How to Choose the Best Composting Approach and System(s) to suit your needs and preferences!
A big part of our mission is to help you choose composting approaches and systems that are ideal for your particular situation and preferences.
We sell a carefully curated line-up of composting systems that we have personally tested to ensure quality, effectiveness and durability. It's important to us that you end up with products you are going to actually use - and enjoy using - over the long-haul.
When deciding on a good place to start, there are a handful of factors worth considering.
Location and Space - Are you planning to compost indoors or outdoors (or both)? How much space do you have available?
Climate - closely linked to #1, your local climate can have a major impact on choosing the best composting approach/system for your situation.
Size of Waste Stream - How much compostable material do you have to work with now and on an ongoing basis?
Budget - How much do you want to spend on your composting system(s) and supplies?
DIY vs Commercial - Are you good with tools and want to build your own? Or would you prefer to purchase a manufactured system?
Aesthetics - How important is the appearance of your composting systems?
Time - How much time do you want (or have available) to devote to your composting efforts?
Physical Abilities/Health - Do you have limited strength/mobility/energy? Have any allergies or other potential health concerns that might serve as constraints?
- Overall Interests & Preferences - Maybe you've already done your homework and have your mind set on a specific approach that suits your fancy?
We've separated our recommended approaches into 3 main categories:
- Layered Composting,
- Worm Composting, and
Layered Composting -
This tends to be a somewhat larger-scale method, most common for home owners with outdoor space available. Many people get started by adding multiple layers of compost-friendly organic matter during the set-up process, and then more layers gradually over time. Depending on the size of the system used, and other factors such as choice of materials and ambient conditions, the temperatures can range from mesophilic to thermophilic (moderate to hot). As a stand-alone method this type of composting can proceed quite slowly, especially during cooler times of year, but tends to be quite easy and hands-free.
Overall Assessment - This is a great choice for anyone looking for a simple, fairly passive backyard composting method. It very well-suited for yard wastes like grass clippings, weeds and fall leaves, along with compost-friendly kitchen scraps.
Our Recommended Bins for Layered Composting
- GeoBin - This simple, rugged design can be easily adjusted in size to meet your needs, expandable up to 931L (246 gallons). Perforated walls and open top provide excellent aeration while retaining heat. As with all outdoor systems that are exposed to the elements, it's important to maintain proper moisture levels in your systems. Learn more about the GeoBin
- SpeediBin - This Canadian-made backyard all metal bin is a great choice for those looking for an attractive design. With a 405L (107 gallons) capacity, it is ideal for most home owners. The SpeediBin is small enough to fit discreetly in the garden, yet large enough to heat up and work efficiently. A hinged lid and bottom screen offers protection from animals and the elements. Comes with a 10 year warranty! Learn more about the Speedibin
We highly recommend layered composting paired with either vermicomposting or bokashi (or both). Bokashi offers the benefit of a wider range of compostable wastes, and a unique blend of beneficial microorganisms, while vermicomposting helps to speed up to breakdown and aerobic stabilization of the wastes, and leaves you with an incredible finished product, worm castings.
Worm Composting (Vermicomposting) -
This method combines the talents of specialized earthworms, other invertebrates, and microorganisms to break down and stabilize organic waste materials. The end product - known as worm castings, vermicompost or vermicast - is one of the most highly regarded natural soil amendments (with plenty of scientific research to back up the claims). Vermicomposting works great as a stand-alone method, but offers even more potential when paired with other types of composting or when directly integrated with plant-growing systems.
Overall Assessment - this is a great choice for anyone with limited space or needing to compost indoors for other reasons. It is very well suited for schools and other educational settings, since there is an entire ecosystem at work and - let's face it - worms are pretty cool! We combine worm composting with other composting and gardening methods, and highly recommend you do the same, since it can greatly enhance the results.
Keep in mind, there is a bit more responsibility involved in this approach. Remember, you are working with living organisms that have special requirements, including a somewhat narrow range of ideal temperatures. Worms are typically an added expense as well (although, you should only need to buy them once if you take care of them), so this might not be well suited for those on a very limited budget.
