No serious garden is complete without a compost bin or compost area of some kind. Not only is composting an environmentally friendly way of dealing with your kitchen and garden waste, but it’s also a fantastic way of producing healthy soil that’s perfect for growing plants. Don’t miss our guide to improving soil health.
Composting can be done all year round (with late summer to early winter being a peak time) and while there are general rules to follow, anyone can try it. Even if you have a tiny outdoor space, there are small composters that will make it possible. For a few key pointers, read our guide to composting in a tiny garden.
We’ve picked out a selection of the very best compost bins available, plus a few composting accessories that you might need. We also have a guide on the best types of compost to buy. Firstly, though, read on for our guide to help you pick the right compost bin for your garden or balcony.
How to choose the best compost bin for you garden
How do compost bins work?
Compost bins work by speeding up the decaying process that takes place naturally with dead, rotting organic materials. This would happen naturally in an unenclosed space – but a compost bin essentially creates the conditions that are perfect for microorganisms to break down the discarded material and turn it into nutrient-rich soil. The compost will occur over the space of months, or even up to a year, which you can then add to your beds as a fertiliser.
This is an aerobic process, which is another way of saying that oxygen is vital in order for those microorganisms to work their magic. A natural byproduct of the composting process is heat, and temperatures inside composts can reach as high as 75C.
As society grows ever more environmentally aware, more and more people are turning to compost. Even some plastic manufacturers are marketing their products as biodegradable and compostable – claims that are currently being put to the test in The Big Compost Experiment.
Types of compost bin
Compost bins come in a variety of sizes and types, and you’ll find each of them in our list below.
Wooden compost bins
Wooden compost bins are generally made of slats which allow air in through their sides, something that’s handy for assisting the composting process. Some come with rooves that keep the rain out. One drawback to slatted compost bins is that they won’t retain as much heat as completely sealed plastic bins. But the convenience of removable slats can make a huge difference.
Plastic compost bins
Plastic compost bins are suitable for smaller gardens and outdoor spaces. Their non-porous sides mean they are effective at retaining heat, and since they don’t let in light, they prevent weeds from regrowing inside the compost. Cheaper plastic bins are unventilated, while higher-end choices have holes to allow air inside.
You can turn any old sack or tarpaulin bag into a composter, but far wiser is investing in a special composting bag. These are made of breathable, durable fabric that allows oxygen to enter inside, and won’t rot or get damaged by the stored compost.
Worm composts, or wormeries, are an excellent solution for people who have limited outdoor space, but are keen to see something useful done with their kitchen scraps. The wiggly little inhabitants of these compost bins break down the material, and produce a nutrient-rich liquid that works as a highly effective fertiliser.
Developed in Japan, bokashi is a fermentation, rather than decomposition, process, and takes place far more rapidly – in as little as 10 days, you can have nutrient-rich material that can be added to your garden. Read our guide to bokashi for a proper run-through of what’s involved. Bokashi bins typically come in twin backs, so you can add to one bin while the other is fermenting.
9 of the best garden compost bins
Lacewing Large Wooden Composter
This 1,000L-capacity composter is a great choice for people with large gardens and outdoor space, who find themselves producing large volumes of garden waste that can be turned into soil. It’s made of pressure-treated pinewood, that has been guaranteed by the manufacturer to last for 15 years against wood rot. But the key to this compost bin is the removable slats, meaning you can adapt it to suit the size of your compost area, and make adding and removing from it so much more convenient. It’s also available in 373L, 605L and 893L sizes.
Large Wooden Composter
Symple Stuff Compost Bin
This mesh compost bin is made of powder-coated steel and is both rust and corrosion-resistant. Those mesh walls allow for plenty of oxygen to enter the compost, although it will retain a lot less heat than the plastic and wooden options on this list. Each of the bin’s sides can be simply removed by unwinding the coiled wire on each of the four sides. A simple, straightforward choice – and one that’s idea for composting with leaf mould.
£22.99, Symple Stuff
Bacsac Compost Bin
Not strictly a bin, but we’re including Bacsac’s range of compost bags on our list as they’re aimed at people with limited space such as a balcony. The geotextile cloth is breathable, meaning it will keep the compost well-contained, but will still allow oxygen inside to assist the decomposition process. We’ve featured the small 20L option here, but it’s also available in 40L and 80L sizes.
Sol 72 Outdoor Krikoris Garden Thermo Compost Bin
Basic plastic composters keep their contents unventilated, meaning they have to be opened and the compost turned over to properly aerate. It can also be a real pain removing the compost when it’s ready. The Krikoris bin, however, comes with a range of user-friendly features: its sides are ventilated, and there are latched lids on both the top and one side. You can also set it up on four little legs, so liquid can drain from below. If convenience is a priority for you in your garden, give this one real thought.
