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Home Composting – Choose the right composter

You have finally made the decision to start composting. Now you have to decide on the best method for your needs and choose a composter model – a compost bin or a compost tumbler.

Determine the capacity you require

If your yard is very large and space is not a consideration, composting techniques such as a compost pile or silo are ideal. Check with your municipality, however, because certain municipalities have restrictions. You may have to buy or build a compost bin or compost tumbler.

The quantity of materials to compost will determine the type of composter you should have. To calculate the required capacity, you need to know the area of your property, the plants you want to apply compost to (trees, vegetable garden, etc.) and the number of people living in your home.


  • Property size: 1 m2 of garden = 1 litre of capacity
  • Number of people: 1 person = 100-150 litres of organic waste
  • Volume of waste from the vegetable garden and various plants on the property

Most home composters have a capacity between 100 L and 400 L. You may find it helpful to install two composters in order to accommodate materials in different stages of decomposition.

Location - the starting point

Even if composting is fairly straightforward, you will still need to put some effort into it. Here are some important criteria to consider as regards location. The composter should be:

  • Easily accessible from both the garden and the home
  • In the backyard, out of view from the street and/or neighbors
  • On the ground, on a flat and well-drained surface
  • In the shade and ideally protected from the wind
  • Close to a source of water if watering is required

Composting techniques

Pile composting

Pile composting is the simplest method, especially if you have a large property and if you can expect a lot of garden and kitchen refuse and composting materials.

Features and location:

  • Pyramid shape including approximately 2 to 3 m3 of waste
  • Maximum diameter of 2 m and height of 1.5 m to be able to turn it easily with a fork and aerate (every 2 to 3 months)
  • Normally located at a distance from the house, since it is not very attractive
  • Locate a small composter close to the house for kitchen refuse
  • Alternate brown and green materials
  • Do not cover the pile

Compost tumbler or compost barrel

When space is at a premium or you don't expect to have many materials to compost, a compost tumbler or barrel will do the job. These composters are available at garden centers and are quickly installed. Tumbling composters are more expensive, and although they speed up the decomposition process they require more time and effort. A second compartment to hold new, fresh materials during the decomposition process can be very useful, in which case you should consider a dual batch tumbling composter.

Features and location:

  • More aesthetically pleasing than a pile or open bin
  • Avoid rigid sides with aeration
  • Lid on top for adding materials and an opening at the bottom to retrieve the compost
  • No bottom to be placed directly on a well-drained and aerated ground
  • Dark colour is preferable, placed in a location with sun exposure
  • Stir the contents with a stick approximately 3 times per month
  • Save dry materials to place on top of wet kitchen organic waste

Compost box or silo composter

Silo composting combines the advantages of the preceding methods. Boxes made of wood or plastic can be either made or bought. If you decide to build one yourself, do not use chemically-treated wood. To create good soil and facilitate the process, two or three boxes will be necessary: the first box for fresh compost, the second for turning, and the third for the final phase of curing to maturation.

Features and location:

  • Square boxes of approximately 1 m each that can be separated by a wire mesh
  • Can be made using wood planks or mesh to ensure good aeration
  • Add a tight, slanting cover to conserve the heat and to prevent the compost from being too soggy
  • Removable panel in front to enable you to stir the compost and transfer the contents to the next compartment every month
  • Place directly on well-drained ground
  • Place in partial shade
  • Save dry materials to incorporate the equivalent (same ratio) of carbon and nitrogen-rich materials

For boxes made of wood pallets, make sure the top of the pallet is on the inside of the box, with the boards placed horizontally. Apply linseed oil to the wood.