The 5 best compost bins to help fertilize your garden in 2021

  • Composting is a great way to recycle your food scraps for garden fertilizer, but it can also be a messy endeavor. 
  • The FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter speeds up decomposition with heat and air, and keeps your compost out of sight.
  • Read more: The best gardening and landscaping tools 

Think of compost as a super-charged multivitamin for your garden. Just like you, your garden needs a diverse set of vitamins and nutrients to flourish and giving it compost encourages healthy growth, strong roots, and bountiful blooms.

It’s not just a way to nourish your plants though; it’s also an environmentally sound way of disposing of food and other organic material that would otherwise end up in the trash and contribute to global warming. If you have a garden that needs compost, you’re basically getting the good stuff for free.

One of the things that will make composting easier is, of course, a compost bin. There are a few different types of composters depending on the amount of composting you anticipate producing and using. Here, you’ll find recommendations for different styles including open outdoor bins, worm bins, countertop units, and more, as well as a helpful guide on how to compost.

Here are the best compost bins in 2021

  • Best overall: FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter
  • Best kitchen composter: SCD Probiotics All Season Indoor Composter Kit
  • Best worm bin composter: Nature’s Footprint Worm Factory 360
  • Best open compost bin: Geobin Compost Bin

Updated on 02/05/2021: Our recommendation for a mobile compost bin is no longer available, and while we work to retest all of our picks and try new ones (including Simplehuman’s new Compost Caddy), we’ll look for a new mobile pick too. We’ll publish a new version of this guide in the spring.

The best overall

The FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter has double inner bins, holds lots of compost, and makes mixing easy.

Pros: Well-constructed, effective, easy to use 

Cons: Difficult to assemble

Compost tumblers, such as the FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter, typically resemble a large sideways barrel on a stand. These composters are easy to use, and a great choice for the gardener who doesn’t have a lot of extra space in the yard.

Fill the FCMP with up to 37 gallons of organic waste and give the barrel five to six spins every two or three days. The tumbling action aerates the compost, breaking it down more quickly for use in the garden — no need for digging, shoveling, or mixing the compost by hand. If it’s warm enough and you’ve balanced your ingredients properly, you’ll have compost ready for the garden in as little as two weeks.

There are two inner chambers in the FCMP, so you can have two batches of compost in different stages of decomposition going at the same time. The large door makes it easy to add scraps and dump out finished compost. The composter is made of BPA-free, UV-inhibited, recycled polypropylene, so it won’t break down in direct sunlight or leach harmful chemicals into your compost. The galvanized steel frame is corrosion-resistant.

The best kitchen compost bin

The SCD Probiotics All Season Indoor Composter Kit fits under most kitchen sinks, and its unique spigot allows it to drain moisture, thus eliminating odors.

Pros: Fits under most kitchen sinks, unique spigot to release compost tea, gallon bag of compost starter included 

Cons: Won’t fully “cook” your compost

While you can’t complete the full decomposition cycle indoors, the SCD Probiotics All Season Indoor Composter Kit lets you get a head start on your compost-making, and provides plenty of compost tea, as well. Don’t worry — this anaerobic composter won’t stink up your home, and it fits right under most kitchen sinks. 

The kit includes a 5-gallon airtight bucket with a handy spigot for releasing compost tea, but what really sets this system apart from traditional outdoor models is the included gallon bag of Bokashi compost starter, which activates the anaerobic fermentation process. Just drop your food scraps into the bucket, add a layer of Bokashi, and fasten the lid.

The compost will not fully “cook” inside this composter, however, so when the bucket is full, you’ll need to bury or scatter the contents in your outdoor garden to finish the composting process.

The best worm bin composter

Red worms are highly effective at rendering organic waste into nutrient-rich compost, and Nature’s Footprint’s easy-to-manage Worm Factory 360 composter hosts thousands of them in a compact space.

Pros: Compact, spigot to drain compost tea, comes with access to instructional videos, option to expand with additional trays

Cons: Can’t withstand extreme heat or cold 

As with all things, what goes in must come out, and that’s what makes worm composting — also called vermicomposting — so effective. Worms devour your food scraps, digest them, and then poop out super-rich, fertile compost loaded with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients. The action of the worms also keeps the compost aerated and tumbled, so there’s no need to do that yourself. When tended to properly, your worm composter should have no smell.

The Worm Factory 360 is small enough to set up on a sun porch or a kitchen corner, or you can tuck it into a protected area of your patio. Worm bins do need to be kept in a temperature range of 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so you may need to bring the bin indoors for the winter or summer months (perhaps both), depending on where you live.

