what kind of compost bin do you use?

beautifulboy(6-Coastal MA)March 24, 2010

I've searched all over this forum and haven't found a thread that asks this question...so here goes

What kind of compost bin do you use and why do you like it? Last year we bought a low cost compost bin made in Massachusetts -


it's called the "New Age" bin. At the time we we really excited about it and at the prospect of composting finally, after moving here from the city recently and finally having a garden (!) but we've found that this New Age bin is a pain and sort of an eyesore as we have a really small yard so there's no place to hide the big black hulking plastic thing.

Sorry if this is longwinded, but I'd really appreciate any suggestions. Does anyone love their bin? I think we want to buy a bin rather than build one at this point, we have so many projects going right now as it is. Is there a wooden bin out there that is affordable and works well? Recycled plastic is okay too.

Thank you : )

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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

I love my bins because I am lazy; well, not lazy - I have a big yard and a lot of plants. I have a three to four year rotation on three 8' diameter bins, 4' tall made of what I call "horse fence" that has galvanized 2" x 4" grids. I do not turn my compost, but do layer it. I create a thick pile of leaves and grass (no, I don't put anything from the kitchen on there), sprinkle a couple or three pounds of urea (46-0-0) on top, then at least two to four inches of soil, then repeat months later. The compost settles, then I do it again and again for two years worth of organic material. Piles end up about 18" tall when done. Usually in the third or fourth year I screen it through 1/2" hail screen to get the remaining garbage out and apply it to my garden, new plantings, or existing beds. I don't waste anything. I never apply fertilizer to my veggies - stuff seems to want to overgrow from the compost, so why bother. Simple bin, simple process, easy on an old back! Works for me.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 9:50PM
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True compost whackos enthusiasts don't hide their bins, we take pictures of them and post on the web! I have more pictures of my compost stuff than I have of my family!

You will find the opinions on bins are so wide and varied that it will be nigh unto impossible to make a decision based on them. It might be a good idea to track down a composting demonstration site and go look at what is around and the different techniques.

I use/used most different methods and they all have pros and cons.


P.S. hortster, "laziness breeds eficiency"!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 11:29PM
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I have 2 made of discarded wooden pallets, approx 4 cubic feet each. I also have a black plastic "box" type composter that my son gave me from Lowe's, inexpensive, and has little doors to get the compost out the bottom. I saw a bigger one today, a big black box with like a toybox lid, at HD, for about $49. You could paint it if it looks ugly, or box it in with a little fence of pickets, maybe?
If you just do a google search on compost bins or composting you will find many hits. Also I found a thread from 2002:
composting bin, any ideas?
 Posted by: Maigan on Thu, Mar 21, 02 at 19:48
 25 follow-ups, last one posted on Sat, Mar 28, 09 at 15:05
You can find it if you search some of the keywords above via gardenweb search. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 11:33PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I just make piles behind the garage. I have a working pile and a resting pile.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 12:48AM
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pippimac(New Zealand)

It really depends on your aesthetics. I find a 'loose' pile works best, but I don't have HOAs or gophers...
whatever you do, if you possibly can, have at least three piles: curing, working and 'collecting'. I only have two and am desperately trying to find room for another.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 7:23AM
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beautifulboy(6-Coastal MA)

I should have included in my original post that we are using the compost pile for yard waste and kitchen craps.

Thank you so much for the replies everyone, please do keep them coming.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 7:58AM
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organicdan(z5b Nova Scotia)

I have four bins. Three are made with 4' x 4' pallets and the fourth is just an enclosure of sheet metal and posts for leaves.

The three bins allows for easy turning by tranfering to the next bin. A 4' x 4' x 4' gives you a 64 sq ft bin.

As the link shows, a simple removable front of slats makes loading and transfer easier.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pallet Compost Bin

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 7:59AM
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One way to hide it is to wrap it with reed fencing.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 8:05AM
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PKponder TX(7b)

We love our pallet bins. We need that size for lawn clippings and shredded leaves.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 10:09AM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

I love my 6 pallet bins, although they require alot of labor to maintain.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 11:22AM
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I use wooden pallets. In the past I used deck screws to attach them together. Now I just tie them together with baling wire. It's very convenient when you need to turn the pile to just untie the front pallet, put it aside, and do the work.

I've been working on painting a board in some sort of camo pattern to disguise the end of the bins, but it still looks pretty hokey.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 1:44PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I had a pallet bin tied together with twine, but hubs complained that it looked junky. He was right.

