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 method for enriching your garden soil and therefore helping to grow healthy 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. The key is to find the best compost bin for your outdoor area - even if space is at a premium, 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 you might need. We also have a guide on the best types of compost to buy. First, though, read on for our guide to help you pick the right compost bin for your outdoor space.
How to choose the best compost bin for your 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 organically in an unenclosed space too – but a compost bin creates the perfect conditions for microorganisms to break down discarded material and turn it into nutrient-rich soil. The compost will emerge over the months, or even up to a year, and you can then add it to your beds as a fertiliser.
This process is aerobic, 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 our society grows increasingly 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
Unsurprisingly, they come in a range of sizes and types. You’ll find the best compost bins in each category down below, but here's a quick round-up of the main varieties:
Wooden compost bins
Wooden compost bins are generally made of slats, which allow air in through their sides - handy for assisting the composting process. Some come with a roof that keeps 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 growing 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 one of the best compost bin options 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 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.
For more on fermentation and feeds, read our piece on everything you need to know about foliar sprays.
Why should I use a compost bin?
There are plenty of benefits when it comes to composting, for both your personal garden and the environment.
Breaking down your own waste not only limits the amount that's thrown away, helping to manage your carbon footprint, it can also be recycled back into your green space, enriching the soil and helping your plants thrive.
15 of the best garden compost bins
200L Aerobin Hot Composter
The innovative Aerobin was invented in Australia to accelerate the composting process in a natural way. It has a special core, which circulates air to support the microorganisms feeding on the waste. Thanks to the clever design, it’s one of the best compost bins for fast decomposition; you should be able to see compost forming in just 8-12 weeks of using it.
At 117.5cm tall and 51cm across, this bin can hold a lot of material. And, as it comes in an attractive ‘Brunswick Green’ colour, it should fit in nicely among trees and foliage in your garden.
Blackdown Beehive Wooden Composter - 6 Tier
Compost bins can be fairly unsightly at times, but this clever option from Blackdown hides its function by masquerading as a beehive. It’s constructed with attractive British redwood timber, and each plank is 22mm thick. It's also been pressure treated for a 15-year guarantee to give it that added longevity.
The roof attaches to the body of the bin with hinges and a sash cord, so, after opening it, you can keep your hands free to tip in your waste. Plus, there’s a handy door at the base to access your compost.
315L CompoSphere Rollable Tumbler Composter
Here’s a product you may not have seen before. The CompoSphere Rollable Tumbler has a circular shape so you can quickly churn up the waste inside. It’s also one of the best compost bins for easy transportation, as you can push it around the garden rather than keep it in one spot.
With a capacity of 315L, this compost bin can hold a large amount of household and garden waste. And it’s made from recycled, UV-protected plastic, so it should stand the test of time.
Lacewing Hazel compost bin - 900 Litres
If you’re after an understated compost bin to blend into your garden, why not opt for this attractive woven one, made from hazel? When set up, it measures 90cm across and 1m tall, so it should hold up to 900L of material.
While it doesn’t have the aeration technology of some other compost bins, air can get in through the gaps in the hazel weave, supporting the decomposition of waste stored inside.
Green Cone Waste Digester
The Green Cone is a twist on the standard compost bin. With its sleek design, which widens towards the base, it’s a more modern option for anyone who wants to create a minimal, uncluttered look in their outdoor space.
The bin is made up of a basket installed below ground level, as well as a green outer shell and black inner cone on top. It also comes with a kitchen food waste caddy and a sachet of composting ‘accelerator powder’.
Lacewing Easy-Load Slotted Compost Bin
This 1,000L-capacity unit is one of the best compost bins for people with big gardens who find themselves producing large volumes of waste. 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, which helps you adapt it to suit the size of your compost area, and make adding and removing from it much more convenient. It’s also available in 373L, 605L and 893L sizes.
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 ideal for composting with leaf mould.
Bacsac Compost bag
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.
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.
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.
Roesler 328L Compost Bin
Another wooden unit; this one with a pitched roof will keep the elements out of your compost.
Unlike the Lacewing, it only has a single removable slat at its base. It’s also pressure-treated to stand the test of time, although the makers do recommend you spray the compost bin with water in the hottest months, in order to avoid small cracks as the wood regains its moisture later on.
Meridian Compost Tumbler
A tumbler is one of the best compost bin designs out there as it helps you physically churn your compost and protects it against rodents. Scurrying little pests do often like to break into compost bins, so a way to avoid this issue is by keeping your compost up on stilts in a tumbler, and turning it periodically.
This option from Sol 72 Outdoor is made of ventilated plastic, and has two separate compartments.
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.
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.
Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 Composter
If you love a gadget, you might find yourself drawn to this electronic food composter. Rather than take up space in your garden, it sits on any worktop, table or cabinet and processes scraps in record time. Just hours after filling, you’ll get useful soil fertiliser to spread on your garden.
In fact, you can empty and refill the FoodCycler multiple times in a single day - and chuck the 2L inner bucket in the dishwasher when you’re done.
This little gadget can even compost tough materials like chicken bones. Just remember to use the handy carbon filters to remove any unwanted smells.
Composting accessories for the garden
Thinking about the other composting necessities? Here’s our list of the best compost bin equipment for your home and garden.
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.
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.
Harrod Horticulture 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.
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.
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.
Burgon & Ball Compost Soil Scoop
You’ll want a spade or fork for larger composts - but if you garden on a small scale, this soil scoop will be perfect for both adding and turning compost. The scoop is made of powder-coated steel and has a 10-year guarantee.
You can also read out pick of the best compost for potting that you can buy in 2022.
Matt Breen is a digital writer for the tech section of RadioTimes.com. He writes buying guides, product reviews, how-to, explainers and news stories about everything from flagship smartwatches to bendable televisions (no, really). He keeps a beady eye on all the latest news in the consumer tech world. Matt has also written for Expert Reviews, BikeRadar, Coach, Gardens Illustrated, Gathered.how and The Week. When he's not obsessing over the latest tech products, you might just find him painting and drawing - anything to limit his screen time.
Summer sale! 3 issues for £5
Try 3 issues of Gardens Illustrated today for just £5.
Subscribe today and enjoy beautiful places, top planting ideas and expert advice for your garden.
*Offer ends 1st September 2022. This offer is only available to UK residents paying by Direct Debit.
Container Gardening Special Edition
The Gardens Illustrated Guide to Container Gardening.
In this special edition, discover colourful flower combinations and seasonal planting schemes for pots designed by leading plantspeople, and essential know-how for container gardening success.
Just £9.99 inc UK p&p