The composter includes four trays, although you can add additional trays if you want to expand. The process of vermicomposting is simple: add worms to the bottom tray along with organic scraps, and the worms will start their magic. When the bottom tray is full, add a new tray on top.

The worms will work their way up, allowing you to rotate trays as compost breaks down. There’s a spigot to drain out compost tea, and small “ladders” that make it easier for your worms to crawl into the upper trays.

You will need to stock your worm bin with red worms, so look to Uncle Jim’s Red Worms for a source of 1,000 live red wigglers. 

The Worm Factory 360 comes with a link to instructional videos that teach you everything you need to know about vermicomposting. The composter is available in black, green, or terracotta.

Uncle Jim’s Red Worms

Worm Factory 360

The best open compost bin

The Geobin Compost Bin is the perfect alternative to open, messy compost piles, plus it’s easy to set up and move, and the size is adjustable.

Pros: Well-ventilated, can withstand harsh weather conditions, no mixing required

Cons: Some complaints that the bin is easy to tip over, not recommended for areas with wildlife

For those who prefer the ease of an open compost pile, but aren’t too fond of the uncontrolled mess, try the Geobin Compost Bin. This sturdy composter holds up to 216 gallons of organic scraps when fully assembled, and closes along the sides with heavy plastic closure keys.

The plastic mesh material provides plenty of ventilation and moisture control and holds up well to all types of weather conditions. If properly maintained and balanced, odor and insects shouldn’t be a problem, but critters have easy access since there’s no lid, so keep that in mind if you live in an area with wildlife.

When you want to take compost from the bottom of the pile, just remove one or two keys, open the bin up to provide access, and shovel out your rich and fertile compost. You don’t have to mix the bin’s contents while they decompose, but if you want to speed up the process you can do so with a shovel or pitchfork.

What else we recommend

Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 ($344.99): The FoodCycler is an electric countertop composter that dehydrates and grinds food scraps you’d otherwise throw out. You can toss in fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, stale bread, coffee grounds, and small animal bones. You shouldn’t put in really hard items like lobster shells or avocado pits since they can damage the blades or any liquids since that can make your compost really wet. 

For those with the budget, this is a quick, easy, and clean way to compost. Instead of letting organic material slowly decompose for weeks and risk the smells and critters associated with it, this machine speeds up the process and you can get compost in less than eight hours. In our experience, each composting cycle takes about four to five hours. Once it’s done, you’ll have something that looks like soil but packed with nutrients for your plants and garden.

The composter is about half the size of a regular microwave, so it’s relatively compact. But should you need more space, just take out the interior bucket and place it onto your counter with the carbon filter lid to keep out the smell until you’re ready to compost.  

The 2-liter capacity waste bucket is only meant to hold a few days’ worth of scraps and therefore, it produces less than traditional bins — after one cycle, you’re only left with about a quart of compost for your plants and garden. However, because of the shorter processing time, you’ll accumulate compost a lot faster. 

I’ve made quarts and quarts of compost for my garden with the FoodCycler and keep it on my countertop during food prep for easy access. It’s an easy way to cut down on food waste (especially since I cook at least three times a day now) and fertilize my garden with necessary nutrients. The carbon filters keep the unit from smelling like, well, food waste, and I only have to replace it every four months. Even though it’s an expensive kitchen appliance, it’s an investment that has paid itself off in spades — I’m contributing less waste and I’m helping improve my garden’s conditions. — Jada Wong

How do I compost?

Compost is the end result of decomposing organic materials, which release nutrients as they break down. Mixing compost into your garden soil not only makes it more fertile but also improves drainage and makes the soil lighter and more resistant to becoming compacted.

You can compost a surprisingly wide range of organic waste, including:

  • Grass clippings
  • Dead leaves (as long as they’re not rotten or diseased)
  • Leather
  • Hair
  • Wood ashes
  • Cardboard
  • Coffee grounds
  • Corncobs
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Dryer lint
  • Tea bags
  • Eggshells
  • Feathers
  • Newspaper
  • Sawdust
  • Peanut shells

You should NOT compost:

  • Coal ash
  • Cat or dog feces
  • Meat or bones
  • Oil or grease
  • Toxic materials
  • Dairy products
  • Tissue paper

By combining both fresh material and dried waste, such as dead leaves, your compost pile will maintain the colonies of microorganisms essential for the decomposition process. A rough guideline is to mix three parts of brown materials (dead leaves, paper, sawdust, corn cobs) to one part of green materials (food scraps, weeds, coffee grounds).

A healthy compost pile generates heat — sometimes up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit at the center — which accelerates the composting process. Other essentials for composting are oxygen — which is provided by turning the pile frequently — and moisture, which is added in the form of water if the materials being composted aren’t already moist enough.

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