When it comes to choosing a composter, one size doesn’t fit all. When choosing the composter that’s best for you, it’s important to consider the size of your outdoor area, how fast you’ll need compost and how much organic waste you produce.
In this post, I cover six of the most important factors to consider when choosing a compost bin. I’ve also put together some of my favourites products.
Composting is one of those wonderful things that accomplishes two things in one. It reduces household waste while creating rich fertiliser for the vegetable garden.
To do composting well it’s important to understand how composting works and what composting solutions are available.
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Choosing a Composter – My Top Picks
|Brand||Image||Price Range||Dimensions||Capacity||Weight||Where to Buy|
|EJWOX compost bin tumbler outdoor 43 gal||$$$||28.5 x 26 x 37 inches|
(72 x 66 x 94 cm)
|43 gallons (163L)||24 Pounds (10.8kg)||Buy Online|
|REDMON Tower Compost Bin||$$||26 x 26 x 30.75 inches |
(66 x 66 x 78cm)
|65 gallons (246L)||15 pounds (6.8kg)||Buy Online|
|FCMP Outdoor Rolling Composter||$$||24 x 12 x 24 inches |
(61 x 30 x 61 cm)
|19 Gallons (72L)||Buy Online|
|GEOBIN Composting System||$||36.5 x 5 x 5 inches |
(93 x 13 x 13 cm)
|216 gallons (818L)||7 pounds (3.2kg)||Buy Online|
BEST OVERALL – Ejwox Compost Bin Tumbler Outdoor 43 gal
Compost tumblers have become more popular over the years compared to stationary bins as they are more efficient and more convenient when it comes to turning them for aeration. For a small urban garden, the Ejwox Compost Bin Tumbler Outdoor 43 gal is all you need to produce rich compost at home.
BEST LARGE OUTDOOR BIN – Redman Since 1883 65 gal
For a larger garden you can’t go past the classic stationary compost bin. What I love about this one is the easy access flaps at the bottom that can be opened when I’m just needing a small amount of compost (rather than having to remove the whole tower). This is the model I currently use and have never had any problems.
BEST BUDGET COMPOSTING SYSTEM – Geobin 216 gal
Whether you’re a beginner composter or you have a large yard with a lot of garden waste, the Geobin is a great choice. Easy on the wallet and easy to assemble, the Geobin does a good job of managing all those annoying garden leaves!
BEST APARTMENT/SMALL LIVING COMPOSTER – FCMP Outdoor Rolling Composter 19 gal
Is this not the cutest composter you’ve ever seen!? I love that no matter the size of your home, you can still compost your kitchen waste. This is an excellent choice for small living situations or to keep at your holiday home. Easy to rotate and very affordable for how practical it is.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Composter?
1. Size of Garden
Considering ‘how big of a compost bin do I need‘ is one of the main factors that will determine the best types of composter for you.
If you have a large garden with lots of yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, branches etc) you’re likely to need a large or double compost bin to keep up with all the garden waste. Larger bins do require more work to turn, but on the other hand, smaller bins tend to dry out quicker.
It is entirely possible to still have a composter in an apartment with nifty designs like the FCMP Outdoor Rolling Composter that take up hardly any space. Alternatively, in an apartment or small home a bokashi bin is a great solution. Both work well if there is a community garden or green-fingered neighbour nearby that you can donate your compost too.
2. Stationary vs. Tumbler
- Stationary Bins have a larger capacity than tumblers and are great for people with large yards and lots of waste such as leaves, branches and grass clippings. Stationary bins need to be turned once in a while to allow oxygen into the matter. The more often the bin is aerated the faster the compost will decompose.
- Compost Tumblers are elevated bins with a handle that allows for easy rotation. These tend to be smaller than stationary bins but very efficient. Compost tumblers can be turned regularly and thus hasten the composting process. Being off the ground also makes compost tumblers more animal and rodent proof.
The best backyard composter or backyard compost tumbler for you depends on the amount of organic waste you plan to compost, the amount of work you want to do and how fast you want compost.
