Whether you decide to make your own compost bin or buy one already made, you may wonder what they look like. So, let’s talk about the different aspects of a successful compost bin, including whether or not they have a base, to help you become more familiar with how they look and maybe even help you create your own.
Compost bins do have a base on them. A base on a compost bin helps to ensure that they can drain properly. The base allows any excess water to drain while not preventing necessary organisms from entering the pile.
The rest of this article will talk more about the overall construction of a compost bin and how it helps the composting process.
What Does a Compost Bin Consist Of?
A compost bin consists of a base, aeration holes, and a body to hold the materials inside. Some bins have more intricate features, but these are the main features necessary for a compost bin.
There are many different types of compost bins to choose from. What you will need depends on the materials you’ll compost, how much you want to compost, and the available space. So, let’s get into the features that you need to have a successful compost bin.
Every good compost bin needs a base. This is what separates your pile from whatever the bin is sitting on and allows it to drain water properly. If you want to learn more about the risks of not allowing your compost bin to drain, check out my article “Does a Compost Bin Need Drainage.” This article talks about the importance of maintaining proper water levels.
Catching the drainage of your compost pile is also vital for those who put their pile on hard surfaces. Maybe you don’t have the available soil to allow your bin to sit on grass or dirt. In that case, the bin’s base allows water to drip into a basin rather than just onto the ground. This is especially important for those who need to keep their bin indoors.
Keeping the water under control isn’t the only thing that the base is good for. A good base will also allow organisms to enter the compost bin from the ground, giving your pile more important organisms to speed up the composting process. So, ensure that your base allows room for these organisms to enter.
The compost bin’s base can also ensure enough oxygen gets into the bin regularly. Holes on the top or the sides of the bin are important, but holes on the bottom effectively distribute oxygen through the pile. Without it, you’ll need to mix the compost quite often to ensure oxygen reaches all materials.
Aeration holes are another important aspect of a compost bin. Without these holes, your pile probably won’t get enough oxygen to thrive and decompose at a normal rate. Oxygen is vital for the aerobic composting process. Without it, you’ll begin the anaerobic process for composting, which takes longer and tends to smell much worse.
Adding aeration holes gives the microorganisms vital oxygen they need to survive and keep the decomposition process going. Without it or with too little oxygen, they’ll slow down and eventually die, leaving the anaerobic or oxygenless process to take over.
While some composters use the anaerobic composting method, it has quite a few downsides. For example, anaerobic composting takes a lot longer. It also creates a foul smell as the materials begin to putrefy. Additionally, the anaerobic process can create harmful soil for certain plants. So, be careful when determining which process best suits your needs.
If you choose the aerobic process, which is more common, then you’ll need to ensure that your compost pile has plenty of air holes to keep oxygen regularly flowing through it. If you don’t have enough aeration holes, you’ll need to consistently mix the pile and make sure oxygen is being spread through the pile manually.
The body of the composting bin is the most obvious part that’s necessary, but it can pose an issue if you don’t consider it before deciding on a bin. First, you must figure out the size you’ll need based on the number of materials you have. Remember, adding more composting material after the process has begun slows down decomposition. So, you want the right size bin.
Once you have the size of the bin selected, you need to focus on the material that makes up the bin. Each material has its own benefits and disadvantages. So, let’s break them down:
First, there’s the ceramic option. Manufacturers typically design ceramic bins to resist odors and foul smells that can come with composting. This is especially important for beginners as you may not expect the foul odors that can come with composting.
Too much water or too little oxygen can cause your compost pile to putrefy and smell terrible. So, having a ceramic container that doesn’t absorb those smells may be best for those just getting started and more prone to errors.
Next, let’s talk about plastic composting bins. Plastic is lightweight and durable, which is especially important for those who may need to move their compost pile every now and then. The durability of plastic composting bins means that you’ll be able to mix the materials properly without worrying about damaging the container.
One major downside to plastic is that, over time, it can begin to hold smells. So, messing up your compost pile and causing it to putrefy can ruin your plastic composting bin. Unfortunately, doing this can send you right back to the merchant to purchase another one. So, consider plastic for its durability and ease of use, but remember it can catch and trap odors.
Stainless Steel Bins
This is probably the best all-around option for composting, though each person has their own favorite material. Stainless steel won’t absorb odors like plastic bins will and ceramic bins can. This material is heavily resistant to smells. So, you don’t have to worry about wasting your composting bin with a bad batch.
Stainless steel is also easy to wash between composting. Overall, the only downside to stainless steel composting bins is that they can be heavier than plastic and ceramic. Therefore, they’re not easy to move if you need to change their location. Stainless steel is the best material for smaller composting bins, as they would be easier to move than a large stainless steel bin.
Can You Create a Compost Bin Without a Base?
You can create a compost bin without a base, but you need to be careful where you store it and how you mix it. Overall the base of a compost bin makes the process a lot easier, but you can work around these issues for the most part without a base.
One of the most important jobs of a compost bin base is to allow water to drain from it. You need to ensure the water has somewhere to go without a base. For example, a compost bin without a base should not sit on concrete or other hard surfaces as this will trap excess water inside of it; therefore, not allowing the water to drain.
If your compost bin sits on dirt or grass and doesn’t have a base, this allows water to drain into the ground and not be caught in the bin and cause flooding issues. Keeping your bin without a base on soil can also allow plenty of living organisms to find their way into the bin without much trouble. So, there are some benefits to allowing your pile to sit on the soil.
Another important aspect of having a working base is that it allows for easy mixing of materials. Mixing is an important part of the composting process, and without it, oxygen and water may not be able to spread properly. Your compost pile may also decompose at different rates if you don’t properly mix the pile.
Mixing can be a challenge if the pile is without a base. This can cause the pile to get out of hand quickly, or it can also mean that you can’t move every part of the pile. So, be careful when mixing a compost pile if there’s no base, and consider a compost bin with a base for easier and more thorough mixing.
Compost bins come with a base that can make drainage easier and allow you to mix the pile more thoroughly. Without a base, your compost pile may become too difficult to manage. So, keep this in mind if you decide to create your own compost bin. Draining excess water is vital in the composting process, and it’s easier with a base established.
To learn more on what compost bins should sit on, you could check out this article: Should You Put Your Compost Bin on a Slab?