I have been composting since I’ve started my vegetable garden in my backyard in 2008. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to compost our kitchen waste, grass clippings, dry leaves, and all other garden waste to use them in our garden again. We initially purchased a standard rectangular stationary compost bin and set it up at a corner of my vegetable garden. I was piling all grass clippings, dry leaves, and kitchen waste in the compost bin and waiting for it to give me the black, compost soil. After using it for 5 years, I’ve realized it wasn’t as efficient as I hoped it would be. 5 years ago, upon thorough research, I got a compost tumbler which was smaller in capacity compared to the standard compost bin. This is my review and comparison of both products used for backyard composting.
Standard Compost Bin
We’ve used our compost bin for 5 years. It worked sufficiently well with some drawbacks. This product is very simple yet practical. It’s made up of 4 walls with bottom windows on each side and a lid. It has an open bottom. I set it up at the corner of my vegetable garden. It sits on the soil. I usually dig in a bit to put 1-2” from the bottom into the soil in order to anchor the bin.
Assembly very simple and doesn’t require any tools. All you have to do is align the sidewalls and interlace, then put a clip on each corner to fasten at the top. It has a lid with springs which makes it conveniently lift-off when you open.
My model had 4 windows on each side where you can collect compost soil. However, I do something not so practical and disassemble the front part of the bin every year to remove the compost soil instead of using the windows. I remove the composted soil from the bottom and sprinkle on my vegetable garden at the beginning of the Spring. Then I place the kitchen and yard waste which hasn’t decomposed yet at the bottom, to start filling up again.
I pile up all the kitchen and garden waste as they are available. I don’t follow a green vs brown waste ratio. But I try to stir with my 3-prong garden fork once in a while. During the summer, inside it gets very hot. When I stir, I can see the burning and decomposing, which I find very exciting as a gardener. In the winter, the pile keeps warmer but since we are in Chicago eventually everything freezes.
In the core of the bin, the waste decomposes ok but it is a little bit slower on the outer sides. That requires a bit of stirring. As the waste pile gets bigger in the bin, which is quite large in capacity, it becomes harder to stir the bottom of the pile.
I would live with these but I decided to buy a compost tumbler when we started to have a rodent problem. Understandably, inside of the compost bin is a feast for pests and rodents with all the fresh kitchen waste. On top of that, it’s warm and cozy especially in the Fall and the beginning of Winter. I started to notice the entrance holes of a burrow in my compost bin. Then I noticed they were also eating the edges of the side windows and joints. The bin was far away from our house, but still, the idea of coming face to face with a rat when I opened the compost bin freaked me out. I squirted wild cat urine, planted peppermint plants around the compost bin to stop them. I guess our waste was too delicious because none of them really worked.
Eventually, I purchased our tumbling composter and stopped putting kitchen waste in my compost bin. We only use it to compost grass clippings, dry leaves, and hay we use in the chicken coop. Rodent infestation completely stopped.
- Easy to assemble
- Big capacity
- Decent composter
- It’s relatively sturdy even though edges wore off after 10 years of use.
- The connecting edges wore off after 4-5 years. I have to duct tape to hold them together.
- Needs stirring and it might get harder as the pile grows.
- It decomposes slower.
- The food waste attracts flies and rodents.
We purchased this tumbler 5 years ago taking advantage of a rebate program by the city and it’s still going strong. Even though it’s much smaller compared to the standard compost bin in terms of capacity, since the waste decomposes faster, you don’t need as much big of a composter. I have to admit, after 5 years with the bin, I am very impressed with the speed of the kitchen and yard waste turning into compost soil with the compost tumbler.
It is more complicated to assemble than the simple compost bin for sure. You need tools, screws, nuts, and bolts. I placed this compost tumbler right next to our old compost bin on the soil again. You have to be aware that the legs will sink in with the weight of the tumbler as you fill it with kitchen scrap, grass clippings, dry leaves, and yard waste. Since the arrival of the compost tumbler coincides with the arrival of our chickens, we also add the chicken manure in the bin to make it even a better compost soil.
In the summer the scraps and waste will burn and decompose almost in a month. So you have to be mindful of not mixing the composting material and the new material all the time. If you don’t remove some of the new decomposed soil right away and keep adding to it, the tumbler will become heavier. The decomposing material might drain a bit from the bottom joint, which is not a huge problem as long as the compost tumbler is on a dirt or soil. If not, you might need to put a bucket underneath. Because the moisture drains, I add a bit of water from our rain barrels once in a while to speed up the composting process.
It has a pin on the side to fix the tumbler in its place when it’s upside down. In the winter, the contents freeze which makes it hard to tumble the composter. At that point, I don’t even try touching it assuming nothing will get decomposed until Spring.
- Waste decomposes much much faster than in compost bin
- Ne need to stir, just give it a spin
- No chance of attracting rodents since it’s above ground. Also no flies or odor.
- Sufficient capacity
- Harder to assemble than the compost bin.
- If you keep adding to it without removing composted soil, it gets heavy and harder to tumble.
I am also interested in worms to help with composting. Let me know if you compost and if you do what kind composter you use.