Types of Compost Containers

All About Compost Containers

types of compost containers The simplest way to make compost is to heap up the ingredients on the ground and cover them with an old, hessian-backed carpet. Most people, however, use a container of some form. A compost box looks better (especially in small gardens), keeps the heap from spreading too far and can be easier to manage.

There are certain basic criteria to consider when making or buying a compost box:


Wood is perhaps the most appropriate material for a compost box, providing insulation while also allowing some moisture loss. It is the most commonly used material for do-it-yourself containers, though these can also be constructed out of an imaginative array of other recycled materials.

Most commercial containers are plastic, an increasing number using recycled material. These have the advantage, generally, of being lighter, cheaper and easier to move than wooden models. They do not retain heat as well but warm up quickly in the sun. Plastic containers tend to produce a wetter compost.

Metal compost containers are available and can be useful where vermin are a problem.


A compost box should be sturdy enough to take the battering that it will incur during filling and emptying, and strong enough to contain the mature compost, which can be heavy.


The presence, or absence, of holes or gaps in the sides of a compost box is a subject that provokes a lot of argument. Some parties insist that they are essential for the supply of air into the heap. However, gaps also allow heat and moisture to escape, and the material next to them may dry out.

A compost box with solid sides is ideal; sufficient air can be included in the heap as it is built. Narrow gaps in the sides are fine, especially if your compost tends to be rather wet.


The weight of a container is an important consideration if the container itself must be removed for access to the finished compost.


When it comes to size, a volume of 0.7 cu m (1 cu yd) is often recommended as the most efficient tor compost-making. Most compost boxes on the market are smaller than this, at around 200-300 litres. These can produce excellent compost and are more appropriate for most gardens. Anything smaller is not worth considering. Choose the largest you can fill. Proprietary compost bins are sold according to how many litres of material they hold.


A waterproof lid is important to keep the rain out. For ease of use, this should be simple to remove and replace and should not blow away in the wind.


Most compost boxes are open at the bottom to allow drainage  and easy access for worms and other composting creatures. If the container does have a base, it should be designed to allow good drainage.


Access to the finished compost may be via a removable side on the box or, more commonly, by simply removing the container itself. Many commercial models have small access doors through which compost is meant to be removed; these are of dubious value.

Siting the compost container

types of compost containers A compost box may have a permanent site or it may be moved around the garden so you can take advantage of the fertility that seeps out of the bottom. You may find it convenient to have a combiffation of, say, a home-made fixed model and a movable plastic container that you can reposition at will.

Compost boxes tend to be hidden away at the bottom of the garden. This is fine as long as the site is suitable. If it is difficult to get to and cramped to work around you will be much less likely to make compost.

A compost container should be set on bare soil to allow any liquid produced to drain away. It should be sited to allow easy access with a wheelbarrow or loads of compost material. There should also be space to store and mix compost ingredients and to turn the compost when necessary.

The ideal site is also warm and sheltered, but there is usually too much competition to allow the compost boxes to occupy such a prime spot!

How many compost containers?

It is possible to make a good supply of compost with only one compost container. When the time comes to start a new heap, the container is emptied or removed and the compost covered with a waterproof cover and left to mature.

However, having two or more compost boxes can make life easier. This is because the material from one box can be turned into the other, for example, or one box can be filled up while the compost in the other is maturing.

Compost tumblers

compost tumblers A compost tumbler can be rotated on an axle. This makes the regular turning of the composting materials much easier than with a conventional heap. However, even turning a compost tumbler can be quite strenuous.

There are other benefits too. Turning daily ensures a continuing supply of oxygen throughout the composting material. This, along with the fact that the ingredients are reg. Ularly mixed together, means that they heat up well and compost of sorts can be produced in as little as three weeks. This compost is not mature, but it can be used on the garden, stored under cover to mature or further processed through a worm compost bin.

The basics of composting are the same in a tumbler as in a conventional heap, but there are certain aspects that differ: for example, a tumbler should be sited on a firm, level surface such as concrete or paving and it should also be filled all at once, or over a period of a few days. Unlike a bin, it should not then be added to until you are ready to start up a new batch.

When using a tumbler, it is particularly important that the ingredients are chopped up and well mixed. Liquid may drip out of a tumbler; this can be collected and diluted for use as a liquid feed. If the right combination of ingredients is used this liquid should be minimal. When filling a tumbler it is best to mix the different ingredients together first, especially if there are large quantities of one type of material such as grass mowings. Alternatively, turn the tumbler occasionally when filling it.

If the ingredients are chopped first, the end product will be much more friable; otherwise it can turn out in the form of large balls. These can still be used on the garden or added to a worm bin for final processing.


  • Compost is available quickly when using a tumbler
  • When using this type of container, good heating and mixing should help to kill off any weed seeds
  • Where vermin are a problem in compost heaps, a tumbler is a useful alternative as it keeps them out
  • A tumbler can be used where there is no bare soil to site a traditional heap


  • Can be hard work to turn
  • Material should not be added to while composting


A compost trench is a simple alternative to a compost heap and can be of use in dealing with kitchen waste over the winter months when the compost heap may not necessarily be active. A compost trench is a good way of disposing of old winter brassicas stems, especially those infested with whitefly and mealy aphid.


The most convenient place is in the vegetable plot, where runner beans or peas are to be grown next season.


In autumn, dig out a trench one spade wide and one spade deep (approximately 30 x 30cm/12 x 12M).


Gradually fill the trench with vegetable scraps and kitchen waste as it becomes available, covering each addition of material with some of the soil that was removed from the trench.

Once the trench is full, replace any remaining soil and leave it to settle for a month or two.

After filling

After the soil has settled you can either sow seeds or plant the area up, as the decomposed waste underneath provides an excellent source of plant foods and water for the following crop.


Make a series of individual compost holes in the filled compost trenches and then plant them with vegetables. Crops such as marrows, pumpkins and courgettes will all grow in such conditions.


This is perhaps the simplest home-made compost container; it is easy to construct even if you have no carpentry skills.


Hammer four sturdy posts into the ground to give the size of container required and staple wire mesh netting around these posts. Line* the container with strips of old carpet or sheets of thick cardboard. This can be tied in with string threaded through both wire and lining. Carpet can also be held in place with nails hammered into the corner posts.

Remember to cover the compost with a sheet of polythene, a piece of carpet or a waterproof lid.

*You can easily adapt this container for making leafmould by simply leaving out the lining.

29. January 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Manures and Fertilisers, Organic Gardening, Soil Cultivation | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Types of Compost Containers


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