The big day has arrived… I can see the big smile on your face as you proudly take possession of that new compost bin. Your backyard is hardly complete without some kind of compost pile. But one of the first big questions gardeners ask is “where to put their compost bin”. You might think this is a fairly straightforward question, but as I found out, the location of your bin will actually make a big difference to the composting process.
So where should you place a compost bin? Traditionally compost bins are tucked away in a spare corner of the garden. Your compost bin should be easily accessible, but not in a place where occasional smells or leaching liquids will cause a nuisance. Place it on level, well-drained ground and make sure the location gets some sunlight. If the compost gets too cold this will slow down the composting process.
A well chosen site can make all the difference. You want the ideal location to suit your own particular needs. But at the same time you need to help your compost bin work efficiently. It’s no fun when you set up a compost bin, only to find that you have problems later.
So to help you choose the best location for your compost bin, here are a few considerations to keep in mind…
Where to Place a Compost Bin
What will be the distance between the kitchen door and your compost pile? Imagine it’s raining outside, and that heap of kitchen scraps is growing bigger. Will you be sufficiently motivated to put on your boots and take a trip to your compost pile? Ok… you say. I’ll set it up just outside the kitchen. But what happens if your compost becomes unbalanced and it starts to smell? You can fix this for sure, but having a smelly compost pile near your house isn’t ideal.
These are just a couple of the things you need to consider when you set up a compost bin. It took me a while to figure out the best location. Have no fear… The following tips will help you get your compost bin well established right from the beginning. .
A Location that’s not Too Cold
A cold location can slow down the composting process. A site that gets some sunlight might be a good choice. The rays of the sun will help heat up the pile, and warmer piles will produce quicker compost. This is especially important if you live in a cool climate.
Keep in mind that if you get the mixture of composting material right, it will generate heat during the decomposition process. And by the way, this is the reason a lot of compost bins are black or dark in color because it helps absorb the warmth of the sun.
Warm but Not Too Hot
A hot corner of your garden will undoubtedly produce compost quickly, but if it’s too hot the compost will dry out. Composting requires a well balanced level of moisture to work properly. Avoid areas with intense sunlight. The composting process works better when the pile remains moist, so avoid any spots which risk overheating the bin.
If you can find a spot that gets some shade in your backyard this will prevent you from having to constantly water your compost heap!
Avoid Windy Sites
In a similar way to very sunny locations, if you put the bin somewhere windy, it will dry out. You want the pile to remain humid. If you can, pick a spot which has natural or man-made windbreakers.
Don’t Place the Compost Bin Under a Tree
You might be tempted to put the bin under a tree. Maybe that’s a good way to keep it cool in a warm climate? But think again! Trees have hungry root systems seeking out nutrients and water. If you put your bin too close to a tree or big shrub, the roots will end up growing into the base of your compost heap. And that’s a mess you don’t want to deal with (it seems that very big trees with deeper roots aren’t so much of a problem).
An Easily Accessible Location
It’s a good idea to site your bin not too far from the house so that composting kitchen waste is easy. A big distance means you might be reluctant to make the trip to your compost heap! And if it’s too far you will probably stop tending to your compost. Also, try to leave some room to access the compost bin with a wheelbarrow, which is probably the handiest way to move garden waste around.
Somewhere with Working Space
Just like leaving access for a wheelbarrow, you also need some space to work in front of your bin. For best results, compost needs regular mixing. If you have a compost tumbler then this isn’t a problem. But with an open compost bin it can be useful to have some space in front so you can easily remove the compost and turn it, or for emptying the bin when compost is finished.
Put it Near your Plants
Compost is fairly dense and heavy. Ideally, when you’re ready to use your compost you don’t want to have to carry the stuff long distances. If your compost bin is sited near to where you tend your plants, this could be an advantage.
Don’t put it Against the House
Sometimes things get out of balance and you end up with smelly compost. You can fix this problem by adjusting various parameters, but certain smells can last a while. And you probably don’t want odors wafting through your kitchen window!
Occasionally compost can attract unwanted visitors! For example, flies are attracted by decomposing kitchen waste. There are all kinds of bugs that visit a compost pile. If you don’t want them visiting your house then keep the bin at least 10 feet from your home.
To avoid going to my compost bin every time I cook, I keep a small compost caddy in my kitchen. Any reasonable sized container is fine. For example this one on Amazon is ideal because it seals in odors and can be washed easily in the dishwasher.
Choose a Level, Well-Drained Site
You obviously need a reasonably level surface to site your bin, but the ground surface should also be well-drained, especially if you’re using an open bottomed bin. Even though you want your compost to stay moist, too much water is equally bad. If the compost sits too long in stagnant water you’ll end up with a smelly mess.
Sit your bin directly on soil so any liquid produced during the composting process drains away (this liquid is known as leachate). Setting the bin on paving or a hard surface is not the best solution.
When choosing the location for your compost bin, look for puddles after a rainstorm. Any sites that have sitting water for too long should be avoided.
Leave Room for Growth
You may start out with one compost bin in your backyard, but some keen gardeners set up multiple bins. Additional bins can be reserved for a specific kind of waste. Alternatively a “three bin” composting system is a good way to manage large amounts of waste material, and get compost at various stages of readiness.
Leave some room for expansion if you can.
Place it close to a Water Source
As mentioned earlier, effective compost needs to be moist. Moisture levels will vary depending on what you put on the pile and seasonal changes in temperature and humidity. If your compost dries out you need a handy source of water. A hose pipe near the compost bin is the ideal solution. If that’s not possible, at least make sure the hose reaches your bin!
A word of warning if you think of putting your bin near a natural water source such as a stream or a well. Composting creates some nitrogen run-off. It’s best to avoid any potential contamination of natural water systems.
On High Ground or Low ground?
Different gardeners have different preferences, but if you have a choice, this is worth considering. Placing your compost bin on high ground has certain advantages. Mature compost weighs heavier than the light raw materials you put on the pile. So the higher ground makes it easier to cart away barrowfuls of the finished product.
On the other hand, you’re likely to make many more loaded trips to deposit things in the bin compared to when you collect your compost. Some gardeners argue that having the bin on lower ground makes work easier since you don’t have to haul garden waste uphill.
Personally I like the high ground option, which also helps with drainage. Over time I found that a good wheelbarrow is the composter’s best friend! I prefer two-wheeled barrows because they give you much better stability – this one is great value and will save you a lot of heavy lifting !
Away from a Neighbor’s Fence
At times, compost can create some unpleasant odors. And it can attract a lot of garden life or create some unpleasant run-off. Is your compost site too close to a neighbors fence? For the sake of good relations, you might want to keep this in mind.
Think your compost bin looks ugly? If you don’t want to see it when your in your backyard there are plenty of methods for hiding the offending object. A privacy screen will do a good job, or if you place the bin behind some vegetation… Poof! No more compost bin!
Best Place for a Compost Bin
You’re back in your kitchen in a comfy pair of slippers. Your bin is full of kitchen waste and you’ve just finished peeling some vegetables. Time for a trip to the compost bin… But that’s OK, isn’t it? Because you’ve located your bin in the ideal spot !
Wherever you locate your bin, above all try to choose a convenient place so that everyday composting is easy and simple. If it isn’t, you’ll neglet it, and you won’t be able to turn waste from you kitchen and garden into such a valuable product for the health of your garden plants.
More tips on how to use a compost bin here…