How to Compost with a Bin?

  • By: Sam Richards
  • Date: August 2, 2023
  • Time to read: 11 min.

Composting is a green, eco-conscious method that aids in reducing the carbon footprint each one of us leaves on the planet. It is a practice that involves recycling various organic materials, otherwise regarded as waste and converting them into a rich soil conditioner. This process doesn’t just help in reducing the quantity of waste ending up in our already overburdened landfills but also enriches our garden soil, making it more fertile and productive.

Utilizing a compost bin for this process takes it a step further. It allows for a more organized, efficient, and convenient approach to composting. A compost bin provides a dedicated space for waste decomposition to occur. This practice not only contributes positively to environmental sustainability but also helps you create nutrient-rich compost that can significantly enhance your garden’s vitality.

In this article, we aim to provide a detailed guide on composting using a bin. We will explore the working mechanism of a compost bin, why it is beneficial to use one, the various types available, and how to effectively set it up. Further, we’ll delve into what types of waste you can compost, how to maintain your compost bin, and finally, how to utilize the compost you’ve created. This comprehensive guide seeks to equip you with everything you need to start composting with a bin, contributing to a greener, healthier planet.

How Does A Compost Bin Work?

Compost bins serve as a controlled environment where organic waste can undergo the natural process of decomposition. This decomposition is an essential ecological function carried out by a host of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and in some cases, earthworms. They break down the complex organic compounds in our waste into simpler substances, eventually leading to the production of nutrient-rich compost.

The functioning of a compost bin hinges on the delicate balance between two main types of organic waste: ‘green’ waste and ‘brown’ waste. Green waste primarily consists of kitchen scraps like vegetable peels, coffee grounds, or fresh grass clippings. It is rich in nitrogen, which is essential for the growth and reproduction of the microorganisms that fuel the composting process. Brown waste, on the other hand, includes materials like dried leaves, cardboard, or wood chips, and is high in carbon. Carbon provides energy for these microorganisms and also aids in creating the airy structure necessary for oxygen flow within the compost pile.

The decomposition process in a compost bin involves several stages, beginning with the mesophilic phase where the temperature is moderate and bacteria start breaking down the materials. This is followed by the thermophilic phase, characterized by higher temperatures that enable a different set of microorganisms to further decompose the waste. Lastly, the composting process enters the maturation phase, during which the compost cools down, and the final product, a nutrient-rich humus-like substance, is formed.

Maintaining the right balance of green to brown waste, ensuring optimal moisture levels, and providing adequate aeration is key to a successful composting process within a bin. With these elements in place, your compost bin can transform your organic waste into a ‘black gold’ compost, enhancing the health and productivity of your garden.

Why Use a Compost Bin

There are a multitude of compelling reasons to use a compost bin in your waste management and gardening practices. Using a compost bin contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle, promotes soil health, and provides a practical solution to household waste.

Firstly, a compost bin serves as an efficient tool for recycling organic waste, which otherwise ends up in landfills, contributing to environmental pollution. A significant proportion of the waste produced in an average household is organic and compostable. By diverting this waste into composting, you can greatly reduce the amount of trash that goes to landfills and lower the emission of greenhouse gases.

Secondly, the compost produced in a compost bin is a boon for garden soil. This nutrient-dense substance, often referred to as ‘black gold’, enriches the soil with vital nutrients, improves its texture and structure, and enhances its capacity to retain moisture. This results in healthier, more robust plants, contributing to overall ecosystem health.

Thirdly, using a compost bin helps to keep your composting process neat and contained, making it particularly advantageous in urban or suburban settings where space is limited and aesthetic considerations may be significant. It also keeps pests away and minimizes any potential odor, making the composting process more hygienic and less intrusive.

Lastly, a compost bin can hasten the composting process compared to composting in an open pile. The bin maintains a consistent environment that supports the activity of the microorganisms that break down the waste, ensuring a quicker decomposition process. This means you can get your rich, homemade compost in a shorter span of time.

In summary, using a compost bin is an eco-friendly, effective, and practical approach to waste management and gardening. By composting, you participate actively in a process that nurtures the earth and supports the intricate web of life.

Types of Compost Bins

There’s a diverse range of compost bins available on the market, each with their unique set of advantages, suited to different needs and preferences. The primary types include stationary bins, tumbling bins, and worm bins or vermiculture. Understanding the specifics of each can help you make an informed decision that suits your composting requirements.