Composts need to be turned frequently to allow aeration and distribution of material. The more often the composter is rotated the faster you’ll have compost. Tumblers are definitely a lot easier in this area, but on the other hand, they have a lot more limited capacity to a stationary compost bin.
Compost requires the right amount of heat and oxygen to break down, which is why some designs typically produce faster compost than others. Due to the practical aspect, compost tumblers are a lot easier to turn and aerate compared to a stationary bin which is a lot more manual. For this reason, tumblers tend to produce compost a lot quicker.
In saying this, several factors impact how quickly food scraps decompose:
- Colour – Black compost bins absorb more heat which aids in the decomposition process (which is why most manufacturers make compost bins black!)
- Shape – You’ll notice that a lot of composters are designed in a circular shape or with rounded corners. This is to minimise the cold areas that would settle in the corners of the compost bin, causing the compost to decompose at different rates.
- Moisture – Compost needs a small amount of moisture to aid with the composting process but if it’s too wet or too dry it’s not working efficiently. Compost should resemble that of a wrung-out sponge.
- Nitrogen to Carbon Ratio – It’s important to get the ratio of nitrogen (green – grass clippings, veggie scraps) to carbon (brown – leaves, sticks, paper) correct. The general rule of thumb is 60:40 brown to green material. The brown matter is what helps to neutralise any smell.
The composter you choose can make a difference to the speed at which compost is created. Keeping the above points in mind will make a big difference also.
If all else fails and you find you don’t have enough compost for the season, here are my top picks for the best bagged compost to buy for your vegetable garden.
If rodents or animals are a problem where you live, a compost tumbler may be a best option for you as it’s raised off the ground.
Compost piles and stationary bins tend to be easier for the likes of opossums, raccoons and rodents to make a mess of while scavenging through garden waste.
When it comes to choosing a composter, the price may sway you firmly one way or another. To purchase a composting system you’re looking to spend between $40 -$130. The alternative is making your own compost pile, but remember these may not be as rodent-proof as ready made products.
Bear in mind that by creating your own compost at home you’ll be saving money buying fertiliser as well as reducing your household waste. So it’s important to factor this into your calculations.
6. Construction Material & Ventilation
If you’ve ever wondered why composters tend to be black, it’s because they’re designed to absorb the most heat from the sun. This helps to accelerate the decomposition process of the composted materials.
Plastic vs Wood
As well as not having the same heat acceleration as black plastic, wood also has the downside of rotting if not properly treated. You don’t want to have chemically treated wood either because the chemicals can leach into your compost and therefore your garden and vegetables.
Check that the plastic of the compost bin is UV-resistant and this should prevent the plastic from going brittle for a long time.
Airflow and Vents
Fresh air is necessary for decomposition as micro-organisms are responsible for this process. If the compost bin doesn’t receive sufficient airflow then it will become a stinky mess and won’t decompose properly.
Check that the composter you choose has adequate air vents. Some compost tumblers also have the benefit of fins inside which helps to break up the contents when turned.
Which is the Best Composter to Buy
Now that we’ve covered the important things to consider when choosing a composter, you should have a good idea by now as to what type of composter you want to buy.
Below I have put together my top picks for stationary, tumblers and small composting systems so you can see what I use at home.
My Top Picks When Choosing a Composter
- The double chamber allows for an uninterrupted supply of rich compost
- Durable construction – BPA free, UV inhibited, recycled plastic is contact safe
- A powder-coated steel frame provides a sturdy base for the large bin.
- Galvanized steel feet prevents rusting and deterioration.
- Makes compost in as little as 4-6 weeks
- Ergonomic handholds on the sides
- 43 Gallon capacity
- Easy to spin
- Plenty of vents and internal bars to ensure excellent aeration
- Rodent/pest resistant
- Some assembly required
- Some users have found the doors to be a bit small
- Can sometimes leak through vents so best to locate it over a garden or grassed area.
