Before choosing the size of your composter estimate how much organic waste you will be generating on a regular basis. If you have a medium or large lawn and intend to put the grass clippings in together with all your organic household waste, a large composter is probably for you. If you will just be disposing of your day to day kitchen waste, a smaller composter combined with an indoor Bokashi unit may better suit your needs
The next consideration in your choice of composter is whether to get a stand-alone model or one that rotates. Tumbling composters while generally smaller in volume produce compost in a shorter amount of time. Stand alone composters on the other hand, while generally able to accommodate larger volumes of organic waste, can take up to twice as long to produce usable compost. They also require manual mixing on a semi regular basis
Once you have decided on the size and type of composter best suited to your needs, you will need to find a good location in your yard. Ideally try to find a sunny spot that will allow for easy access. Direct sunlight increases the rate at which organic waste decomposes into compost. If possible your stand alone composters should rest on bare soil to allow interactions with microorganisms and worms.
Most organic waste can be put into a compost bin (see exceptions below). We recommend using a kitchen caddy to collect your organic waste. This not only avoids unwanted mess and odours but reduces the number of trips you will need to make to the outdoor composter. By an amazing coincidence we have a few different caddies available for purchase on this site together with starch based caddy liners that begin to decompose once added to the outdoor composter.
As mentioned earlier it is not a good idea to add cooked food, meat or fish directly into your outdoor composter. These products tend to fester and attract unwanted guests (not referring to the in-laws people!). For these tricky leftovers we suggest using our Bokashi Kitchen Composter. The Bokashi microbes contained in the liquid or grains that are added to the organic contents begin to break these (and other organic waste) products down at the cellular level. Once the Bokashi Composter is full, the contents can be directly added to the outdoor composter or dug directly into the soil. The microbes will continue to do their work even after this is done.
Once your kitchen caddy or indoor composter is full you will need to transfer the contents to your outdoor composter. When adding organic waste to your composter it is important to try and get a good mixture of “brown” and “green” waste. Examples of “green” waste include food scraps, vegetable cuttings, freshly cut grass. Examples of “brown” waste include dried leaves, dead grass, newspaper cuttings, egg cartons.The aim is to get a mixture whose consistency is neither too wet nor too dry.
Don’t forget to mix the contents of the composter periodically. For stand alone composters this will involve manually mixing the contents with a pitch fork or compost aerator. For tumblers you will just need to give the unit a turn every few days.
The time it takes for compost to mature varies widely. Factors such as volume of waste, composition of waste, moisture content of waste, frequency of aeration, and external temperature/weather (just to name a few) all contribute to your composter’s overall curing time. There are, however, several things you can do to help move the maturation process along.
1. Place the composter in a position in which it is likely to receive the most sunshine. The extra thermal energy will increase the rate at which the chemical reactions that break down your organic waste take place.
2. Aerate your compost on a regular basis. Your outdoor composter relies on microbes and bacteria to break down your organic waste. These organisms require oxygen to carry out their jobs. The more you aerate your compost, the happier your microbes will be.
3. The Goldilocks Principle. Just like the famous fairy tale in which an innocent young girl looking for a meal gets viciously mauled to death by wild bears, your compost should not be too dry, your compost should not be too wet- it should be just right. If your compost is too dry just add a little water. If it is too wet add some “brown” waste such as dead leaves, dead grass, newspaper etc.
RIP Golidlocks 1837-1845
4. Size Matters. Want to impress your friends at parties? Tell them that the smaller an object is the greater is its surface area in relation to its volume. In a few months when you stop getting invitations to parties and have time to focus on composting you will realise how handy this fact actually is. If you can reduce the size of the material you put in your composter (e.g chopping up loose kitchen scraps, shredding garden waste) you will increase the area exposed to the microbes and thereby decrease the time required to break the matter down
Once your compost has turned into a dark crumbly material with a natural earthy smell it is ready to use.
The method of collection will differ depending on the type of composter you have. For stand alone composters you will typically retrieve the compost through a hatch/s at the bottom of the unit. For tumbling composters you can empty the compost directly onto the ground or into a bucket.
In either case, the compost you retrieve can easily be mixed together into the soil. The same applies to pot plants and vertical gardens. A light watering to help the compost set and you are done.