So we bought some 8' fence panels when they went on sale. Cut them in half and hinged three corners. Stapled woven wire fabric on the inside. Its not a work of art, but it does look better.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 6:08PM
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I always had piles but I now use 3' diameter 1/2" hardware-cloth cylinders. I asked a similar question on this forum awhile back and got a wide variety of thoughts and ideas. The cylinders don't look bad, provide plenty of air, and allow full access to the pile when turning. Remove a couple of plastic ties, slip the cloth off and set next to the pile and fill. I got 4 going.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 9:23PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

For those of us that have large quantities of OM, at least three 8' bins are great. Like pippimac says, you have to have "Three piles: curing, working and 'collecting.'" And (love this!) as pt03 says, "Laziness breeds efficiency!" Compost on, dudes/dudettes!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 9:49PM
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My workplace was throwing out some old industrial wire shelving, so I brought 10 panels home, stood them up and wire-tied them together, except for my door. I have it latched with a carabiner. I also have a Mantis Twin compost tumbler that I recently purchased, and can't figure out. I cannot get it to heat up, argh!!!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 10:21PM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

Since I am just starting out with any composting, I just bought one of those wire caged compost bins from Gardeners Supply Company. I already know I need at least one more! If I can find the room! We have a very small yard. I guess these are ok for a newbie composter.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wire Bin Composter

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 7:03AM
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beautifulboy(6-Coastal MA)

joepyeweed thanks for the pic, that explains so much

thanks everyone for the responses! It looks like everyone so far uses something like a wire cage or open-sided system and no-one uses the plastic compost cans like we have. kentstar (and everyone) do you find that your compost pile heats up like you want it too? And with the wire composters do you get frequent visits from vermin?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 8:21AM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

Most of my stuff is just straw, leaves, and pine needles, with some UCG's thrown in there for good measure. I'm just starting out, so I haven't mastered anything enough for it to heat up yet. I guess you could say right now, most of it is cold composting behind my house. I have to be careful not to attract vermin, because we live in a mobile home park and I think the neighbors wouldn't take kindly to vermin next door lol. I'm thinking, "start small and secretly work your way up" lol

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 8:29AM
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deburn(6 - Boston MA)

BB, I do have one of those plastic bins! My city offers the New Age composter and the Earth Machine. I chose to go with the EM but only because there was much more info available online, whereas there wasn't much at all about the New Age.

The EM is a good composter but I dont think it's much different from the New Age. I have a (very) small yard too, and apart from size, not attracting rodents was very high on my list. I think small yard means close to the house and open/cage type systems mean more likelihood of rodents.

I believe there are 'better' looking composters, but they cost an arm and a leg and I personally wasn't willing to spend that kind of money on a composter. If I were you, I'd try to make the best of what you have, maybe just try and cover it up so it looks better aesthetically.

compost on :-)
~ deburn

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 10:09AM
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There are some realities of composting that can be obstacles.

First, it takes some space to set up a composting operation. With the trend toward smaller yards, it's going to be hard for people to make room for making a lot of compost.

Second, the process is rather messy and it's not pretty.

I have a high tolerance for messy. My outgoing wife doesn't. It's not for everybody.

My wife is a pretty hard-core recycler. But she's moving into a new house with a smallish yard and wants to compost her kitchen scraps. Given her need for neat, I'll probably help her set up two of those store-bought tumblers, and hide them someplace in the back yard.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 12:39PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I have a double pallet bin and two plastic composters at the allotment and a smaller, neater slatted wooden bin in my microscopic garden at home. Our City is currently offering 220 litre (58 US gals) plastic bins at £13.50 ($20) but, sadly, I don't have room for any more.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 1:11PM
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It's funny---aesthetics. For instance, I live on a lake, so I don't mow or rake my "lawn". One of my neighbors has a lawn maintained like a golf course, running straight to the water's edge. I don't think you can imagine my surprise every time someone calls my place an eyesore and his a gorgeous yard.

To my eye, compost is a thing of beauty---especially when confined by something biodegradable. If a plastic compost bin is newly manufactured, I sure don't have much use for it. (Of course, as someone pointed out, I don't live where people, of questionable aesthetic judgement, make HOA rules. I guess even compost in a plastic bin is better than no compost. Maybe.)

My confined bins are like mendopete's: hardware cloth 4' high, 3 or more across. I wire the ends to form a column and if I decide to turn the pile, and I sometimes do, I walk around the column yanking it upwards as I circle it until I can lift the whole wire bin off and set it aside. I then turn to the column of free-standing compost and fork it into the bin in its new location.

I used to have wooden bins. The problem with wooden bins is they have to be built, they eventually rot, and they aren't nearly as easy to turn as a column is.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 10:49PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

We have a SoilSaver compost bin. It filled up fast but turning it is not a simple process and I need to compost sooner rather than later. I would need probably 3 more to suit my needs.

