Three Things to Know Before Buying a Garden Composter

This is the real circle of life.

Compost bin with vegetable scraps.
Turn food scraps into plant food.Getty Images

Organic waste like leftover food scraps and yard debris comprises up to half of what average families throw out in the trash every week. Composting simply takes that waste and, with the help of beneficial microbes, transforms it into a necessary component of soil called humus. This rich soil amendment reduces the need for (and expense of) chemical fertilizers and lowers your carbon footprint. Win-win!

Compost Bin by GEOBIN - 216 Gallon, Expandable, Easy Assembly
Made of 50 percent recycled plastic.Geobin

Composting doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply pick a shady spot for your bin and remember the four key ingredients: browns, greens, water and air. Browns are mostly yard debris like fallen leaves and woody materials chock full of carbon energy, while greens are nitrogen-rich lawn clippings or fruit and vegetable scraps. Mix these together and make sure to keep them moist and aerated by adding water and turning the compost regularly. For best results (and to deter pests), cover your bin with a tarp and bury food waste you add to the mix. Within a few months, your bin should yield a dark brown bottom layer of nutrient-rich humus.

Envirocycle The Most Beautiful Composter in The World, Made in The USA, Food Safe, BPA and Rust Free, No Assembly Required, Composting Tumbler Bin and Compost Tea Maker
Small dimensions allow this tub to be placed anywhere outdoors, from a backyard garden to an apartment patio.Envirocycle

Some compost stans prefer to amp up basic composting with simple tech upgrades. These include a tumbler drum with a handle to more easily turn the compost, ensuring that water and air distribute uniformly. This yields easily accessible solid compost plus a valuable composting byproduct: compost tea. This “liquid gold” is the excess moisture that collects as the compost finishes—and contains all the nutrients and beneficial microbes you find in humus in a super concentrated liquid form. Since it’s so potent, dilute this tea with water using a ratio of 1:4—or even 1:10—before use.

VermiHut Plus 5-Tray Worm Compost Bin: Quick Set-up, Easy use, and Sustainable Designs
Bring nature into the kitchen for faster, more efficient humus production.VermiHut Plus

All composting relies on the hard work of organisms like beneficial microbes, but vermicomposting takes this to the next level by harnessing the power of worms. These wriggling friends consume the food waste and excrete rich humus, enabling you to compost more quickly in a smaller space. And—bonus!—the worms aerate the compost so you don’t even need to turn it. This setup is ideal for people without yards or who prefer an indoor system. Properly maintained vermicomposters—be sure to bury food scraps and don’t overfeed your worms—don’t smell at all, so your classy dinner party guests will never guess those organic, hyperlocal veggies were grown with vermicompost produced in your very own kitchen.

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