Choose the Best Compost Bin

If you dig composting but dislike the sight of rotting waste, try hiding those heaps inside commercial composting bins. Before you buy, look over our reader recommendations to find the best compost bin for your situation from among the many stationary bins, compost tumblers and worm composters on the market.

  • Compost Bin in Raised-Bed Garden
    Stationary composting bins typically hold between 10 and 15 cubic feet of material.
    Photo by SuperStock/Exactostock
  • Mantis ComposT-Twin Tumbler
    The dual-chamber Mantis ComposT-Twin and other tumblers make it easier to turn uncomposted materials.
    Photo by Mantis
  • Sun-Mar 400 Tumbler
    Tumblers, including the Sun-Mar 400, are reader favorites because they are easier to turn than stationary composting bins.
    Photo by Sun-Mar Corp.
  • Earth Machine Compost Bins
    Reader Margot McCormack composts kitchen scraps and garden waste in three backyard composting bins made by Earth Machine.
    Photo by Margot McCormack
  • Garden Shed With Compost Bin and Wheelbarrow
    The Blackwall brand of composting bin, like many stationary bins, has doors for removing finishing compost.
    Photo by Fotolia/Chris Lofty
  • Worm Factory 360 Composting Bin
    The Worm Factory 360 got high marks from readers who use worm composters.
    Photo by Nature's Footprint
  • DIY Composting Bins
    Jeff Reiland built these composting bins in his Waukee, Iowa, garden using pallets and other wood scraps.
    Photo by Jeff Reiland

  • Compost Bin in Raised-Bed Garden
  • Mantis ComposT-Twin Tumbler
  • Sun-Mar 400 Tumbler
  • Earth Machine Compost Bins
  • Garden Shed With Compost Bin and Wheelbarrow
  • Worm Factory 360 Composting Bin
  • DIY Composting Bins

Gardeners know that the key to beautiful, bountiful beds is to nourish them with compost. This rich “super soil” can defend plants against disease and drought, help supply them with essential nutrients, balance soil pH and more.

According to a recent survey of our Gardening Advisory Group, more than 95 percent of nearly 2,000 respondents already make compost, and 70 percent have at least two piles going. While big, open heaps are the most popular method, more than a third of our readers prepare some of their “black gold” in store-bought composting bins to keep out animals or tidy up their yards. To help you choose the best compost bin for your home, we talked with readers who have tried one or more models. To find the perfect compost bin for your needs view our Comparing Composters chart or read Composting Bins on the Market: Tumblers, Worm Bins and More.

Stationary Composting Bins

Stationary composting bins tend to have the largest capacity, typically holding between 10 and 15 cubic feet. Most are made of recycled plastic that’s darkly colored to help retain heat. Many also have lids to keep in moisture and keep out critters. Stationary bins are generally open on the bottom so that worms and beneficial microorganisms can get inside to speed up the process. Most stationary bins also have one or two doors for removing the finished compost. Or you can simply lift off the bin and relocate it, forking unfinished material from the top of the old pile back into the bin and exposing the finished compost ready to be used.

How quickly you get compost will depend on your climate, the season, and how involved you choose to be with the composting process. Turning the contents of composting bins can be tough — one downside mentioned by several readers. That isn’t a problem if you skip the turning and can wait a little longer for your compost. Even without fussing, most readers report they get a bin full of finished compost within four months of adding the last fresh compostables.

Kitty Werner, a master composter in rural Waitsfield, Vt., accumulates gallons of kitchen waste in large paper shopping bags she keeps on her deck during winter. “The freezing helps it break down faster. By the time we get it into the bins in spring, it goes crazy! Within a month we have compost.” Werner doesn’t mind mixing and turning with a garden fork to speed things up.

Donna Bates in Raleigh, N.C., loves the design of her FreeGarden Earth compost containers. “The lids screw on, which makes it tough for animals to get in and scatter half-decayed compost all over,” she says. “I also have the option of either removing a small amount of finished product from the door at the bottom, or — because the composter is reasonably lightweight — lifting the bin off the finished contents, shoveling the pile into the wheelbarrow and moving it into the garden.” Bates’ busy schedule doesn’t give her time to actively manage her compost, but by keeping two bins going she always has some that’s ready to go. Like many readers, she bought her composting bins for a reduced cost from her city’s solid waste department. (Bates paid only $45 for each bin!)

2/11/2014 10:34:16 AM

I have a large Kemp tumbler, which I came to regret the following season. The construction is shoddy, incorporating plastic end panels coupled to the sheet metal body by long threaded rods which broke through the crappy plastic ends. It doesn't help that those same ends have the splines for the turning gear. I view it as $400 down the tube, never again.

1/29/2014 3:14:20 PM

We have been composting for years and have led composting workshops in our community. It's so easy! But I like to learn new skills, and this Christmas my brother gave us a homemade worm bin. He just took a Rubbermaid type plastic tote with a lid and drilled air holes - two to each side - just below the lid. I've found myself peeking a lot and worrying that I don't have the moisture levels right - too wet or too dry? Have I given them enough bedding or too much food? Other than my worrying, I am enjoying the experience and look forward to harvesting the black gold. This gift from my brother came just in time, too, since we've had this unprecedented freezing weather here in the Midwest this winter. Throwing food scraps in the worm bin in the basement is so much easier than taking it out to the regular compost bin!

1/27/2014 2:12:53 PM

I've always been more of a compost pile kind of gal, but now (after reading this article) I'm thinking about giving a worm bin a try. Thanks for the great information!

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