Most folks who are serious about gardening eventually come to the decision to include a garden composter in the yard.
But what makes the best garden composter?
As you can imagine, it varies for each individual, but here are some thoughts on how to choose the right garden composter for your needs.
Some things are generally true for any composter.
In order for composting to happen efficiently, you need to retain moisture, but allow drainage of excess moisture (or cover it to keep the rain out).
If you are putting kitchen scraps on the pile, you may need to keep the vermin out.
If you want to compost fast, you need to churn the composting material in some way, either by turning it into another bin, turning it over in the bin with a pitchfork or a compost turning tool, or by using a tumbler that allows you turn it often.
Finally, adding material that has been cut up or shredded will compost faster than large pieces of refuse.
With these factors in mind, you can quickly recognize the best garden composters.
But here are some other factors to keep in mind on how to choose the right garden composter.
A-How To Choose The Right Garden Composter
The size of the garden, along with types of crops you expect to be composting will determine the amount of refuse you will be running through the composter each year.
The more refuse you need to handle, the more likely you may either need multiple bins, or a plan to turn it often, or to use a tumbler.
If you have a large yard, and expect to be composting your leaves (or like I do, the neighbor’s leaves as well), then you will find you have large influx of leaves at one time, and they are high in carbon and low in nitrogen, so they don’t compost that quickly on their own.
3-Amount of work
If you want to just pile it up and leave it, that’s fine, but the speed of composting will suffer.
If you want a lot of compost fast, then the tradeoff is between the more labor intensive chore of turning into another bin or turning the bin with a turning tool, vs the relatively easier use of a compost tumbler.
There are an endless number of types and constructions of composters.
You can build your own from scrap wood or from concrete blocks.
The cheapest composters you can find commercially will either be wire bin composters or the smaller plastic composters.
As you move up in cost, you get the added advantage of either a larger bin or you will find a variety of compost tumbler designs that will give you compost faster with less work.
B-Common Types Of Garden Composters:
Cheap, lightweight, easy to set up and take down.
Typically not as sturdy as as wooden or plastic, and in dry areas can dry out quickly with their open sides.
Great for areas where you may have a large season influx like tree leaves, where you just need temporary storage.
These typically have a door on the bottom somewhere, so that in theory you can add material at the top, and as it composts it will settle to the bottom and you simply take the finished compost out of the bottom door.
That kind of assumes that your aren’t turning the material often, so they are low maintenance but low throughput as well.
The Garden Gourmet composter is one of the most well know, but there are many similar ones as well.
If rodents are a problem in you area then look for one that has an attached floor to keep them from burrowing in.
The Biostack composter is a good plastic bin.
There is a large range of costs and sizes of compost tumblers.
One thing to consider with tumblers (or any other scheme that you plan to rotate) is that once you start a batch of compost, and are actively working it, you really don’t want to be adding fresh material to a partially finished batch, so you either need a place to queue you refuse, or a second composter.
There are simple compost tumblers that are a base mounted rolling drum, that you spin by hand.
The Envirocycle tumbler or the Blue Planet composter are examples of that design.
These are often hard to spin when loaded, and because they sit at ground level, they can be harder to load and unload, especially if you are using a wheelbarrow or garden cart to haul the compost.
4-Center axle mounted drum composters
Examples of these are the Tumbleweed and Urban composters.
This is basically a drum that sits on a stand, and the axle goes through the drum and it rotates about that, something like a Ferris wheel.
When you are turning the drum, the refuse is broken up by falling past the axle.
One disadvantage of these is that as the compost breaks down, it becomes more dense, and the weight concentrates at the bottom of the drum, so as the compost “cooks” the drum becomes harder to turn.
So don’t just assume the largest drum is the best choice for you.
5-Crank Operated Drums
The high end of compost tumblers are the crank operated drums.
These typically sit on a stand, and the drum is rotated by the use of a crank.
These are the easiest to turn, and because of their height easy to unload, maybe not as easy to load.
And the Mantis ComposTwin is the ultimate in that, it has 2 drums so that you have an active drum and one to queue up you refuse before it starts working.