A well-chosen spot can make all the difference to the quality and frequency of your compost so it’s worth considering these 11 factors before making a decision on where to place a compost bin. Ideally, compost bins should be in a well-draining, semi-shaded spot that is both convenient to the kitchen and unobtrusive to others.
Deciding where to place your compost bin need not take much time once you’ve considered these 11 factors:
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Where to Place a Compost Bin
1. Not Too Hot and Not Too Cold
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 the compost area.
To avoid having to regularly water your compost pile, choose a spot that receives some shade during the day, and avoid areas with intense sunlight.
Don’t forget that the main heat source in a compost pile is generated through microbe activity. Also, heat generation is the main reason why manufacturers designed compost bins to be black!
2. Not Too Windy
Similar to too much sun, too much wind will dry out your compost heap and hinder the composting process. You would then need to water your compost more regularly.
To avoid this, choose a spot with a natural or manmade windbreak.
3. Proximity to the House
Convenience is one of the most important factors when choosing where to place your compost bin.
Imagine it’s raining (or snowing!) outside and your compost bin is on the other side of the yard. With your kitchen scraps overflowing, would you be willing to traipse outside to empty it?
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to locate your bin within a comfortable walking distance from the house.
4. Position Near Plants But Not Under a Tree
Compost is often dense and heavy, so ideally you don’t want to be lugging or wheelbarrowing it large distances to your garden. Try to locate your compost bin near to or even in your veggie garden.
My compost bin is actually in my garden so that I simply need to lift the top, push it over and spread the compost through when it’s ready.
Positioning a bin under a large tree might sound like a good idea in terms of providing shade, but trees have hungry root systems that seek out nutrients and water. Good if you want your tree to thrive but not so good if you were saving those nutrients for your garden!
Tree roots can also grow up into the bin which can cause problems.
5. Somewhere with Working Space
If you are going to be an active composter, a good rule of thumb when deciding whether there’s enough space is ‘twice the size of your compost bin’.
This allows enough elbow room for you to turn and aerate the compost. It also provides enough area to move and rebuild the compost bin directly next to where it was sitting and to get a wheelbarrow in to cart out finished compost.
6. Not Right Against the House
A working compost bin should not smell and should not attract rodents. But from time to time a compost pile can become unbalanced and one of these factors may occur. When this happens you’ll be grateful that your compost bin is not right up against the house!
Flies and other bugs are attracted to decomposing kitchen waste so to avoid unwanted visitors in your home, it’s advisable to position it at least 10 feet (3m) from your house.
7. Level, Well-Draining Site
Choosing a level site for your compost bin probably goes without saying, but it’s also important that the site is well-draining. The reason being, you don’t want your compost bin sitting in a pool of stagnant water.
A little moisture is required when composting but too much moisture will cause a slimy mess!
A good tip in knowing whether it’s a well-draining site is to go outside after heavy rain and see where the puddles are.
8. Close to a Water Source
For the decomposition process, some moisture is required. Depending on the season and position of your bin, you may need to add a sprinkling of water at different times of the year.
For this reason, it’s handy to have a water source nearby or at least within hose reach.
9. Avoid Concrete or Deck Areas if Possible
The liquid by-product that runs off a compost pile is called leachate (also known as ‘compost tea’); it’s full of nutrients. When using a grounded bin the leachate isn’t noticeable. For tumblers you would see the leachate drip on the ground if it was positioned on a hard surface.
Where possible it’s always preferable to situate your compost bin over the soil; especially for a grounded bin as the microbes and earthworms will come up from the soil below. If you have an off the ground system like a tumbler, it’s advisable to add a small amount of compost at the beginning to add the microbes.
If your only option is to locate your tumbler on a hard surface, that’s fine, the leachate is just something you will need to bear in mind. You will want to place some sort of lining or pan on the ground first to prevent staining.
10. Visual Considerations
If you don’t like the look of your compost bin there are plenty of easy ways to hide it. Privacy screens or vegetation to name a few.
Visual considerations is worth mentioning in this list as it’s unlikely you’ll want to place your compost bin by the front door for all to see!
11. Away From the Neighbours Fence
For a lot of the reasons mentioned above (leachate, potential smell, flies, visual) neighbours need to be considered when deciding where to place your compost bin if you’d like to remain on speaking terms. Especially if you live in a suburban area with neighbours close by.
