Types of Composters and Benefits of Each

When people ask us about composting the second most popular question has to be, what type of composters should I get?
There really is no right or wrong answer to this question, mostly just a matter of space and preference. Some work better than others while some are just less labor. I’ll try and summarize each and what each provides you. Feel free to add any others that you’ve come across or tried down in the comment section.

Commercial rolling style composter

Commercial Rolling Compost BinsLet’s start with the easy ones. These are the commercial rolling style. You toss all of your compost into a barrel that is suspended up so one can easily rotate it. These are very easy to use and make decent compost because the carbons and the nitrogens are mixed together with ample amounts of oxygen. The big hurdle with these ones is the cost. I’ve seen these upwards of $350 and higher. Compost should not be an expensive endeavor.

Home made rolling style composter

Double Barreled ComposterLike the idea of the nice compost mixture coming out of your rolling drum? Try crafting one yourself out of an old metal or plastic 55 gallon drum yourself. I’ve seen these as simple as a little door to put your compost in and then rolling the drum all over your yard. Not so practical.
If you are feeling handy, here are some instructions on how to build your own double barreled rolling composter. Let me know if you have tried any of these or do try. I’d like to know what you think.

Wire mesh composter

Wire Mesh Compost BinThese are probably the simplest of the batch and one that it pretty effective. You can buy chicken fence at your local hardware store or purchase a wire compost bin like this at Lee Valley. It’s reasonable and it actually does a really good job. The idea behind these is that you get maximum airflow through your compost. In our Calgary climate you will have to ensure that there is enough moisture in your compost because compost doesn’t like the dry conditions. Keep it moist but not soggy.

Square frame composter

These are the preferred method of composting of the Dirt Boys. We like them because they cost next to nothing to set up. You can use scrap wood to craft a 4′ x 4′ square fence that retains your compost pile. You can get fancy and order frames for it but really, it’s probably the simplest structure you can build. Here are some fancier plans you can try out for your own wooden compost bin. It might be a little more than you need but if rodents are a problem, the gate on it might help.

Two and three bay composter

Two and three bay composters are probably the best composting you can get. The biggest issue with these in your inner city house is space. They take up three times the amount of space as a single square bin. But the nice thing is that you can move the compost along as it progresses, inserting air and moving the biomass around, helping to create the optimal environment for your compost to do it’s thing.
Three Bay Wooden Compost Bin

Garbage bags

Yup, you heard me right. I’ve tried this way to make leaf mould, basically rotting leaves. It works but probably not the most valuable compost you might get. The process is simple, add your leaves or compost to a garbage bag, add some water, and seal. See what happens over the year.

City green bins

In Calgary they are trying a Green Cart program. For those of us who realize the benefits of composting, we see that this is a bit of a waste of efforts. I know that Calgary is trying to reduce garbage but they should be educating people on composting themselves. Regardless, it’s better than nothing. For more information on Calgary’s Green Cart Program.


Worm Composting - VermicompostingWorm Shit. I can’t speak too much on Vermicomposting, which is the process of using worms for composting, but I can tell you that a lot of money is being made on Worm Compost. This is probably one of the most valuable composts and richest in nutrients you can get. Here are some resources if you are interested in more Worm Composting information:

Commercial bins

Last but of course not least, if you are just looking to get some sort of compost going and would like to hide it as much as possible then a commercial compost bin is probably what you’re looking for. The City of Calgary subsidizes these compost bins through Green Calgary. They don’t hold a lot but an average 2-3 person household kitchen waste should be contained and you should get at least one helping of wonderful soil out of this every year.
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