Krikoris Garden Thermo Compost Bin
£49.99, Sol 72 Outdoor
Wiggly Wigglers Urbalive Worm Composter
Another smart solution to composting in smaller spaces is to invest in a wormery, like this 20L kit from Wiggly Wigglers. The idea might sound a little off-putting, but there’s a reason that the waste worms produce is known as ‘black gold’. This kit contains a stone composter along a bedding block, some lime mix, a moisture mat and, of course, 500g of composting worms. A guide is also included, and the brand has a YouTube channel to help teach you in the ways of worm composting.
£139.95, Wiggly Wigglers
Sol 72 Outdoor Roesler Compost Bin
Another wooden composter, this one with a pitched roof that will keep the elements out of your compost. Unlike the Lacewing, this one only has a single removable slats at its base. It’s also pressure-treated to stand the test of time, although the makers do recommend that the bin is sprayed with water in the hottest months, in order to avoid small cracks as the wood regains its moisture later on.
£104.99, Sol 72 Outdoor
Meridian Compost Tumblers
A compost tumbler is a good way of addressing two issues – one, if you’re less physically able to turn your compost, and two, if you have a rat problem in your garden. These scurrying little pests do often like to break into composts, so a way to avoid this issue is by keeping your compost up on stilts in a tumbler, and turning it periodically. This one from Sol 72 Outdoor is made of ventilated plastic, and has two separate compartments.
£92.99, Sol 72 Outdoor
Geobin Compost Bin
If composting is a fundamentally eco-friendly activity, then here’s the eco-friendly bin to do it in. The Geobin is essentially a rolled sheet of perforated plastic that’s 50 per cent recycled: you can unroll it to the diameter of your choice, and then fasten it together with the included closure keys. The simplicity of the materials and the setup makes it a particularly affordable choice, too.
£40.14, Sol 72 Outdoor
Wiggly Wigglers Organko 2.0 Bokashi Compost Bin
This twin-pack bokashi bin – also from Wiggly Wigglers – caught our eye on style and appearance alone. These will look just at home on your kitchen counter as in your garden. Each of the bins in the Organko 2.0 kit has an inner container that’s easily removable for you to take to your garden. The taps at the base of each – a bokashi standard – are there to drain off the liquid that’s produced in the fermentation. Also contained in the kit is two 1kg of bokashi active bran, which kickstarts the fermentation process, and an instruction guide.
Organko 2.0 Bokashi Compost Bin
£174, Wiggly Wigglers
Composting accessories for the garden
Keen to get into composting properly equipped? Here’s our list of a few extra composting necessities.
Garden Trading Compost Bucket
If taking daily walks with your kitchen waste to your compost bin sounds a bit tedious, you’ll want some kind of temporary storage for those scraps. This steel compost bucket can store 10L of kitchen waste, but also be easily tucked away in a cupboard or a shelf. Helpfully, it also has the word ‘COMPOST’ written on it, just in case someone goes in search of a biscuit and gets a nasty surprise. A smaller 3.5L option is also available.
£35, Garden Trading
Microbz Compost Activator Solution
If you want to lend your compost a helping hand, take a look at this activating solution from Microbz. A blend of lactic acid, hydrocarbon-processing bacteria, molasses and water, this will assist those microorganisms in breaking down your compost and speeding up the decay process.
Compost Activator Solution
£6.95 (1L) / £14.95 (5l), Microbz
Harrod Horticultural Long Handled Leaf Grabs
If you plan on adding fallen leaves to your compost, or even simply focusing on creating leaf mould compost you can make the job of collecting them much easier with this set of leaf grabs. Designed in two large, spade-like scoops connected like the blades of a scissor, these grabs will make a quick job of collecting leaves, twigs, and other garden waste and transferring them to your composter.
Long Handled Leaf Grabs
£24.95, Harrod Horticultural
Thick Canvas Waxed Apron
If there’s one thing you don’t want seeping into your clothes, it’s pungent, months-old compost. Stay clean and protected in your garden with this thick, durable waxed apron from Alaskan Maker. It’s available in both navy and olive colours.
Thick Canvas Waxed Apron
£79, Alaskan Maker
ETI Compost Thermometer
Heat is a vital part of effective composting, since it kills off things like unwanted bacteria and weed seeds. If you have a vented composter, you can monitor its progress by popping one of these thermometers inside to see if the temperature is rising.
ETI Composter Thermometer
Burgon & Ball Compost Soil Scoop
You’ll want a spade or fork for larger composts – but if you garden on a small scale, this scoil scoop will be perfect for both adding and turning compost. The scoop is made of powder-coated steel, and has a 10-year guarantee.
Compost Soil Scoop
£14.95, Burgon & Ball