Composting Systems

There are quite a few different composting systems.  You want to choose the one that’s best for you.  Some factors that might influence your choice are cost and how quickly you would like to have the finished material.  Some systems are just faster than others and some don’t really cost anything at all except for the effort you make to dig a hole. Some are more attractive and easier to handle.

The most common composting systems:

Here are some of the most common composting systems:

Outdoor pile:

These are easy to do, inexpensive that you can choose whether you want to do is slow pile or a hot outdoor pile.

Slow outdoor pile: easy to start, easy to add to add low maintenance.  It can take a year or more to decompose.  You can add material over time. You may lose nutrients and have an unpleasant smell which can attract animals and flies.

Hot outdoor pile: this compost system has faster decomposition which will kill weed seeds, less chance of nutrients being leached or attracting animals and flies.  It requires more work to turn and aerate.  It works best when you have lots material ready to use.

Bins and Boxes:

One of the most usual compost systems are bins and boxes which are generally more neat and tidy in appearance.  A lid will keep off rain that might make the pile to soggy.  Compost bins or boxes deter animals.  If you are able to turn the pile, decomposition can be quite fast.

On the downside, you have the cost of either building or buying.


Compost tumblers also are tidy in appearance since they are self contained.  They are relatively easy to turn which aerates the ingredients and thus can produce compost quickly.  There usually isn’t any odor and that of the nutrients are leached out into the ground.

But compost tumblers can be expensive and they don’t hold that much.  They also were best if you have lots of material ready to use and can add it all at once.

Pit composting:

Throwing all your ingredients for the compost pile into a hole in the ground can be quick and easy.  There’s no cost involved and no maintenance.

Because their size is limited, only small amounts of organic material can be used.

Sheet composting:

Spreading manure or other ingredients over a large area can be a good way to improve soil.  This can handle large amounts of organic matter.  No extra containers are required.

Of course you have to have a way to till the material into the soil which adds to the cost and time.  It also will take several months to decompose and often is done in the fall to prepare the ground for spring planting.

Plastic bag or garbage can:

This is easy to do year round and can be done indoors.  It requires only a small amount of space and not much back labor.

Smell can be a problem and you can attract fruit flies.  The whole pile can become quite wet and slimy see you need to include plenty of leaves or other high carbon material. 

Worm Composter  (vermi-composting)

A good way to compost food waste since it is easy to use and can be done indoors. It can be added to continuously.  The end product is so nutrient rich that it can be used as fertilizer.

It can attract fruit flies and requires some care in adding and removing the ‘worm castings’. Worms need an average temperature, not too hot or too cold.

With plenty of options of composting systems, you’ll be able to find the one that suits you best.

Happy Gardening!

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