This article is about helpful composting tools that go beyond the basics.
One of the best things about composting is how little money you have to invest to get lots of rich, nutrient-dense food for your garden and yard. You really only need space to dump a pile, some water, and something to turn the pile with.
There are few things in life that return such a high ROI.
Most of us who compost choose to make the process a little easier and faster with a few additional yet still basic tools: spade, compost fork, compost bin, and wheelbarrow or bucket.
With these tools, anyone can make great compost from food and yard waste.
For those of us who really want to up our game, there’s no shortage of other tools that will undoubtedly save you time and space while also speeding the rate of your compost pile…and they’re also kinda fun to use.
6 handy and interesting composting tools
Living Composter (Worm Composter/Vermicomposter)
A living composter aka worm composter or vermicomposter (“vermi” means worm) is a perfect tool for the household that wants to recycle food waste but doesn’t need a ton of compost.
If you’re looking for a fantastic apartment composting method, vermicompost is for you.
Instead of the microorganisms that we rely on in traditional composting, worm composters use red wriggler or nightcrawlers to break down organic material.
The result is a faster pile and honestly, just a cool project since you’re essentially building a city for worms. It’s the perfect introduction to composting for kids!
A vermicompost bin will produce both more worms and more compost so it’s also a quickly scalable operation.
When correctly maintained (which means getting the right worms and only feeding them weekly), a worm composting bin should be virtually odor-free and clean on the outside. I really like fabric bins because you get continuous air flow throughout which cuts down on the smell, speeds your pile, and keeps your worms extra happy. We keep ours inside. (Critters would definitely chew through if kept outside.)
For a larger option with a tea spigot, I use this model outside. I’ve also used this less expensive It’s more of the traditional multiple-tray design and it works well. I’m a fan because they recycle the plastic from bins that don’t make the selling floor back into their production line. Gotta love that!
If you need something MEGA size, this 4-tray option that expands to 8 (!) is a great outdoor option as well.
PRO TIP: You want red wigglers from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm! I get all my productive and happy worms from him AND their packaging is fun which is a bonus when you’ve got kids waiting for more “wigglies.”
Many people keep their worm bins in their kitchens, but if you plan to make compost tea from finished compost, you may want to consider a basement or hard-wood closet storage. This model is one of the most compact that I’ve seen AND it has a tea spigot. Win!
Last, but definitely not lease, this worm bin is designed precisely for raised beds! Simply “plant” the Worm Feast into your raised bed, add food scraps at top and the worms have indoor/outdoor access through holes at the bottom. Your worms deposit castings directly into your bed AND they aerate your beds. One my favorite compost tools right now! And they’re under $60!
If you have a large or extra-large compost pile(s), you can significantly improve the speed and efficiency of decomposition with a motorized compost grinder.
Many of us take great care to chop our food scraps and yard waste into smaller pieces to help our friendly microbes break them down. But if you’re composting for a large property or even running a small commercial operation, hand cutting banana peels and breaking down individual sticks isn’t the most efficient use of your time.
Compost grinders allow you to quickly reduce the size of the material that goes into your compost pile.
These gas or electric powered machines mince large pieces of material like full fruits, vegetables and large piles of leaves into small chunks that can be easily consumed by the microbes in your compost.
A finer material base will also make your compost pile easier to turn.
Compost grinders (electric leaf shredders and small wood chippers will also produce similar results) are relatively expensive so they may not make sense for the average backyard composter.
But if you have the budget, they will significantly speed up your compost and save you time in the long run.
If your compost bin is small or it’s stored in a tight spot in your yard, a compost aerator is well worth the small investment.
We all know that turning your compost every couple of weeks is necessary if you want healthy, hard-working microbes. Turning compost allows for moisture transfer through the pile, and introduces fresh air and additional oxygen into the compost for your microbes to breathe.
Many of us turn our pile with shovels, spades and/or compost forks. But when your space is small, these traditional tools can be daunting.
Compost aerators are a perfect solution for working in a small space. These handy tools allow you to turn your compost with a gentle twist, instead of digging and turning, which can be hard on your back, and cumbersome if your bin or space is small.
An aerator is a low-tech, inexpensive, and valuable tool for many backyard composters.
You probably already know about compost tumblers but they’re worth mentioning here because they’re the most natural next step when you’re considering a composting upgrade.
Composting bins are great, and they’re necessary equipment for most of us. But it does require some physical labor to turn your compost by hand every few weeks, especially if you have a large bin.
Compost tumblers use simple gear and lever engineering to allow you to turn your compost without the need for shovels or compost forks.
Tumblers store your compost at an elevation. Simply add your browns and greens to the round bin outfitted with a crank handle and gears, and then turn the crank a few times. Done!
The great thing about compost tumblers is that they come in a variety of sizes and with a variety of features. Some are just the right size for a small backyard pile. Some are quite a bit larger and can support commercial operations. Most of them even come insulated and with thermometers to make sure that your microbes stay warm and happy.
Some tumblers also have screened side sections to promote air flow through your pile and to help maintain the right moisture level.
When it comes time to spread finished compost, most tumblers have large enough doors that you don’t need to shovel compost into your wheelbarrow or garden cart. Just tip the tumbler forward and allow beautiful compost to pour into your cart.
Dumping Garden Cart
Nothing says “I love gardening” like a wheelbarrow. They’re a staple of every garden shed. But like composting bins, they can be a lot of work.
Some of us love the full-body workout that comes from lifting and pushing a wheelbarrow all day, but if you want a more-relaxing, easier alternative to transport, try a dumping garden cart.
These handy, four-wheel carts, allow you to easily transport soil, compost and other garden materials in a more stable and ergonomic way. While basic garden carts still require that you shovel or use a fork to remove materials. A dumping garden cart takes all of this extra work and makes it a breeze.
Dumping garden carts work like a dump truck.
Simply depress a handle and the bucket swings up, allowing easy and quick dispersal of compost into your garden. From there, use a rake, composting fork or shovel to even out the spread.
If you’ve got a lot of space that needs covered, a compost spreader will change your life. These gas-powered tools make quick work of spreading compost around your property.
For many of us with small yards, we can spread compost easily using a hand-powered fertilizer or seed spreader. But if your yard or garden is large, you’re going to want something that takes less time and has a bit more power.
Compost spreaders work much like a lawn mower. Simply fill the bin with clean compost that is free of large chunks, start the engine, and push through your yard.
Many newer versions of this tool can also grind your compost, so you don’t even have to sift out large chunks before loading!
Some spreaders also have a self-propel feature which is helpful if your yard is hilly or has steep spots to navigate.
Composting can be a lot of hard work. The 6 tools that we’ve explored here will speed up your pile, lessen the manual labor, and save you time in the long run.