Composting turns organic material like household food and yard waste into nutrient-dense material for your houseplants and garden.
Getting started with composting isn’t tricky, but a little know-how and the right tools make it even easier. Here’s everything you need to know about composting tools.
If you have a large yard with lots of space, you can get away with piling your compost on the ground in a shaded area, but most people prefer to use a bin of some sort.
Containing your compost protects it from unwanted animals and pests that might otherwise want to get to the goodness inside.
There are 5 most common compost bins you can choose from.
#1. Kitchen Compost Bin/Crock
This easily overlooked item may be one of the most important things to have. A kitchen pail or crock contains your kitchen scraps and their odors until you’re ready to take them to the compost pile. Combining trips to the heap will make your composting experience much more enjoyable.
If you already have a crock with a lid at home, that will work just fine. A standard five-gallon pail will work too, but you’ll probably want to invest in something with a lid fairly quickly. Food scraps can get smelly and attract fruit flies rapidly, so it’s best to keep your leftovers contained indoors and closed.
Recommended reading: Choosing the Right Compost Crock for Your Kitchen
#2. Worm Compost Bin
Vermicomposting, or worm composting, offers apartment dwellers with no outdoor access at all the opportunity to compost at home. This method of composting can’t handle brown material like dried leaves and twigs, but it can transform food scraps into compost just as well as other methods.
You can buy worm bins at hardware stores or online, but it’s much more cost-effective to make your own at home. All you need is a ten-gallon bucket with a few aeration holes and a pound of red wriggler worms. Put a storage bin of some sort under the bucket to catch any moisture (called “worm tea”) that oozes out, and pour it into your houseplants for an extra boost.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Vermicomposting
#3. Bokashi Compost Bin
Bokashi composting is also a different type of composting than your usual outdoor compost heap. Bokashi composting allows you to compost more materials than you could process using traditional composting methods, such as dairy, fats, and cheeses.
Bokashi composting is a fermenting process that breaks down the compost inside a sealed container in your house. The Bokashi bucket keeps oxygen out of the scraps, which is necessary for Bokashi composting, an anaerobic process.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Bokashi
#4. Compost Tumbler
Consider building or purchasing a compost tumbler if you have limited space to spare for your composting project. A compost tumbler is a fully enclosed compost bin on a rotisserie. It keeps your compost off the ground, making it an excellent solution for apartment dwellers or those with small yards or patios.
Even if space isn’t a concern for you, a compost tumbler is worth considering if you want ultra low-maintenance compost. The rotating bin makes it incredibly easy to turn your compost, which will speed up the process and give you finished compost sooner.
Recommended reading: Best Compost Tumbler – Here’s What You Need to Know
#5. Wire Compost Bin
You can also make your own compost bin from reclaimed and recycled materials such as old wooden pallets and chicken wire. If you’re handy, you can sandwich the chicken wire between pieces of wood to make an open-sided compost bin.
A homemade, upcycled compost bin with exposed sides gives your pile plenty of surface area for oxygen to permeate it. Because composting is an aerobic process, the extra oxygen will provide you with finished compost faster. Upcycling is also a great way to make composting even “greener.”
Recommended reading: Wire Compost Bin: Top Picks for 2021 plus DIY Options
While you don’t necessarily have to turn your compost pile, it will help you produce finished compost faster. The microbes that do all the work need plenty of oxygen to do it. The more air they have, the faster they can turn your scraps into usable material.
Retailers sell specialized compost turners, also called compost aerators. Compost aerators feature a screw or fork at the end of a long, rotating handle. Some have offset handles that give you extra leverage. They’re worth the splurge if you want to make your compost pile even easier to maintain.
Recommended reading: Best Compost Aerators Review In 2021- Buying Guide & FAQs
Hand Cultivator or Fork
If you already have a pitchfork, that’s all you need to turn your compost pile. Using what you already have on hand is always the eco-friendly way to go. While you have to make your own leverage using traditional hand tools, you only have to turn your compost pile once every week or two.
On the other hand, if you have to buy one, choose one with longer, slimmer, more curved tines than your traditional farm fork. They’ll help you get deeper into your compost and give you more leverage, making it easier to turn the pile.
A compost sifter is a large screen that allows you to sift out any unfinished bits of waste from your finished compost. Composting is a revolving process, which means you’re continuously adding food to the process, even as older material turns into finished compost. A compost sifter makes it easier to separate unfinished material from finished compost.
Like a compost bin, you can make your own compost sifter by sandwiching a wire mesh between pieces of lumber or scrap wood. They’re also commercially available for purchase if you don’t have the scrap materials around or the time or inclination to do it yourself.
Recommended reading: Compost Sifter: Top Picks for 2021 Plus DIY Optionss
A compost thermometer isn’t an essential compost starter tool, but it is valuable to have once your compost pile is more established. The initial stages of composting generate a lot of heat as the bacteria, fungi, and other microbes break down the food and yard waste. The pile cools down when the process is nearly finished, as less food is available for the microbes.
Monitoring the temperature of your pile will reassure you that the process is going as it should. A compost thermometer can tell you when your pile is cooling down, signaling that it’s time to either remove finished compost or turn the pile.
Now that you know the essential tools necessary to start composting, here are a few answers to some frequently asked composting questions.
What are good composting items?
The things you’re able to compost depend on the type of composting you’re doing. With traditional composting in an outdoor pile, bin, or tumbler, you can compost yard waste such as:
- Grass clippings
- Fallen leaves
You can also compost household waste, including:
- Raw fruit and vegetable scraps
- Corrugated cardboard
Vermicomposting, or worm composting, has some additional limitations due to the dietary restrictions of the worms.
Worms can process raw food scraps and only a small amount of moistened paper materials. Worm composting does not process yard waste.
What are the four things needed to make compost?
To make quality compost at home, you need four key ingredients:
This category includes carbon-rich materials like:
- Dead leaves
- Wood chips
This category includes wet, nitrogen-rich material, such as:
- Food waste
- Grass clippings
- Coffee grounds
Moisture in the compost gives the microorganisms room to move and do their work.
Like us, the microbes that do the work of the composting process require oxygen to survive.
What is the best method of composting?
The best method of composting is whichever method you’re most likely to stick to. The traditional outdoor bin method of composting is excellent if you have the space to do it.
If you don’t have the space or just don’t have the time to maintain an outdoor pile, vermicomposting or Bokashi composting are excellent alternatives.
Composting doesn’t have to be a costly activity to get started in, but there are a few essential tools that make the job easier. Specialized bins, turners, and other tools can take some of the efforts out of maintaining your compost pile.