A guide to Composting and Composters


Composting is one of the hottest trends in gardening. Driven by a desire to conserve land fill space and to utilize organic fertilizer to the maximum extent possible, it’s no surprise literally millions or people are now composting. Fueling the trend has been the recent introduction of a variety of composting devices that have replaced the traditional compost pile. Now, instead of laboriously turning over a smelly compost pile in order to turn out compost after months of work, devices like composting bins, vermicomposters, and tumbling composters make the job quicker, cleaner and most importantly easier.

About Compost:

Compost is the natural product of the decomposition of yard and kitchen waste by tiny naturally occurring microbes. The compost they produce is highly nutritious fertilizer that will help you grow great crops. The beauty of this is that by recycling materials that would otherwise be taking space in overcrowded landfills, you are helping conserve valuable resources and saving money at the same time. Just think of what it costs for a big box garden center to create industrial quantities of compost, package it, advertise it, and deliver it to their store. Now imagine what you save merely by taking the short trip from your kitchen to the composter to fill your bin or tumbler!

How Composting Works:

There are two main ingredients for composting: Yard waste such as grass clippings and other plant materials and kitchen waste such as veggie trimmings or fruit (but NOT meat or dairy waste—they can cause some very strong odors). The important thing is to try to keep the ratio of yard waste to kitchen scraps at about 3:1. If you have a higher proportion of kitchen waste, the compost material may become too damp for efficient composting because of the higher moisture content of fruit and vegetable scraps.

These ingredients are then broken down by microscopic organisms into compost. This process requires and generates considerable heat which speeds the decomposition. Be sure to keep a compost thermometer handy so you will know that your compost pile is operating at optimal temperature and so you can track at what stage is the composting process. Mixing the composting material periodically ensures that all of it is converted into compost in a process that can take many weeks in a compost pile. This mixing is properly called aeration. By aerating the compost, you provide needed oxygen that will help convert the material into compost more quickly.

Methods of Composting:

The Compost Pile: The traditional method of composting is a composting pile. The name pretty much says it all. You pile your composting materials in an area set aside in your lawn or garden and turn it over while the compost is created. The chief benefit of this method is that you don’t have to invest much more than some space, time and effort to generate compost. The downside is that this method is time consuming, labor intensive, sometimes smelly, and takes up a good bit of space. What’s worse, it can also attract pests, leading to complaints from the neighbors.

One Solution is The Compost Bin: You will see many variations on compost bins. Their chief advantages are that they help store the heat generated during the composting process, speeding the creation of compost. Additionally, they take up less space than a compost pile. The best designed composting bin we’ve found so far is the German made Feelgood 90 Composting Bin. It features a dark color to absorb the sun’s energy and good ventilation to ensure that the microbes have plenty of air to generate compost. The construction is simple, but durable so setup is a breeze and the bin will work for years to come.

Another Great Solution is The Tumbling Composter: The major innovation in composting today is the tumbling composter. These composters come in a variety of shapes and designs with each claiming to be better than the rest. The principal behind tumbling composting is that the agitation helps break up the compost and aerate it. Breaker bars inside the drum break up the compost as it tumbles down when the drum is rotated. The resulting aeration then allows the aerobic bacteria to break down the compost materials more quickly and at higher temperatures. The agitation also mixes the compost materials giving the resulting compost product a more consistent finish.

How do you know which tumbling composter is right for you? There is no easy answer. You have to ask yourself two questions: How much composting do you think you will be doing? And, what is your budget? Large twin chamber composters can generate compost in alternating batches ensuring a regular supply of compost, but they also can cost much more than simpler designs.

Because there is so much competition in the market for tumbling composters you will find that you really do get what you pay for. So, more expensive composters will typically feature more robust construction and larger capacity. Be sure to check out the warranty length to see how confident each manufacturer is in the durability of their composter. Below you can read about some of the composters we’ve found that have survived the toughest tests of all: daily use by our customers!

The Tumbleweed Composter is a new product from Australia that does the composting bin one better. In addition to storing up the heat from composting and taking up less space, the Tumbleweed Compster’s tumbling action helps to mix and aerate the compost pile. This combination of attributes helps create more compost more quickly than a composting bin can.

The Urban Garden Composter: This tumbling composter design utilizes all recycled, food grade plastic to avoid concerns about rusting. A unique feature of the Urban Garden Composter is that in addition to the breaking bar found on the Tumbleweed composter, it has a central aeration tube that helps to ensure that all of the composting microbes are able to perform at their peak. This helps generate compost more quickly by producing the best conditions for composting.

Compostumbler Composters: This line of rugged composters offers a composter to fit every garden and every budget. Also, as opposed to the Urban Garden composter and the Tumbleweed composter, Compostumblers tumble on their sides so you don’t need to flip the bin over to aerate.

The Backporch composter is one of the only composters out there that sits in a wheeled cart making portability a cinch. The Original Compostumbler offers great volume. Meanwhile, the new Compostumbler2 is really two composters in one. The twin chambers allow you to add composting ingredients to one chamber while the other chamber is generating compost. When the compost in one chamber is ready, empty it and put it use and then get the other chamber started. By staggering the composting, you will have compost available more closely to the time you need it. Ingenious!


Worms, Worms Worms!

If you read our composting guide, you know that compost is generated by small, naturally occurring organisms that break down composting materials like vegetable scraps from the kitchen or grass clippings. Vermicomposting is similar, except that it utilizes worms, red worms usually, to create compost and to create worm casings. The resulting compost and castings are among the best organic fertilizers you can provide for your garden.

There are a variety of different models of Vermicomposters on the market, but the one we’ve selected as the best for our customers is the Worm Factory. This vermicomposter’s features and design make it stand out from the crowd. The Worm Factory has the smallest footprint, making it easy to fit just about anywhere. It is expandable to suit the needs of any grower. Finally, The Worm Factory composter is the easiest to use: Assembly and operation are simple and the instructions and vermicomposting tips on the ventilation lid are the best available in the market.