Our Recommended Vermicomposting Bins (aka Worm Bins We Love!)
- The Urbalive Worm Farm - This fantastic indoor vermicomposting system, with a 42L capacity (11 gallons), is an eco-friendly solution that can be used at home, in the classroom, or at the office. This high-quality, functional product, designed by the Czech's famous designer, Jiří Pelcl, has received the reddot design award, and it's no wonder why, it's simply beautiful. It comes with trays, other accessories and features FSC hardwood legs, which makes it sturdy and stable. The worm tea is also easy to access. More trays can be added as needed. Learn more about the Urbalive Worm Farm
- Urbalive Compact Worm Farm - A great solution, with stackable trays and that can even fit under the kitchen sink. This modern, compact design still has a high capacity of over 30L (7.9 gallons)! More trays can be added as needed. Learn more about the Urbalive Compact Worm Farm
- Hungry Bin - A large system that boasts a 75.7L (20 gallon) capacity with a footprint of 24" x 26". This is a great choice for both indoor and outdoor vermicomposting. Its unique design creates a perfect home for composting worms. The worms are encouraged to move to the surface layer to access fresh food due to the bin's tapered shape that compresses the castings. The compressed castings (which can be easily accessed from a tray that can be unlatched) are largely free of worms and easier to handle. The liquid generated through the systems also drains freely from the bin into the tray provided below, making it simple for you to collect the liquid soil amendment that the bin produces. As this bin is on wheels, it is easy to move the composting system to suitable locations. Learn more about the Hungry Bin
- Urban Worm Bag (UWB) - This single-compartment, continuous-flow-through (CFT) system offers a lightweight design and highly aerobic vermicomposting environment - helping you process wastes faster and keep your worms healthy. The UWB comes with its own easy-to-assemble stand, a zippered lid, and easy-access opening at the bottom to facilitate your vermicompost harvesting. It is a large capacity system of 113.5L (30 gallons) and a footprint of 26" x 26". This system may require a little more TLC than plastic worm bins - with greater air flow comes greater responsibility, after all - but we feel the added benefits are worth the extra effort. Learn more about the Urban Worm Bag
- Worm Hut - This Canadian-made, fabric CFT system offers great air flow and ample processing volume to help you process more kitchen scraps effectively. This bin doesn't come with its own stand, however, but we provide instructions on how you can build one! The Worm Hut has a 113L (30 gallon) capacity. Excluding the frame, the bag size is 20" x 20". Learn more about the Worm Hut
Although regularly referred to as a form of "composting", bokashi is actually an anaerobic fermentation process. It has the advantage of being a fairly fast process, it offers flexibility of scale, and it allows you to process a wider range of organic wastes including meat, dairy and many other scraps not accepted in layered composting or vermicomposting systems. The trade-off is that the end product is not a stabilized "compost" that is ready for your garden as is the case with the other methods. The bokashi precompost simply requires an additional 2 weeks of processing time in a worm bin, layered composting system or buried in a garden bed.
Bokashi compost is richer in effective microorganisms than any other form of compost and produces both solid and liquid soil amendments. We think you'll be amazed with the results!
Overall Assessment - this is a good choice for anyone wanting a compact, relatively hands-free method that offers more flexibility in terms of the wastes that can be used. If you are looking for a small, easy to manage kitchen system, this is a great one to consider - but just keep in mind you will need to further process the finished materials. We highly recommend using Bokashi in combination with either layered composting or worm composting (or both) to get the most bang for your buck. Even if you don't have the space for additional composting, you might consider passing along your nutrient-rich bokashi to family, friends or a local community garden.
Our Recommended Bokashi Products
- Bokashi Living Starter Kit - This kit comes with everything you need to compost your food waste at home or work! The bokashi kitchen composter (bokashi bucket) comes complete with a durable handle, air-tight lid, bottom strainer plate, and spigot for draining the bokashi tea. This kit also includes a cup to collect the bokashi tea, 1 x 2.2 lb (1 kg) bags of premium bokashi bran, and the Complete Guide to Bokashi Composting booklet. Learn more about the Bokashi Living Starter Kit