What is a Composter?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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A composter is a container used for composting. Composters come in a range of shapes, sizes, and styles, depending on the environment they are being used in, and many hardware and home supply stores sell composters. Building a composter is a relatively easy thing to do, for people who prefer to make their own. In some areas, it is also possible to get a composter through a city or county garbage agency, if the regional government is trying to encourage composting.

The smallest composters are designed to fit on a counter or in a kitchen for urban use. Larger composters are meant to be installed in the garden, and they have much more total volume for composting. It is also possible to find compost bins which cannot be used for composting, but can be used to store compostable items until someone has time to take them to the larger composter.

In order to be effective, a composter has to provide drainage and air circulation, to promote the breakdown of the food scraps inside. Many people amend their compost with paper scraps, coffee grounds, straw, and other materials to ensure that it is properly aerated. Some people also speed the process along with the use of worms, in a practice known as vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is especially useful in the city, where people have a limited space for composting and generally want to cut down on odor as much as possible.


Because compost needs to be periodically turned, many composters have a design which promotes easy access to the compost. Some are designed in the form of spinning drums, allowing people to simply periodically spin the composter to mix up the compost. In other cases, people must take the lid off the composter and move the compost with a shovel or pitchfork to aerate it and distribute the compost evenly. Opening the composter up also allows people to check on the health of the compost, and to see how much of the compost has fully broken down into usable material.

If you want to build a composter, you need to think of a design which will allow plenty of aeration and drainage, along with easy access. The simplest design is a basic box built from sturdy wire and a frame to reinforce it, or slatted wood, ideally with two compartments for fresh and mature compost. For a design which will be easier to manage, make a reinforced cylinder of wire and wood which can be spun. As the compost matures, the composted material will trickle out of the wire and collect below, allowing you easy access to compost for the garden.


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