We have done the columns with hardware cloth. One was too narrow and just sat. One was wider and the stuff in the middle composted well. The stuff on the outside just got to dry. It was in a bad location, the hoses did not reach that far out. Nobody liked taking the compost all the way out there either but the gopher liked dining on it. The plastic bins maintain moisture much better in my very dry, very windy climate.

My next experiment will be with a trash can, holes drilled all over the place for aeration with a locking lid that I can lay on its side and roll to turn the compost. That will be cheaper than the $40 Soilsaver at Sam's and I do hope that it works.

I also have a worm bin in the garage. Eventually, I will have 3 of these, one batch being finished, one batch being started and one batch ready to be used on a moment's notice.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 12:18AM
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sfallen2002(z5 IA)

Bins - bah. I live in the country.
Loosely pile stuff in beds, turn 3-4 times, fork-fluff in spring, maybe use really rough stuff to start another pile.

Neat it ain't but makes turning easy. If I gotta corral something I use a cylinder of fencing.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 12:52AM
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I've done pallets.

I've done EarthMachine.

I've done wire bin.

I've done large bin.

I've done small tumbler.

I've done medium tumbler.

I've done large tumblers.

I've done windrows.

I still use every method except for the pallets. Each method has pros and/or cons depending on different parameters and personal issues.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 1:10AM
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dogwind(Z8a TX)

I've had pallet bins in the past. They work fine but looked a little trashy. Now I use 2 large Pile Pro's for leaves. The manufacturer lives in my area, so I didn't have to pay shipping. They are durable, and work fine if you're patient. I don't care as much about appearance these days since they are in an area of the yard nobody sees. I also have a Shepherd Bin, which I really like. Basically it's a wire lobster trap coated in green plastic. Looks good. Keeps everything contained well. Easy to access. No complaints. One of the towns next to mine sells them at a discount and didn't mind me purchasing one from them. http://www.ceshepherd.com/complete_composter.html

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 6:56AM
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beautifulboy(6-Coastal MA)

Thanks for all the ideas everyone

pt03 Thanks for the encyclopedia of beautiful compost bins!

It looks like the compost pile/bin in our yard will be added to the list of labor-of-love house projects. Maybe we'll just build a fence around ours this year? It's not that I don't like the look of the compost pile, or the smell (don't really care...) I guess what I mind is the look of the bloack compost bin that we have - and I feel bad for the neighbors who are close by and already have to deal with our 'non-traditional' upkeep of the yard/shed/hedge, etc.... Oh well!
: ) thanks again everyone

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 8:51AM
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brdldystlu(5b Mo)

I have a Mantis compost twin tumbler. I love this thing. We did put two bars in each side that goes from front to back, so that way while I am turning it the compost has to hit the bars and helps to break up the balls of compost. I can't say I get compost as fast as the ad says but I also don't shred or chop up most of the things that go in there, and I also don't build up a side at one time, well for the most part. I have pretty much done that this spring.

I like it because the local critters can't get into it, and it is way easy to turn. I have even composted a few critters in it. The only thing that comes back out is the skull. Large bones don't compost to well. I love chicken wings and I put the bones in there and never see them again.

I also now have a worm bin made out of an old bathtub. That is at my house in the country. We cut planks to make a top then put a crib mattress on it and now it looks like a bench. I also love it, easy to take care of, throw in some food every so often and not do much else. The wildlife is even worse there so I had to come up with a way to deal with my kitchen waste.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 10:08AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Hey, dogwind

What you mean, trashy?? I consider these to be a miracle of recycling and putrescible charm.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 3:12PM
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Oh my! Lovely!!!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 4:56PM
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Flora it is beautiful!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 10:08PM
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I wanted to have something that would look nice in our neighborhood; and I am a new homeowner with zero handiwork expertise, so I decided to build a bin out of cedar for some practice. It took me about 3 hours to build. It cost a chunk of change for all the cedar I needed, but I am pleased with the appearance. It is a good height with a self supporting, hinged lid, so it is easy for me to turn. Also the front panel of boards slide out easily to open up the front if need be either for turning or for taking out the compost once it's done. It has no bottom to let the worms in if they so choose. I am pleased with it so far. There are some plans online I can send you a link for if you choose to do this kind of bin.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 9:49AM
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I put my pic url in wrong previously and don't know how to edit it--sorry!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 9:59AM
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first year, i had a small rubber container with holes drilled in it, that I turned maniacally. not bad, made compost.

second year, same bin, and a 30 gal plastic trashcan with holes drilled in, which I layered and let sit all summer and winter. the small bin went anaerobic, meh. the big bin made so-so compost, but there was some undigested browns that didn't decay further when I finally turned it. It was also infested with BSFL for a good bit of the late fall.

this year, going with the mesh bin. super inexpensive, self contained, not a big mess. the outside is dry, but the inside isn't and there has been some heat buildup. Going to turn it this weekend, will see how things are progressing.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 4:34PM
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cal_dreamer(z9 SoCal)

I have three biostacks. DH wasn't to hip on composting, convinced it would be a mess and would stink. I started with one, and added two more while he wasn't looking. :) Now my problem is rescuing the grass clippings before they go in the city greenwaste bin.