If you’re looking for an effective compost bin solution that will provide an uninterrupted supply of nutrient rich compost, then a dual barrel system is the one for you.
The double-barrel design of the Ejwox Compost Bin Tumbler Outdoor 43 gal is considered to be one of the best compost tumbler designs, because you’re still able to fill one side with garden waste and kitchen scraps while the other side is left longer to fully decompose.
If turned 5 or 6 times every few days, you should have usable compost in as little as 4-6 weeks! It really does drive home the point that aeration is key to creating faster compost.
What I Love
What I love the most about the compost tumbler design is that it’s so easy to aerate vs traditional grounded options. To be honest, I very rarely turn the compost (in my stationary compost bin) as I just run out of time in my day. Plus making the trip down to the garden shed for a garden fork is just in the too hard basket for me with two young kids. But with the compost tumblers, it’s just so easy. On the way out to hang the washing, I can give it a few spins and voila!
It’s worth noting the durable material used to create these bins – BPA free, UV inhibited, 100% post-consumer recycled polypropylene. It’s contact safe and won’t degrade in direct sunlight, meaning no harmful contaminants will enter your compost and garden.
If you’re not fussed about having a dual-chamber but still love the tumbling design, then I would recommend the FCMP Outdoor RM4000 Tumbling Roto Composter. Nice large opening and very little assembly required!
- One of the original composter designs that has proven successful over many years
- Four convenient access doors at the base (13″ Width x 8″ Height) to retrieve compost
- Good aeration holes
- Large 65-gallon capacity
- Convenient snap on lid
- Easy to assemble (instructions included – NO tools required)
- Heavy duty construction
- Made of UV stabilized material for long lasting all weather durability
- Open base allows worms and beneficial microbes to come up from the soil below
- Rugged weather-resistant construction
- No bottom grate so pests or rodents could burrow up into the compost bin
- Requires a shovel or garden fork to turn contents
The Redmon Composting Tower is your classic backyard composter design with a few added features. Growing up, the tower design with lid was what I was used to and it worked. So the Redmon was the first compost bin I bought.
The features that I love are the four access flaps at the base. When I’m just needing a small amount of compost, I can slide the flap and dig some out (rather than removing the whole bin). This works perfectly as the compost at the base is more decomposed than the fresh contents on top (if you’re like me and don’t get around to turning it regularly!).
The durable UV-resistant plastic is hardy and can stand a few knocks. I keep mine in my vegetable garden so when it’s ready, I simply lift the bin off and dig it through the soil.
A good tip for preventing rodents or animals from burrowing up from the base of the bin, is to lay chicken wire or something similar at the bottom before placing the bin on top. You want something permeable (so not plastic or cardboard) as you still want the worms and microbes to be able to come up from the soil below.
An easy way to turn/aerate the contents is to remove the tower, place it in a new spot then fork the contents back into the bin.
- Small size is perfect for small properties and apartments
- No assembly required
- Tumbling design makes aeration easy and efficient
- Rolling design makes it easy to move (no wheelbarrows or buckets required)
- Deep fins on the body provide great ergonomic handholds
- BPA free, UV inhibited, recycled polyethylene is contact safe and will not degrade under direct sunlight.
- Some people report that liquid sometimes leaks out when rotated. Best to keep a mat under it or directly on the ground
- Size may be too small for some
With a 19 gallon capacity, this composter is the baby of our composters. Perfect if you live in a small property or apartment. Someone even said they keep this one at their beach house which I thought was a brilliant idea.
Super easy to aerate, simply close the door and turn 5-6 times every few days. When the weather’s warm you can have finished compost in as little as 2 weeks!
This little baby is made from very durable materials and is contact safe so no chemicals will leach into your compost and soil.
Tumbling composters allow far greater aeration than standard composter models and this one, in particular, has been designed with deep fins to break up clumps inside the chamber to maximise oxygen within the compost.
