Which composter for beginner?

JamieMarch 17, 2013

I can't put anything together myself, and I need to contain it as attractively as possible -- can't just have a pile.

I'm starting small. Which of these would be best?

wire - has a door so I can open the door to turn the pile

plastic - is this better for generating heat and giving better results? Would I have to buy a tool to stir it?

wood - could I just remove the slats from one side of this to get in and stir? I feel certain the convenient "remove from the bottom" arch would be pretty worthless. But it seems like it wouldn't blow or get knocked over, like the others might.

Or, since I am a newbie and have a lot to learn and would like a little success to grow on, should I spend more and get an enclosed one (such as the Compost Wizard Dueling Tumblers) that I can roll to turn and will not attract pests? Maybe that would keep me from being stalled by failure? I'm just not sure how difficult it is, both chemically and in terms of physical strength and patience, to get compost out of one of the above more traditional holders?

Thanks for your advice. I realize, after reading the electric fence thread, that you might have to haze me. But please throw in some real info along with it.

This post was edited by jamies on Sun, Mar 17, 13 at 18:23

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Plastic is no better at "generating" heat then anything else because any heat is generated by the activity of the bacteria that digest the material to be composted. Sometimes plastic composters do not allow enough air in and cause the material to hold too much moisture and the material enters anaerobic (in the absence of air) digestion which produces a very stinky mess.
If a bin is needed 12 feet of wire fence works quite well.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 6:35AM
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Anything from a simple circle of fencing or chickenwire to a plastic or wood bin will work fine. The only thing I would recommend against would be the tumbler, they are finicky and harder to get good compost from, besides being hideously expensive.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 5:54PM
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If the tumbler is out, I was thinking of using a 2' by 3' dog kennel without the floor tray. Would this be too small to build up enough heat?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 10:25PM
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Many people report having good results with a compost pile of that size, I have not. When we lived in town, on a 66 x 66 lot with a 36 x 36 house on it, a composter much larger then a 40 gallon trash can would have been difficult, to place and have enough material for. I could not get that trash can composter to do much more than anaerobic digestion, the material was always too wet and smelled terrible. However, the 4 x 4 bins we built at my parents, where we had a very large garden, would get hot and keeping the material just moist enough was easy. I have just had much better results from compost bins 4 x 4 to 6 x 6.
Then again, if you think you will not be able to fill a 4 x 4 bin you can start smaller.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 6:47AM
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I could fill a very large bin, but I am tired of failure in other parts of life, and I would like to have some composting success, or at least if I fail to have a small failure that makes less mess and won't discourage me of trying again. That's why I'm wondering how small I can go. But I don't want to start so small that failure is a given.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 10:27AM
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I noticed you asked about needing a tool to stir it. Regardless of what you use for a bin, compost will happen faster if you can turn it when the bin gets full. The easiest way is to take the bin off of the pile, set it next to the pile and shovel the pile back in. If it's been long enough there will be finished compost at the bottom of the pile.

The dog kennel thing will probably work, because the pile does not have to heat up to make compost. It will take longer if it's cooler, but it will get there.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 11:05AM
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mrsgalihad(5 CO)

If you feel you must buy one I'd go for the wire one. Does it have a door or is one side the door? Or as was mentioned above you could just buy some fencing hook it together in a circle and fill it. To turn the compost you can either reach in from the top and stir it around a little or remove the fencing, turn the pile then put it back to keep things neat.

If you pile things up to rot you won't fail. They will rot. Turning just adds air so things rot faster. You don't have to turn unless you want compost sooner than later.

Pile it up, get it wet as you do if you need to and let it sit. If you are going to be adding food scraps and are worried about pests you can bury them in the pile as you add them to keep that to a minimum. You may get mice and voles. I wouldn't worry about them unless the bin is right next to your house.

You won't fail with compost. It might just take longer than you expect.

Here is a link that might be useful: something like this (not my picture)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 11:16AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

You can't 'fail' at composting jamies - so don't you dare even start thinking like that. You could pile up any amount of garden and kitchen rubbish somewhere, go away for a few months, and return to find compost. Lots of people on this forum are serious about their ratios and temperatures because that's what they like doing. Or you can be like me - pile up whatever comes to hand on one side of a two bay pallet bin, poke with a fork if I feel like it, or not if I can't be bothered. It never heats up and I rarely ever turn it. When it's full I start the other bay. By the time that's full there will be something composty to shovel out of the first bay. Whatever is not decomposed just goes back in. This 'system' has served for many years and I don't see my garden piled high in 'failed' compost. In fact over here it is the standard approach - people tend not to fret over rot or turn it into a 'project' As the ads say 'Just do it'.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 12:37PM
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Well, Florauk, I like your style.

My first and only attempt was about 25 years ago.

I recall a chest high pile of slimy leaves surrounded by a rippling, falling over home-built enclosure of wire.

With the kennel or another bin I have conquered the surround. I thought I had to stir in order to avoid the slime. Since I'm not strong in the back, I wanted to go as small as possible.

I'm also impatient.

I hadn't thought about the voles and mice either. Now I'm thinking I need an enclosed plastic thing for the peelings and the kennel or kennel-like thing for the yard waste.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 1:19PM
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