Where to Put Your Compost Bin?

Compost bin made of recycled plastic.

By Larry Hodgson

There is no particular season for installing a compost bin: you can do it in spring, summer or fall, even winter in areas where there is no snow. But there are preferences as to where to place it. Here are a few:

It is better to install your compost bin…

  • In an easily accessible place, but not too visible. Compost may be valuable, but it’s rarely beautiful!
  • On a flat surface in a well-drained area.
  • On soil, if possible, to allow easy access to microbes, earthworms and other detritivores and so that any leachate (“compost juice”) can drain out freely. 
  • At least 3 feet (1 m) from any openable window. Now, normally, compost doesn’t smell and if it does, that’s easy enough to correct by better balancing the brown and green matters (read Home Composting: The Right Ingredients for more information on that subject). But do you want to really endure bad smells while you balance the compost?
  • Preferably more or less in the sun, as the sun’s rays will help warm the compost, stimulating faster decomposition.
  • But not in intense sun, easily in hot, arid climates, because the compost may then dry out too quickly and require additional watering.
  • Far from any enterprising tree roots that can invade the compost and “steal” its minerals.

And especially:

  • At a certain distance from the edge of the property to avoid any complaints from neighbors*.

*I made the mistake once of placing one of my compost bins right up against the property fence and my neighbor bitterly complained about the foul odor emanating from it. The problem was, there was no compost in it yet! The last thing a laidback gardener wants to do is to start a turf war with a neighbor, so I simply moved the bin. 

Good composting!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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