- Large capacity (216 gallons)
- Expandable to 4 feet (246 gallons)
- Easy assembly
- Very cost-effective, one of the cheapest composters on the market
- Large capacity to hold lots of leaves and other yard waste
- No lid so compost takes longer to rise in temperature and decompose
- Open bottom means rodents could dig from underneath. Try laying chicken wire at the bottom to prevent this.
This composting system has the largest capacity by far, with the ability to expand to 4 feet (246 gallons)
The Geobin composter is the least expensive compost option available as well as the largest. Great for all skill levels and abilities, there is very little setup involved.
The Geobin composting system is particularly useful in a large backyard with lots of leaves, grass clippings or garden waste. Everything can be added and left to decompose.
It’s worth noting that this composter needs to be at least one third full most of the time in order to hold its shape. Therefore, it’s great for a large garden that has lots of leaves and garden waste, not good if you’re only adding small amounts of kitchen waste at a time.
This is an open bottom composting system, so when placed on soil, worms and other beneficial microbes will come up and help with the decomposition process.
Unless you want to be popping back and forward from your kitchen to your backyard composters every day, an indoor compost bin is a must. There are some really stylish kitchen composters available these days; here are a few of my favourites.
Choosing a Composter FAQS
Should Compost Bins be in the Sun or Shade?
Cold slows down the decomposition process so it’s important to consider where the sun hits your garden, especially over the cooler months.
On the flip side, positioning a compost bin in a spot that receives intense all day sun can dry out your compost area.
If you only have one extreme or the other to choose from, choose the shade. The reason being, heat from the sun is not the primary heat source in the decomposition process; the busy microbes are.
The shade will also prevent water evaporation and keep your compost bin from drying out too fast.
For more information on this, be sure to read my article on Deciding Where to Place Your Compost Bin.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Compost Bin?
When choosing a composter, four of the most important considerations are the size of your outdoor area (how much yard waste you’re likely to have), the amount of kitchen waste your household produces, the speed at which you need compost and the price you’re willing to spend.
What Should I Look for in a Composter?
The answer to this question largely comes down to the reason why you’re wanting to compost – is it to make use of household vegetable scraps, manage the waste in your yard, or create homemade compost for your garden. Once you have determined this, also consider the six point listed above when choosing a composter.
What Size Compost Bin is Best?
For a large yard with regular amounts of waste (prunings, leaves, grass clippings, branches) a large compost bin is essential. I would recommend a stationary bin like the Redmon Tower Composter or Geoman Compost Bin.
For a small yard and average size household, you could go with either a stationary bin or a tumbler like the Ejwox Compost Bin Tumbler Outdoor 43 gal.
For apartments and tiny homes you can’t go past this little beauty (who says you can’t compost anywhere!?)
Do Compost Bins Attract Rats?
Unfortunately yes, rodents and pests will be lured by the food waste added to your compost bin. However, there are some tricks to minimizing the chance of animals having a midnight feast in your compost bin. For example when composting eggs, bury them a foot into the center of your compost pile and ensure the lid is well-secured.
Composters have been manufactured with this in mind, but I am yet to find a completely pest-proof compost system.
A tip with stationary tower compost bins with an open base is to lay chicken wire or netting at the base to prevent rats from burrowing up from the bottom.
Do Compost Bins Smell?
No, they shouldn’t if the nitrogen (green) to carbon (brown) ratio is correct. Brown material (leaves, paper, sticks etc) helps to counteract any smells so if the composter is beginning to smell, add more carbon.
Which Type of Composter is Best?
The size of your yard, the speed at which you require compost, as well as your price range, will all determine the best at home composter for you and your veggie gardening.
What About Worm Composters and Worm Bins?
Worm composting uses worms to recycle green waste and food scraps into vermicompost. This compost can then be used to grow plants.
Conclusion – When Choosing a Composter
Compost is an excellent way to reduce the waste in your household with the added benefit of producing useable fertilizer for your garden. By considering the six factors mentioned above, you’ll be able to make a well-informed decision when comparing different types of compost bins and choosing a composter to best suit your needs.
About the Author
Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.