Proper soil aeration is a key element to successfully creating nutrient-rich compost. This is typically achieved by mixing organic materials inside your environmentally-friendly home composter in a careful way. For smaller bins, mixing using a typical hand shovel is hassle-free, but when it comes to larger batches or loads, hand shoveling can be time-consuming, tiring, and dirty. To mitigate this shoveling requirement, manufacturers have implemented the rotating compost bin to help gardeners create great compost without too much effort! These units are typically barrels on a stand, above ground. To use, you simply grab the compost bin’s handles, give it a few spins and you’re done. It’s like the Price is Right Wheel… but for compost!
You can save the shoveling for when you’re adding your compost to your fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
This article looks into the key significant features and specs of rotating composters, compares them to typical ground-based compost bins, and identifies the major advantages and disadvantages.
Ground-based Compost Bins
Ground-based compost bins are the standard and have been used for millennia to generate compost efficiently, though they typically require some work and fuss. Today, they are commonly made of recycled plastic, and house leaves, grass, and kitchen food waste.
This mixture gets stirred every few days with a shovel, and over time, compost is cooked. The Redmon Compost Bin shown here is a classic example of a high-quality ground-based compost bin. See here for a full review of the Redmon Bin.
- Typically easy assembly
- Easy for those starting out
- Generally not visually intrusive
- Slow to generate compost
- Can easily get infested by bees, bugs, or rodents
- Requires manual stirring
- Removing compost can be a chore
Ground-based composters are typically cheaper than rotating compost bins, and they are a great choice for those just getting into gardening. They are usually pretty easy to assemble, and hassle-free to use, they require constant mixing by shovel. The mixing can be time-consuming, dirty, physically demanding, and when done improperly, could hamper the compost cooking process.
Open ground-based compost bins could also damage your lawn and patio. Additionally, depending on the design of the composter, getting the finished compost out of the bin can be a lot of work!
The Rotating Compost Bin
Rotating compost bins are often constructed of plastic or metal, and are placed up off the ground, on a metal stand. The bin is rotated by grabbing a lever or just rotating by hand, which causes the compost to mix. This speeds up the compost cooking time, and also prevents rodents, bees, and other nasties from invading your compost!
- Easy to mix compost materials
- Typically easy to extract finished compost from bin
- Secure against pests and rodents
- Rapidly generates compost
- Often costlier than ground-based bins
- Many require significant assembly
There are two major categories of rotating compost bin, single chamber tumbling compost bin, and the dual chamber rotating composter. Here, we will look at these two types of tumbling composter, and give a review of one major model in each category.
Single Chamber Rotating Composter
The single chamber compost bin is typically made up of a metal stand, holding a large, barrel-shaped bin with a single door on it. The Lifetime 60058 Compost Bin shown here is a quintessential example of this style of rotating compost bin and is an excellent compost bin. See here for a full review of the Lifetime 60058 compost bin.
These only have one area for storing and processing compost, and if you are constantly generating new compost source material, you’ll have to find a place to store it while the compost in the bin cooks.
If you keep adding fresh compost to the bin, the time to cook will reset, or you’ll end up with under-cooked, gross, sludgy compost.
This is the primary downfall of the single chamber rotating composter. You’ll need another area to store your materials while the compost inside the bin is processing. You could get a ground-based bin and use that as a starter area, but now you run into all of the issues with ground-based bins we discussed above.
You could also purchase a second rotating composter to offset the timing, and have two batches running at once. But that is an expensive proposition, and it means that you’ll need a significant amount of storage space for all these compost bins.
Not to mention that it will probably look rather silly having a bunch of tumbling composters strewn throughout the garden!
Dual Chamber Rotating Compost Bin
The dual chamber compost bin solves the major problem of the single chamber compost bin — where to put the extra compost while you’re cooking your batch. Dual chamber systems have two separate compost areas in one housing so that you can stagger the batches in time.
This system allows two compost batches to complete at different periods, meaning you won’t need much additional storage area for compost as you generate it.
These units typically have one stand and housing, but have two completely separate bins, with separate access hatches. Often air holes will be included to encourage microbe growth across the two chambers, as that sort of interaction is extremely useful to rapid completion of compost cooking.
The downside of these units is that they tend to be on the expensive side for large units (since you’ve got two chambers), or they tend to have two small separate chambers, which ends up being not enough storage unless you aren’t generating a huge amount of compost each week. Additionally, they are often rather difficult to assemble, so be aware you may be cursing your Allen wrench by the time you’re done putting one of these together.
More advanced than ground-based composters, rotating composters are a modern solution to the significant limitations of ground-based composters. They are reliable because the removal of compost comes easy. Mixing the compost is a breeze due to the ease of rotation.
And most importantly, they are well-designed and well-crafted, making them perfect embellishments to your precious lawns and patios. Most of these tumbling composters are also made with sturdy plastic and metal components so they don’t easily break while you spin them rigorously.
If you’re looking to generate high-quality compost in a convenient, rapid manner, a rotating compost bin is an ideal solution. For the most part, we lean toward the dual chamber systems, but for many a single rotating composter will accomplish everything they need.
Now go grow some fantastic plants!