Composting is a simple process that occurs in nature. This segment looks at several types of bins to manage backyard compost -- from simple to more complex.

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Composting - Choosing a Bin

Backyard composting is a fun and rewarding hobby. Composting is very simple. It’s been happening in nature for thousands of years. But in our own backyard, we like to manage it a bit more.

One of the first considerations you have to look at is what type of compost bin will work for you. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the bin needs to be large enough to hold the mass of materials so that the composting can take place. The minimum size for a compost pile is about 3’ by 3’ by 3’. The largest that you should consider for backyard gardening would be about 4 to 5 feet square. If you get much larger than that (5’ x 5’ x 5’), then it gets much more physically difficult to turn the compost pile.

There are several different types of compost bins on the market. Or, you can make your own. One of the simplest is to use four scrap pallets from a local salvage yard. Wire them together and you’ll have an inexpensive compost bin. Another one that you can use is just a ring of woven wire that you can purchase at a hardware store.

But, most people go for a commercially prepared bin. There are several systems. This three bin system has a bin that’s a holding bin for the material that you’re collecting. One is for active composting, and then one is for your finished compost.

Another type is a compost tumbler. The advantage to those are that they’re neat and out of the way. The disadvantage is that they’re more expensive – several hundred dollars or more. So, you may want to make sure that you’re going to love composting before you make that investment.

The other simple type of composter is called the Earth Machine. I like to call these the big, black trash can setting in your back yard.

The bottom line is, the bin is nothing more than something to hold the material. Compost is going to happen whether it’s on the ground or in a fancy bin. Your challenge is to figure out how to make that art and science of composting work for you.

This feature story prepared with Dennis Patton, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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