Which composter is best for me?

If you’re new to composting it can be difficult to know which bin (or system, if you like to think in systems rather than bins) is best for your home and lifestyle. Our handy guide can help.

Food waste composter/digester

The Green Johanna Hot Composter and Green Cone Food Waste Digester are both designed to accept foods that regular garden composters don’t, such as cooked food, meat, fish and dairy, so all your food waste can go in together. Compare them to see which one best suits your needs.

Green Johanna Hot Composter

  • Produces compost.
  • Also accepts garden waste.
  • Added waste should be a balance of nitrogen-rich content, commonly called Greens, (food waste/fresh grass cuttings/fresh green leaves) and carbon-rich content, commonly called Browns (chopped branches and twigs/wood chips/dead leaves/shredded paper and cardboard).
  • Comes with aerator stick provided to aerate the contents regularly.
  •  Ideally placed on soil or grass
  • One Johanna accepts the average food waste of a household of five and the garden waste from an average-sized garden.
  • With hot composting techniques, higher temperatures are reached than with regular composting.

Green Cone Food Waste Digester

  • Must be dug into a hole in free-draining soil (not clay or chalk).
  • Accepts all food waste, even bones.
  • Doesn’t accept garden waste or paper waste.
  • Doesn’t produce compost – instead it produces nutritious water which drains from its underground basket and feeds surrounding soil.
  • No turning or stirring required.
  • Uses solar energy so requires a sunny spot.
  • Comes with kitchen caddy provided.

Compost Tumbler (by Maze) 180 litre/245 litre

  • Takes kitchen waste and garden waste. Accepts cooked waste if chopped up into small pieces and mixed in well with other waste.
  • Cylindrical rotation design makes turning compost easy. Instead of manually stirring you turn the ratchet handle. The geared ratchet automatically locks rotation in any position.
  • Two compartments mean non-stop composting – when the first compartment is full you start on the second.
  • Can be hardstanding.
  • A cart is available so that finished compost can be removed and wheeled where you want it in the garden.

Traditional Garden Compost Bins

  • Usually used for cold composting at low temperatures.
  • Only take raw fruit and veg scraps, garden waste and paper/cardboard.
  • Require a 50/50 mix of nitrogen-rich Greens and carbon-rich Browns.
  • Available in plastic or wood. Plastic bins tend to be more robust but wood may be preferred for a natural look. 

Lack of space?

Worm farms

Worm farms, also called wormeries, are ideal for small-scale composting and for introducing children to the fascinating world of worms, which is an education in itself.

  • Require a sheltered spot.
  • Worms will digest many kinds of foods cut up into small pieces and other kitchen waste such as shredded paper, egg cartons, scrunched up newspaper.
  • A little management is needed to maintain the ideal environment for your worms, so be sure to read the instruction booklet.
  • Produce excellent worm-made compost – vermicompost – for your garden.
  • Learning fascinating facts about these tiny eco-heroes is sure to turn children into composters of the future.

Bokashi Bins

14 litre Maze Bokashi Bin
  • Kitchen food waste bins that can sit on a worktop or under a sink and accept all chopped-up food waste.
  • Food waste is fermented, resulting in a pre-compost mixture which can be added to a compost bin or wormery, buried in soil in the garden or in large planters in order to break down into compost.
  • Requires the addition of friendly bacteria in a bran or spray to accelerate fermentation.
  • When full of food waste, the container is left sealed for two to three weeks for fermentation to take place anaerobically (without air).
  • Nutritious liquid is drained from a tap at the bottom of the bin and can be used diluted as plant fertiliser or concentrated as organic drain cleaner.
  • Bokashi comes from the Japanese term for ‘fermented organic matter’.

Choosing a compost bin – by the experts

This advice – taken from a webinar by master composters from Garden Organic – provides extra help.

Wooden bins – a sustainable material – cheaper – allows the pile to breathe – looks natural and attractive in the garden – don’t add meat, fish, dairy or cooked food due to lower temperatures – a few bins can be placed together, with one or two left to mature while one keeps working.  

Blackwall compost converter – the most common bin – affordable – long-lasting – made from recycled plastic – useful for getting compost out (the bin can be lifted up and removed like a jelly mould) – a base plate is available but an added deterrent to rodents can also be achieved by digging the composter slightly into the ground and putting a  wire mesh under the base – channels of air can be created by plunging a broom handle into the contents.

Green Johanna – reaches higher temperatures – as an enclosed unit it offers greater rodent protection – the twistable top controls ventilation – the solid perforated base means liquid can drain out and micro-organisms can enter – if adding meat, add small amounts, mixed with lots of greens and browns – aerate the top layer every time you add materials – for speedier composting an insulating jacket is available. An alternative way of taking compost out, rather than accessing through the hatches, is to loosen the screws and lift off one or two sections.  Composting slows down in winter but the Johanna continues well and does better than other composters.

HOTBIN – versatile, takes all food waste and also perennial weeds – produces compost quickly – useful in school gardens – contains air channels – needs woodchips as a bulking agent – has a hard surface to discourage rats nesting underneath – requires more attention – more expensive but versatile.  

Wormery – small and self-contained – ideal for small amounts of waste – year-round composting – can be indoors – worms eat the bacteria on the organic matter – no spicy foods or citrus, only small amounts of meat – food scraps are placed on the top section, casts fall to the bottom. Use the worm-made compost on pot plants or round trees and shrubs. NOTE: If the liquid that is produced smells bad it has gone anaerobic and should be flushed away.

Also:

  • Wormery compost is a great improver to shop-bought compost; you can buy the cheapest of composts but turn it into black gold with the addition of your vermicompost.
  • Sheds are not a good place to house a wormery due to temperature fluctuations – a garage or indoors is better.
  • If you need your worms to move out of way as you harvest casts, add melon or banana – worms love these and will obligingly wriggle over to them.  
  • Don’t forget that with a wormery you are responsible for living creatures.

Bokashi bin – ferments waste instead of composting so the contents need to be transferred to a composter after a couple of weeks – this pre-compost  acts as an activator in your compost bin – Bokashi bran is needed – fermented contents of the bin will still be recognisable (some people expect compost) – produces liquid which can be used as a drain cleaner or diluted as fertiliser – good to use two bins to keep the process going – ongoing bran purchase required.

Tumblers – compost is kept off the ground so rodents are deterred.   

Electric kitchen composters – these grind waste as opposed to composting it.

Ridan – giant tumblers with a cog and gear system that makes the handle easier to turn – popular in schools and businesses.

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