I know that this is a big list and it’s not going to be possible to manage all of these suggestions if you have a small backyard with limited options. If this is the case then choose the most important factors when you’re selecting the best location for compost bins.
Another important consideration is choosing the right sized compost bin to suit your needs. For a suburban house with a small garden, one compost bin is likely to suffice. For more of a lifestyle property, you will need at least two to keep up with the leaves, grass clipping, branches and plant matter that is likely to be generated.
In my article on How to Make the Best Compost for Your Vegetable Garden: Composting 101, I talk more about this and everything you need to know about how to set up a compost bin and create an effective composting system at home.
I highly recommend operating a Bokashi bin alongside a composting system. It’s possible to put ALL household food waste in a Bokashi bin, not just organic matter. Bokashi also produces Bokashi tea which is a wonderful fertiliser for your plants. Learn all about Bokashi vs Compost, what Bokashi bin to buy and what not to put in a Bokashi bin.
FAQs on Where to Place Compost Tumbler or Compost Bin
Is it Better for my Compost Bin to be Raised or on the Ground?
There are numerous composting bin options available these days that create compost at various speeds and quantities. The benefit of having a grounded compost bin is that earthworms and microbes from the soil come up into your compost system. These assist in the decomposition process.
Understandably this is not always an option for everyone and tumblers and small compost bins are still worthwhile. The first time you use it though, add some compost to the bin to include these microbes from the get-go. From then on, always ensure you leave some compost in the bin to get the next lot started.
One of the benefits of a raised compost bin is that they are more of a deterrent for rodents. Animals are difficult to deter in either situation but rodents would definitely be more deterred by a tumbler than a grounded bin that they can burrow up into.
A tip for a grounded bin is to put wire mesh over the base. This will stop unwanted animals from burrowing into your compost bin.
For a full review of the various types of composter and my top picks, check out my guide to Choosing a Composter.
How Close Should I put my Compost Bin to the House?
The main concern people have is that a compost bin will smell and/or attract rodents. If you are composting correctly, neither of these issues should be a problem.
Err on the side of caution and don’t put your compost bin right up against the house. Position it somewhere convenient though that won’t see you traipsing across the yard in the cold and rain. A minimum of 10 feet is a good rule of thumb.
Where to Place Compost Bin…Sun or Shade?
Should compost be in sun or shade is one of the most frequently asked questions. A good balance of sun and shade is best for the reasons mentioned at the top of this article. However, 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.
What to Put in a Compost Bin?
All garden material, grass clippings, dead plants and prunings can be added to a compost bin, along with tea bags, compostable paper/packaging (like egg cartons) and excess vegetable and food scraps.
However, be sure not to add any non-organic food waste, oil, liquids or animal manure to your compost bin. This will attract rats and other pests or encourage the growth of pathogens. For food scraps, this is where a Bokashi bin comes in handy.
For a full break down on what to put in compost bins, check out my comprehensive composting 101 guide.
Is it Possible to Compost in a Mini Compost Inside the House?
A Bokashi bin is an excellent form of small scale composting and is created in a bucket inside the house.
There are also some really neat small scale composting systems available these days designed for those who live in apartments or tiny homes.
What are the Different Ways to Compost and What is the Best Way to get Started with Composting?
The basic method of composting is simple: an equal combination of nitrogen (green matter) and carbon (brown matter) combined with enough moisture so that it has the consistency of a damp sponge.
There are many different composting systems from a wooden do-it-yourself compost box system and compost pit, to standard towers ( composting in a bin ) and tumblers. The system you choose comes down to the amount of compostable material you are likely to generate. Read all about how to get a compost bin started in my composting made easy article.
Where to Put Compost Bin in Kitchen?
When you start composting you don’t want to be carting kitchen scraps out to your compost bin every day. I keep a compost kitchen caddy like this compost caddy on my bench that fills up every 2 or 3 days. It’s never there longer than a few days so doesn’t smell; plus it offers me the convenience of not having to take the compost outside every day.
I also have a bokashi bin for food scraps which I keep under my kitchen bench. This then goes into my compost bin or is dug straight into my garden (when I have space) as bokashi composting can create compost in as little as four weeks!
Whether you have just purchased a nice new compost tumbler, built one yourself or making compost in a bin, considering the best location before you start is really important.
It won’t be long before you’re experiencing the joy of knowing that the compost in the garden was created there in your own backyard!
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”.