Yes, they are plastic (sigh) but they are neat, tidy and provide a great lookout spot for Bo.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 11:37PM
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mustard_seeds(4 -Onalaska Wisconsin)

KAZ - wow that is a pretty bin!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 7:44AM
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Kaz - That is one gorgeous bin! I'd be afraid to get it dirty! :-)

Cal - That surely is one very neat and tidy composting area. There is nothing wrong with the plastic biostacks, I think they look good. And obviously Bo thinks they are just fine and I'd trust a dog before I trusted some humans.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 8:43AM
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I have biostacks too, and one thing I like (besides Bo the dog!!) is what you can see in Cal's photo above : you can move the layers around and create taller or smaller bins. The flexibility is useful when one is storing finished compost for a while (smaller bin) but has a sudden inrush of clippings, etc. to add (taller bin.)
Removing the top layer (s) also makes it much easier to fork your compost around, or out.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 11:16AM
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The mice like the wood pile much more than they like the compost piles. The piles don't draw rodents because when I put veggie waste in it I scrape out a hole in the middle of the pile and then put in the waste lots of leaves and then pile it back up. No smell no muss. Should I mention I have 7 piles for my acre and a half? And that's just enough to use up all the leaves from the 10,000 sq ft of cleared space. As I clear the brush and plant the shade garden under the trees I'm going to be over loaded with leaves lol.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 6:48PM
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The sign of a 'professional' composter must be the number of various bins they've used. Lloyd wins hands down!

I used a wire mesh bin years ago but didn't like it. Too much work to pull it off and shovel all the compost back in.

I've used various bins made of wood, lastly pallets. Apparently I also compost snow.

I'm now just using a pile as it's easier to access and turn. Out here in the country no one cares how pretty it is as long as it's kinda out of the landscaped area.

All winter I collect kitchen scraps in this 42" tall black container which we place about 20' from the house. Easier to shovel a path thru the snow to it instead of 100' to a pile. It has no bottom so after spring thaw I just lift it off, shovel into a wheelbarrow and move to wherever I want to make a pile, layering with wood shavings.

My preferred method over the summer is to bury kitchen scraps and let the worms and microscopic organisms do their thing underground. Works the best for me and it's really easy.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 10:27PM
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kazbachris I know this is a very late post to an old thread but I would love to see the plans to your cedar 'bin'. It looks just fine and more for a residential neighbourhood.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 1:17PM
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I use GEOBIN, a 12 foot x 3 foot roll of black thick recycled plastic with aeration and fastening holes along the entire length. Easy to set up from maximum diameter of almost 4 foot to as small as a diameter as you want. The plastic material is sturdy enough to free stand alone or you can add stakes if you want; it holds it shape well without. It comes with key like clips that locks it into the size you want. At maximum diameter it holds well over a cubic yard of material. I have 2 at max diameter full now and waiting for a third one to be delivered so I can finish composting the oak leaves from last fall. It is easy to fill, unload, and to move. I am very happy with it.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:07PM
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We recycled a drum and made it spin and wheel around to be able to bring it right to the plants. We've considered selling them since we have access to barrels, but shipping would probably be expensive for this. It worked great for our container garden in our driveway last year, but are soon to be moving and are able to plant a much bigger garden this year. I don't know that we will be able to compost enough to keep up with our garden as it grows.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 4:11PM
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I have a three bin system made of cinderblocks. It's the third kind I've tried, after pallets and wire cages, both of which frustrated me. I'm quite happy with this one, have used it for years. The downside is it's ugly! It works great because I can quickly add more or remove blocks as needed. It lets air in and probably holds some heat in. It was pretty inexpensive (about a dollar a block), easy and fast to build (a bit heavy, but not too bad), no hinges to attach, and there's no wire fencing for the garden fork to get stuck in. When I've hit the bottom and get desperate for more compost, there's a surprising amount hidden in the holes!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 12:06AM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

I had a great compost stack as a kid, it was just a pile in the corner of the yard, where two chain link fences met. I had a fork to turn it, and a garden shredder. It cooked pretty fast.

There are a lot of expensive bins out there. If you have the space for something simple, try that first!

(Went to see a guy who had 10 acres, and he showed me his two expensive compost tumblers. I said "neat" but I really thought "but, you have 10 acres!")

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 10:43AM
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