If you’re planning on building new compost bins, you’re probably wondering where is the best place to put a compost bin? Convenience is a key criteria.
The best place to put a compost bin is as close as possible to where you are going to use the finished compost. That way you don’t have to transport compost too far to get it into your vegetable garden beds. After all time and effort is something we all don’t have enough of.
But there are some other questions you should ask yourself as well when choosing a location for your compost bin.
Does A Compost Bin Need To Be In The Sun?
Finished compost will be ready sooner when your compost can warm up sufficiently. This happens naturally from the action of materials breaking down. If your compost is in the sun it will help keep the compost warmer.
However often the prime spots in an urban backyard for growing vegetables and fruit are limited. You don’t want to give up those spots for your compost. Instead you need to compromise and find the second best spot for your compost, even if it is in part shade.
The additional benefit of a shady location is that your compost won’t dry out as quickly in sunny weather, so you’ll need to water it less.
Why You Don’t Want To Place A Compost Bin Too Close To The House
(And What You Should Do If You Don’t Have A Choice)
Having the compost close to the house sounds like it might be a great idea so you don’t have to walk far to throw in kitchen vegetable scraps. However you should consider these reasons for keeping the compost bins a bit away from the house.
First off is the smell. Usually compost that is breaking down is not that smelly and it shouldn’t be as that is usually an indication that the brown to green (carbon to nitrogen) ratio is wrong.
However when you first put materials in, there may be a bit of a smell, especially if it’s things such as coffee grounds or plant parts that are already partially rotting.
And since garden dining areas are often close to the house for convenience it’s better to have your compost bins a bit further away.
Aesthetics is another consideration. You will likely not want to have your compost directly viewable from seating areas. If you decide to use recycled wood or leave the wood to weather and not stain it your bins won’t look that attractive unless the weathered wood fits in well with the rest of your garden’s style.
You can erect a screen of some sort using lattice or build a short fence that will block the view of your compost from your seating area.
If you can’t hide the compost then you can use higher quality wood such as cedar or redwood and then stain it so that it is more aesthetically pleasing. In my case I used cedar (mainly for it’s rot resistance) and stained it the same as my raised vegetable beds so everything ties together visually.
Despite all your attempts at making the outside of the compost bin pleasing, the contents can look quite messy. You can easily add lids to your bins to hide the contents. The lids will also keep out rodents and excessive rain in winter.
Can You Put Compost Bins On Concrete?
You can put compost bins on a hard surface such as concrete. It may be your only option if you want the bins to be in your utility area along with garbage cans and tools and such.
However putting your bins on a hard surface does have some limitations. You may find that your compost becomes too wet in winter time from rain as rainwater won’t drain as well.
You can minimize this issue by making sure there is a bit of a gap underneath your bins to allow excess moisture to drain out. Or as mentioned earlier add lids or even just some plastic sheeting during the wettest months of the year.
The other issue with placing your compost bins on concrete is not having access to the beneficial insects, microbes and worms found in native soil. You will likely have to jumpstart new compost with some existing compost that has those beneficials inside.
Keep in mind too that the compost will likely stain the concrete. That is a problem if you’re planning on moving the compost bins ones day – likely you will have to pressure-wash the area to clean it.
Can I Compost On A Deck?
The convenience of having a compost bin handy just outside your kitchen door is tempting. No more trudging outside in the rain or snow or wind to empty your kitchen scraps.
You can compost on a deck or patio but you’ll have to go with a self contained compost tumbler or other container that won’t leak compost all over your deck as that will rot it quickly.
You also need to consider the smell and aesthetics so close to seating and dining areas if you do use your deck or patio for that.
Finally you should consider weight. Especially wet compost weighs a lot and having large compost tumblers or containers on a deck will stress the framing.
On a patio it’s not as much of a concern but too much weight on a concentrated area can cause patio slabs to sink or cracks to form in concrete.
Can I Compost Indoors?
You can using special composting systems to compost kitchen scraps indoors if you live in an apartment or condominium and don’t have a garden. They use charcoal filters to reduce the smell and lids to keep away fruit flies.
Obviously you are limited to how much compost you can create. But it will likely be enough for a few pots or containers of vegetables that you have growing on your balcony or patio or for your houseplants.
The other alternative are worm bins. These bins are quite clean and tidy. You can either buy them as kits that you put together or you can build your own. I have yet to build some so here is a good tutorial on how to build your own worm bins.
Other Compost Area Design Tips
You’ll also want to consider future expansion. Maybe right now you have a small vegetable garden and don’t need much space for compost. One bin is probably enough.
When you expand your garden (and it’s just a matter of time!), you’ll generate more plant waste and need more finished compost. So leave enough space to add one or more bins – three bins is usually the preferred number so that you can more easily turn compost as I explain in this blog post.
You also want to have a water source close by. When you are turning your compost in summertime, it helps to moisten it while you are turning it. A long hose will make up for not having a water supply close by, but it can be a hassle to extend the hose that far and then have to roll it up again.
And remember to have enough space around the bins to empty them and sift the compost. I use a homemade trommel to sift the compost, so I need space for it and the tarp I place it on. And then I need some extra space for my wheelbarrow that I fill up with the sifted compost to distribute throughout the garden.
I do have my apple tree close by and find it can get in the way. But it also serves as a handy spot for me to lean my long-handled garden fork or spade against!
When you choose a location for your compost, you will want to pick a location that is as ideal as you can make it. It will always be a compromise. So you might not be able to check off all of these criteria, but do your best to meet most of them.
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Tranquil Garden Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC