How to Choose the Right Home Composter for You
You can’t consider yourself a true organic gardener unless you use a composter. When you choose the right sized compost container for the appropriate purpose, you can make this process less messy and time-consuming. Even if you have limited space, you can join the green army of people who return organic compost to the earth instead of filling plastic bags that are dumped in landfills.
Composters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Consider your space limitations and what types of organic matter you wish to compost to determine the right container for you.
- Batch (barrel) composter— The batch composter, shown at right, is filled with compost material and then is turned occasionally after you check moisture levels. This style is large enough to create big batches of compost at one time. If you have a large garden and expect generous amounts of organic waste from backyard composting, this is the style for you.
- Continuous composter— This composter gets its name because you add small amounts of materials in a continuous cycle, and in return you get small amounts of compost. The continuous composter, shown at right, works well for kitchen scraps for the home composter and smaller amounts of garden waste. After you initially fill the bin container with materials, in a few weeks you’ll have organic compost.
- Worm composter (bin)— Easy to maintain, the worm composter is the method chosen by advanced organic gardeners who believe it produces the highest quality compost. While initial start-up is a little more complicated than the other two compost containers, once you get the knack of it, you’ll quickly be churning out excellent organic compost. Another great feature is that this style can be conveniently located in your basement or garage.
Generally speaking, continuous composters hold more materials than the batch composters. If all you want to do is compost kitchen scraps, a smaller size is all you need. A good strategy is to choose the style you need first, and then select the appropriate size to meet your needs and the availability of organic materials around your home.
Tips for successful backyard composting
You can speed up the composting process by chopping and shredding materials before putting them inside your composter. Other tips include:
- Keep bin contents moist (wet enough to wring out like a sponge), by correctly balancing water and air.
- Never put kitchen waste in your backyard compost, or you risk attracting pests and rodents.
- Smells occur when the balance of green-to-brown organic matter is off and there’s not enough air inside.
- Small twigs and dry leaves act as bulking agents and allow space for air.
- Never put pet waste inside your backyard composter. Animal wastes can contain harmful diseases. Either wrap and discard these wastes in your trash, or bury them at least 8 inches below the surface of your ornament flower beds.
-by Diane Quinn