Many styles of compost bins are readily available for purchase, or you can make one yourself. Key considerations include ease of loading and unloading the compost, durability and cost.
A compost bin that is too small won’t decompose. An area 3 feet by 3 feet is the minimum size in order to maintain the high temperature needed for decomposition. Fine textured or shredded materials pack easily so a smaller bin would make it easier to provide oxygen by turning.
Conversely, if the pile is too large, over 5 feet high, the mass packs down, squeezing out air and slowing decomposition. Coarse-textured materials that are not shredded like vines and woody materials would do better in a larger bin so that enough heat would be generated to reduce the processing time.
A relatively inexpensive bin can be made with hardware cloth. A 10-foot length makes a 3-foot diameter bin. A 19-foot length makes a 6-foot diameter bin. Chicken wire is not as strong and requires lots of poles to keep it upright. Because of exposure, a wire bin may require a plastic cover or a tarp might to keep materials from drying out.
Can be more expensive to purchase or build but does not dry out as fast as a wire structure. Alternating 2x4’s allow air to the pile and is a relatively easy bin to build. You could also use wooden pallets or fencing materials.
An efficient wood structure is a three chambered bin system that allows plant material to be aerated by turning it from one bin to the next as it decomposes. Use one for adding material, one that is decomposing, and one that is ready to use.
Compact plastic composters are available for purchase and can be successful for smaller yards that produce less plant waste.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet and GardenNotes.
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Updated Tuesday, July 29, 2014