The Compost Series #2: How to choose the right outdoor bin…
SJ and I made a short detour on the ride home from the gym the other day to check out a small garden next to one of the local parks. We originally thought it might have been the start of some community gardens but it turns out it belongs to the neighbouring respite centre. Right now it is not too much more than a few raised vegetable garden beds amongst some manicured lawns but there are some seriously impressive compost bins! (see #3 below). With our current bin almost full again I am contemplating how to tackle a second bin as it’s a little bit more difficult in The Vegie Patch MKII, particularly with a small extension on the house about to get underway. People often ask me what type of bin they should buy so I thought I would put together a brief overview on what’s readily available and the pros and cons of each. If you missed my previous post on choosing the right spot to place your bin, check it out here.
- ENCLOSED: This type usually just has 4 sides and a lid and is sold in a flat pack.
- Great for areas where you have limited space
- They are readily available, you can pick one up at most hardware stores or second-hand ones on ebay & gumtree or your local kerbside collection (yep, I’ve done it, there’s no shame! )
- Although they have ventilation in the sides it can be difficult to get enough oxygen into the centre of the heap so you will need to regularly dig into it with a fork (from the top) to aerate it. This can become a bit awkward when it gets full.
- They can also be a little harder to empty so look for one that has both the large opening at the top and ideally a simple door at the bottom that is at least the width of your shovel. Over time the plastic bins that get a lot of exposure to the sun may become brittle so I avoid ones with fancy extras like plastic legs or taps to drain off excess moisture as they tend to break after only one summer season.
- THE TUMBLER: This type is usually some sort of barrel on a stand that can be turned using a handle on the side.
Image: unknown source
- In theory this style makes a lot of sense for a tidy solution as they keep the kitchen scraps secure from unwelcome visitors and can speed up decomposition significantly as the aeration is more effective and less work than the garden fork method.
- They can be very expensive and in my personal opinion seem a bit over the top. I’d prefer to invest the money into the garden itself rather than a container for rotting scraps.
- You might need to shop around to find a good one.
- DIY: For me the ultimate is to make your own and the 3-bin system like the one below that we found at the community garden will be my next ‘building’ project. The idea of this design being that as one bin fills up you move on to filling the next such that by the time the third bin is full the first is completely decomposed and ready for digging into your garden. To make this type of setup you just need to find some materials that will be tolerant of the elements but not treated with harmful chemicals (e.g. treated pine sleepers) that may leach chemicals into the compost. I am currently eyeing off some VJ timber walls and corrugated iron that will soon be spare as part of our renovation which could be the ideal ‘upcycle’ to make a bin providing it is strong enough. I will let you know how that goes!
- The front panels are removable so you can easily lift a couple out for easier access when aerating with a garden fork or loading/unloading.
- It certainly aligns with SJ’s key requirement for the garden that it “must look pretty”.
- It gives the impression you are serious gardener, even if you’re not!
- Takes up more room.
- Although materials can be sourced relatively cheaply it is going to take a lot more time to get setup than a ready made bin from the shop especially if you decide to cement the posts into the ground to avoid it falling apart over time.
Coming up next: How to choose the right indoor compost bins. Previous Post: #1 Choosing the right spot…