1. Stationary Bins: These are essentially fixed compost bins that you can set up in a dedicated spot in your garden or yard. These are particularly beneficial for individuals who produce a high volume of compostable waste, as they often have a larger capacity compared to other types. Stationary bins can come with an open or closed design, depending on your preference. However, they might require a bit more manual labor to turn the compost, ensuring all materials get evenly decomposed.

2. Tumbling Bins: Tumbling bins, or compost tumblers, are an innovative design where the bin is mounted on a frame that allows it to rotate. This rotation facilitates easy turning of the compost materials, which can significantly speed up the composting process as it provides the compost with better aeration. They are often more sealed than stationary bins, helping keep pests away and containing potential odors. However, they may have a smaller capacity compared to stationary bins and may not be suitable for those who generate a large amount of compostable waste.

3. Worm Bins (Vermiculture): Vermiculture involves the use of worms, particularly red wigglers, to consume and break down organic waste, accelerating the decomposition process. The end product is a highly nutrient-rich compost, often referred to as worm castings. Worm bins can be used indoors or outdoors and are an excellent option for those with limited space or those who primarily have kitchen waste to compost. However, they require more specific care, including maintaining the right temperature and moisture level, to keep the worms healthy and productive.

When choosing your compost bin, consider factors such as the amount of compostable waste you produce, the space you have available, your physical ability to turn and manage the compost, and your budget. The right compost bin will make the composting process more enjoyable and efficient, turning your everyday waste into valuable compost for your garden.

Setting up Your Compost Bin

The setup process for your compost bin is vital to ensuring a successful composting journey. The following steps provide a more detailed guide to setting up your compost bin effectively:

1. Select a Suitable Location: The location of your compost bin can significantly affect the success of your composting. Ideally, you want to place your compost bin in a dry, shaded spot that has good drainage. It should be easily accessible from your house so you can conveniently add compost materials and turn the pile as needed. However, if you’re concerned about aesthetics or potential odors, you might want to choose a more discreet location.

2. Prepare the Bin: Some compost bins require assembly before use. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to assemble your bin correctly. If you have a stationary bin, it might be beneficial to place it directly on soil or grass rather than a hard surface. This allows beneficial organisms from the soil to access the compost more easily, and excess moisture can drain away.

3. Start Layering: Begin your compost pile by adding a layer of browns at the bottom of your bin. Browns, or carbon-rich materials, include items like dried leaves, small branches, or shredded paper. Next, add a layer of greens, or nitrogen-rich materials, like vegetable scraps or fresh grass clippings. The ideal ratio is about 2:1 browns to greens. After adding your greens, you can add a thin layer of soil or finished compost, which will introduce the necessary microorganisms to kickstart the decomposition process.

4. Add Water as Needed: Your compost pile should be moist, but not soggy. After you’ve set up your initial layers, give them a good soaking with a garden hose or watering can, but be careful not to waterlog the pile. It should be as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

5. Cover and Wait: Cover your compost bin if it has a lid, or use a tarp if it doesn’t. The cover will help maintain the moisture level and heat necessary for efficient decomposition. Now, you just need to wait, keep adding your compost materials, and turn the pile regularly.

By carefully setting up your compost bin, you create an ideal environment for decomposition, leading to the production of nutrient-rich compost for your garden.

What to Compost

In general, you can compost a lot of kitchen and yard waste. The main categories are:

  • Greens: This includes vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, fresh grass clippings, and green leaves.
  • Browns: This includes dried leaves, branches, paper, and straw.

Avoid composting meat, dairy products, diseased plants, or any materials that have been treated with chemicals.

Maintaining Your Compost Bin

Maintaining your compost bin effectively is integral to a successful composting process. Proper maintenance ensures the ideal conditions for decomposition, enabling you to produce high-quality compost. The following steps offer a more detailed guide to maintaining your compost bin:

1. Regular Turning: Turning your compost pile is essential as it helps to aerate the materials, speeding up the decomposition process. This can be done using a pitchfork, a compost turning tool, or, if you’re using a tumbling bin, simply rotating the bin. Aim to turn your compost pile once a week.

2. Maintain the Right Moisture Level: Your compost pile should be as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Too much moisture can create a soggy environment, leading to an unpleasant smell and slowing down the composting process. Conversely, too little moisture can cause the composting process to stall. If your compost pile is too wet, add more brown materials to soak up the excess moisture. If it’s too dry, add water or more green materials.

