If you’ve ever seen a squirrel try to get into the scraps in a tumbler bin, it’s quite hysterical. Animals and rodents can’t penetrate a tumbler, because most of them either come with a lock, or a heavy enough locking mechanism that it just doesn’t matter if they try to get in or not. It’s going to stay shut. If you commonly compost your kitchen scraps, this is a surefire way to prevent seeing them strewn out across your yard the next morning because of a hungry raccoon.
- Benefit #3 – Easy Turning: I probably could have led with this one, but I think we all know that turning your compost isn’t a job for the weak. It’s difficult to do, but with a tumbler, it’s made twice as easy and requires just a fraction of the time that traditional compost churning takes. Use the handle, spin the barrel around, and you’re basically all set to go.
- Benefit #4 – Odor Control: If the sun hits a stationary bin, it rots the food scraps inside. If it hits the bin of a tumbler, it’s still going to heat it up and cause some odors, but it’s completely contained in the tumbler. You don’t have to worry about a thing.
- Drawback #1 – Space: With a stationary compost bin, it just juts straight up from the ground and goes upward. With a tumbler, you can imagine that same barrel but sideways, taking up more space, and the stand that protrudes out on either side, so you’re cramped when it comes to space. If you like to place your container garden pots in the yard while the sun is shining, you might have to find a new spot to do that.
- Drawback #2 – Price: Generally speaking, even low-end, low-capacity tumblers will still cost you more than stationary bins. Just look at our list for a quick breakdown of how true that pricing information really is. However, if you prefer efficiency ofer anything else, a tumbler is still the right choice, even if the price is, on average, 30-40% higher than a stationary compost bin.
- Drawback #3 – Moisture Control: The goal here is to maintain a good ecosystem within your tumbler bin, but if there’s massive moisture buildup, then it’s not doing you any favors. It is undoubtedly harder to control moisture buildup in your tumbler, but if you’re vigilant and take the literal fifteen seconds required to check it out, you’ll be good to go.
How Long Does it Take to Compost in a Tumbler?
It can take anywhere from two months, to about two years—it all depends. What are you putting in there? What climate do you live in? Are you keeping a balance of carbon and nitrogen? Are you adding enough oxygen when it needs it?
Tumblers can take longer than stationary bins for sure, because they’re getting less direct exposure. However, not all is lost. You can make your compost faster if you add a little TLC into composting. There are a few things you can do, in any scenario, to speed up your compost and make it ready to use.
- Go Big: Make big heaps so that you can add to or take away from as needed. A good compost pile can withstand a little loss if you’re planting something new, and not impact the overall composting rate.
- Maintain Moisture: There’s a magic moisture level: a little, but not too much. I know it’s vague, but you need moisture in your compost. If it’s completely dry, then it’s not going to do anything. It’ll just sit there.
- Par-Harvest: Do you think eggshells and twigs decompose at the same rate? No, they don’t, and that’s okay. Harvest what you need, so long as it’s complete and ready to use, and you’ll be good to go. Close it up, keep it going. Reducing the available compost may speed things up a bit.
- Monitor Temperature: There’s also a magic temperature range, because nitrogen and carbon heat up when together, so make sure the temp is right in the sweet spot every single day and it will compost at a quick rate.
Can You Put Worms in a Compost Tumbler?
Not only can you do it, but it’s encouraged for various types of compost. If you want, you can pick up red worms and add them into your compost to help you turn it and make it organic as it can be, but there is a catch that we want to warn you about.
If you are putting in organic scraps, such as foods that aren’t wholly chemically made or altered, egg shells, coffee grounds, rice scraps, and things of the sort, then your worms will thrive, multiply, and make your compost fantastic.
They will even help with your crops once you spread the compost out everywhere, and help maintain healthy grass if you’re just placing this compost on the grass to maintain a healthy earth.
If you don’t put in any organic matter, then you’re not going to get any at all. You have to remember that your compost is basically its own ecosystem. The worms are the citizens, and if they are happy and healthy, they will multiply and fill up more of the available space. This is a good thing; it’s exactly what you want to happen!
It should be noted that even if you don’t add worms in, your compost will still be created at the standard speed.
Worms don’t necessarily make it go faster, but they help keep it turned, they help with nitrogen distribution, and they then help your soil once you spread the compost. You’re basically breeding them to help rule your garden and help your food/plants grow.
Time to Feed the Earth
I recommend that you take the time to learn the scientific makeup of compost.
Anna Hess is the author of Balancing Soil Nutrients and Acidity, which is a fantastic resource—and one of three in her soil mastery series—that teaches you everything you need to know about what to add, and how to figure out what to add to your soil.
I recommend giving that a read. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, it’s free, and helps you make the most out of your compost bin. It’s time to get out there, and enrich your garden.