I was going to make a post today about different types of compost bins, but hey, other people have done that already. What I can offer you is why you may choose one over the other!
First, let’s start with this link from ehow.com on compost bins. I’ll just refer to the types they have listed there as they have done a pretty good job.
Stand-up Plastic Bin
This is the type we have at our home. It is great for being in a more urban area so neighbors aren’t having to look at your compost scraps, it stays enclosed in case of unwanted critters, and another plus of it being enclosed is it can hold in the heat a bit better. In my cold climate, the longer I can keep my compost warm, the better. You can sometimes find food grade plastic bins for pretty cheap on Craigslist, but do keep in mind that if you don’t cut off the bottom of the bin so it is directly on the ground, it doesn’t retain the heat as much. Without the bottom open, you would also need to completely dump out the bin in order to get to the completed compost at the bottom. Bins made for composting normally have an open bottom and some doors at the bottom to access the completed compost before the top of the pile is finished.
Ehow.com also mentioned compost bins with features like one that turns the compost for you and other fancy things. When we bought our bin last year, I had never heard of this before, so I’m hesitant to jump on that bandwagon because I’m worried it would break and then I have to deal with (literally) a pile of trash to get in and fix it. If anyone has gotten one of these fancy bins, I’m all ears for your experience!
Compost Tumbler or Rotating Orb
These look like an awesome idea so you don’t have to go in and turn your compost. The issue I’ve heard with them though is they get quite heavy and cumbersome. Also, since it isn’t touching the ground, the natural heat from the earth doesn’t keep it warm in winter months. If you live in a warmer climate, this is not really a problem for you. As the website says, you also have to finish the compost bin contents before starting another as opposed to taking finished compost from the bottom. With this in mind, if you live in a little bit warmer climate (not 5 months of winter like we can experience here!), and you can keep two smaller compost tumblers on hand, this is a really cool option!
Wooden or Wire Mesh Composter
These are by far the most economical to start up, and the open air design helps keep fresh air running through your compost at all times. One downside is if it isn’t done just right, it can look like a pile of trash in your back yard, which the neighbors may not be too thrilled with. Also, if you have unwanted critters in your area, they could pick off your composted goodies, plus bring unwanted attention to your yard for them to snack on your garden. I would think if you keep a decent amount of “browns” (newspaper, leaves, etc.) on top of the food scraps, this should ward off most animals. I love the look of these if they are done right… they can have a rustic, antique feel to them, especially the wooden composter!
Computerized Indoor Composter
I should say I don’t know anyone who has one of these. They are pretty expensive, and the ones I’ve seen in the stores are pretty small. Still, if you are single or a small family, and/or living in a place where you can’t have a compost outside, it can be a great option. Even if you can’t have a garden outside, you can use the finished compost to grow your own herbs in your kitchen, or even just house plants. There’s definitely some good reasons to purchase an indoor composter, though the price and size can be a hindering factor for some.
Before I started composting for myself and I was scouring the Internet for information, I came across a farmer on YouTube that had a small video showing his compost heap. He says he doesn’t turn it or anything. He waits for a year or two for it to decompose on its own, and just creates a different pile in the meantime. If you have the space to do this, go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? You have a pile of healthy dirt in your back yard? The downside is obviously the looks of it, and it is more prone to getting picked through by critters. If you are afraid you’re not going to keep up on turning a compost, then this could be a good way for you also.
What’s your favorite type of compost bin? What works for you or what do you think would work? If you’re just starting out, get your kids involved in the decision making! Help them understand priorities, wants, and needs by being a part of family decisions!