3. Keep a Balanced Green and Brown Ratio: Your compost pile should ideally have a balance of about 2:1 brown to green materials. Browns, like dried leaves or cardboard, provide carbon, while greens, like kitchen scraps or fresh grass clippings, supply nitrogen. This balance ensures that the microorganisms in your compost pile have the nutrients they need to thrive and decompose the organic materials effectively.

4. Monitor the Temperature: A healthy compost pile will heat up due to the activity of microorganisms. This heat is beneficial as it helps to speed up the decomposition process and kill off any potential plant diseases or weed seeds. If your compost pile isn’t heating up, it might need more green materials, water, or a good turn.

5. Watch for Signs of Trouble: If you notice an unpleasant smell, it might mean that your compost pile is too wet or lacks oxygen. Turning the pile and adding more browns can help resolve this issue. Similarly, if you see a lot of flies or pests, it might mean that you’re adding materials that shouldn’t be composted, like meat or dairy products, or that your compost pile is too exposed. Ensure that these materials are avoided and that your compost bin is covered.

By maintaining your compost bin effectively, you create an optimal environment for decomposition, leading to a faster composting process and a higher-quality end product. Remember, composting is a natural process, and a bit of patience and care can go a long way in ensuring your composting success.

Using Your Compost

After weeks or months of careful composting, you will have a nutrient-rich, earthy compost ready to be used. This ‘black gold’ can significantly enhance the health and productivity of your garden. Here are some detailed ways you can make the most out of your homemade compost:

1. Soil Amendment: One of the primary uses of compost is as a soil amendment. By incorporating compost into your garden soil, you can improve its structure, enhancing its ability to hold onto essential nutrients and water. This leads to healthier, more vigorous plants. Simply spread a layer of compost over your garden beds and lightly mix it into the top few inches of soil.

2. Mulch: Compost can also be used as a mulch to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture. Spread a layer of compost about 2-3 inches thick around your plants, leaving a small gap around the plant stems to avoid rot. The compost mulch will slowly release nutrients into the soil, providing a steady supply to your plants.

3. Potting Mix: You can create a high-quality, cost-effective potting mix using your compost. A basic recipe could include equal parts of compost, garden soil, and aeration material like perlite or sand. This mix will provide a balanced, nutrient-rich growing medium for your potted plants.

4. Lawn Top Dressing: Compost can be used to enhance the health of your lawn. Spread a thin layer of compost over your lawn using a shovel or spreader. The compost will work its way down into the lawn, providing nutrients and improving soil structure.

5. Compost Tea: Compost tea is a nutrient-rich liquid made by steeping finished compost in water. It’s an excellent way to provide a quick nutrient boost to your plants. To make compost tea, fill a bucket one-third full with compost, then top it off with water. Let it steep for a few days, stirring occasionally. Strain the mixture and use the liquid to water your plants.

By utilizing your homemade compost in these ways, you’re not only recycling waste but also returning vital nutrients to the soil, promoting a healthy, vibrant garden, and maintaining the natural nutrient cycle. Remember, patience is key when composting. The end product is well worth the wait and effort.


Composting is an eco-conscious endeavor that connects us back to the earth’s natural cycles. It transforms our daily waste into a valuable resource, promoting a sustainable, closed-loop system right in our backyards. By composting with a bin, we take part in a process that is beneficial for both the environment and our gardens.

Throughout this comprehensive guide, we’ve discussed how a compost bin works, the importance of using one, the different types available, and the process of setting up your bin effectively. We’ve also explored what you can compost, how to maintain your compost bin and the multitude of ways in which your homemade compost can be put to use in your garden.

Remember, successful composting is a journey and may require some experimentation. Don’t be disheartened if your first few attempts don’t turn out as expected. With patience and persistence, you’ll be well on your way to creating your own nutrient-rich ‘black gold’ that can significantly enhance your garden’s vitality.

We hope this guide has inspired and equipped you to start composting with a bin. As you embark on this journey, keep in mind that each compost heap is a step towards a healthier planet, contributing to waste reduction, soil regeneration, and a sustainable future. The act of composting, in its essence, is an act of stewardship, a testament to our care for the earth and future generations. Happy composting!

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