The best garden composter
Whether you're a gardener with a green thumb or an environmentalist with a wish to "go green," you'll need a garden composter to help accomplish your goals. Gardeners compost kitchen vegetable scraps and yard waste, such as lawn trimmings, raked leaves, and plant clippings to make nutrient-rich soil amendments for landscaping and vegetable beds. Environmentalists use composters because they are a sustainable way of diverting vegetable scraps and organic matter from over-impacted landfills.
But starting out in the composting world can be a bit overwhelming. You want to do what's right by the Earth, but you don't know which composter will best serve you. Our guide to garden composters will help you make an informed decision from a host of models, including the Jora Composter 70-Gallon Compost Tumbler, our top choice for its multitude of features, such as dual chambers that allow you to add new materials to one half while materials in the other half continue to mature.
Considerations when choosing garden composters
There are a few different types of garden composters, and it's essential to explore all of your options before deciding what type, what capacity, and what shape of composter you require.
Compost tumblers do just that -- they tumble. They are positioned on a frame so they can be spun or rotated to "tumble" the compost together. They are useful because it's easy to turn the compost using the tumbling feature rather than having to do it by hand.
Compost bins sit on top of the soil, with the organic matter decomposing in a square or round vat. They have a larger capacity than the tumblers, but you will have to turn the compost by hand with a shovel, pitchfork, or aerator tool. One other benefit is that because they sit in direct contact with the ground, they allow easy access to earthworms, which are highly beneficial to composting and hasten the decomposition process.
The capacity of a composter has a direct correlation to how much kitchen and yard waste you and your family generate and, therefore, how much compost you can produce. If you have a large family and generate a lot of kitchen scraps and yard clippings, it's recommended to purchase a larger composter, between 60 and 250 gallons. Smaller families or those who don't have a lot of kitchen scraps can get by with composters between 30 and 80 gallons.
Shape really only matters for garden composters that sit directly on the soil. You will need to manually turn the compost, and it may be easier depending on the shape of the vat. Round shapes have the benefit of no corners in which compost can become wedged, but they also tend to taper toward the top, so accessing the compost inside can be impacted.
Ease of use is an important feature for composters because for most, composting is a chore. It can be difficult to turn a compost pile if you don't have a lot of upper-body strength. Consider the capacity and if you would be able to turn it at maximum capacity.
The material the composter is made from is another consideration. Plastic and metal are good at retaining the heat that's naturally generated during composting and likely last longer than wood, but for those concerned about overall environmental impact, wood is a natural choice.
Garden composter prices
For basic composters with a small capacity, the price ranges from $70 to $100. Price increases along with the amount of features, capacity, and convenience. Mid-range composters will cost between $100 and $250. For avid gardeners who wish to generate large amounts of compost, a high-end unit will range from $300 to $450.
Q. Can I add all my kitchen waste, including meat, dairy and leftover prepared foods, to a composter?
A. Strictly speaking, if it's organic material, it will eventually break down, but not before rotting, which creates odor and attracts rodents and scavengers. When it comes to food waste and composting, it's best to stick to produce -- fruit and veggie peels, cores, tops, trimmings and spoilage.
Q. Can I put pet waste in a composter?
A. Not usually, but there are special composters and special instructions if you do want to start composting pet waste. It's important that there's enough carbon present to break down the nitrogen in the manure.
Garden composters we recommend
Best of the best: Jora Composter 70-Gallon Compost Tumbler
Our take: This Cadillac of tumbler composters is rodent-proof metal on the exterior, has a heat-retaining insulated interior, dual chambers for continuous production and stainless steel hardware.
What we like: The tumbling aspect simplifies the composting process, and the metal exterior keeps curious critters at bay.
What we dislike: Because it's a tumbler composter it has less capacity than a bin composter. Very expensive. Some have complained about exterior rust over time.
Best bang for your buck: FCMP Outdoor Dual-Chamber Tumbling Composter - IM4000
Our take: If you're a first-time composter, this is an essential model to start out with. Learn the nuances of composting with the eight-sided tumbler composter that sports two chambers and removable doors to add compostable matter.
What we like: An affordable price for a quality composter. After a series of hot days, the composter can finish decomposing materials in as little as two weeks.
What we dislike: The capacity of the tumbler is only 37 gallons, which sounds like a lot, but it's easy to produce more waste than we realize.
Choice 3: Envirocycle Composting Tumbler
Our take: Beautifully designed to blend in with outdoor landscaping and compact enough to fit on a patio or porch. No large yard required.
What we like: Combines the features of a tumbler composter with that of a compost tea-maker base, so you end up with a liquid fertilizer that is rich in nutrients as well as solid compost.
What we dislike: Extremely small capacity. Recommended only for those who have very little kitchen scraps.
Samantha Loomis is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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