May 012010
To compost effectively, it's wise to invest in a few basic compost tools.

Among the basic composting equipment requirements, you will need a shovel and a wheelbarrow or cart so that you can spread your compost on your lawn or garden.

There are lots of tools that can make composting easier or more fun, but to get started, these are the minimum requirements based on whether you want to create cold, throw-as-you-go compost piles or hot batch compost piles.

Minimum Equipment Required for COLD Compost Piles

  • Bucket or container, rake for gathering yard wastes
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow or Cart

For cold compost piles, the only equipment you absolutely need to have is a rake to gather leaves into a pile, or a bucket, wheelbarrow, or other container to bring garden and lawn wastes to the pile.  A cold pile takes the minimum amount of work because all you have to do is bring yard wastes to the pile, then wait for it to decompose.

In about 2 years, more or less, the material at the bottom of the pile, i.e., the yard waste that has been there for 2 years, should be compost.  At that point, you will need a shovel and a wheelbarrow or cart so that you can spread your compost on your lawn or garden.

Minimum Equipment Required for HOT Compost Piles

  • Bucket or container, rake for gathering yard wastes
  • Bin or tumbler
  • Garden hose of sufficient length
  • Garden fork (4-pronged)
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow or Cart

For hot, batch compost piles, you will need the tools described above plus equipment that allows you to achieve proper levels of air, water, and mass for your compost pile.

The minimum recommended mass for a hot batch compost pile is 3’ x 3’ x 3’, or 27 cubic yards of material.  If your circumstances enable you to regularly collect batches of at least 4 to 5 times that amount of organic wastes, you may just want to create a huge pile or winrow and turn it with a front loader or other machinery; you don’t need a bin.

For most urban and suburban dwellers, 27 cubic feet is a lot of organic waste to gather at one time.  Having a bin allows you to maintain a cubic or  cylinder shape to the pile which provides adequate mass, rather than an inverted cone-shape which may become dispersed over too wide an area to provide minimum mass requirements.

Compost Bin

If you want to keep your compost ingredients in the pile, and kids and animals out, a compost bin like this Estate Bin Classic is highly recommended.

A Compost Bins on CompostMania is not absolutely required, but I strongly recommend using one.

A child doesn’t have a to have a toy box, but if they don’t have one the toys are going to be everywhere all the time.  A compost bin is helpful for the same reason.  If you just pile organic wastes and leave them, the kids will run through it, the dogs will dig in it, the wind will blow some across the yard, and heavy rains will wash some away.  Pretty soon, your compost is unrecognizable as a pile.  A bin contains the wastes.

To achieve high temperatures, a hot pile also requires moisture.  For this, you will need a garden hose that easily reaches from the compost pile to the nearest spigot.  Do not plan on using a bucket.  The volume of water you will need to create and turn a pile cannot be easily transported with a bucket.  To achieve an optimum level of moisture, you will need running water.

Air is the final requirement, which means that you must have a way to turn the pile.  A shovel is adequate for this purpose, but I find that a 4-pronged garden fork is the best tool.  Most of the turning will be within 4 weeks of  pile construction.  The wastes are more like “yard waste” than they are like “compost” at this stage.  A garden fork can easily be used to lift leaves, grass clippings and other wastes, and shake out the clumps that have formed.  It can be used to separate materials that have matted together.  A shovel will be required as the pile becomes “compost.”

Once you have these tools, you are prepared to start building your hot batch pile.

Mary Tynes, Master Composter,

Image Credit (top left):

Image (bottom right): Compost Bin

  6 Responses to “Minimum Composting Equipment Requirements”

  1. great post as usual!

  2. this post is very usefull thx!

  3. My bin is chicken wire,that I found in the “Free” section on Craigslist and I stapled it where the side fence and the back fence come together,it’s 10′ long x 5′ wide x 5′ high.,I crusie the ‘hood on trash day for leaves and grass clippings,and my tools are a hay rake,6 prongs,makes the pile easier to turn.I have an old wagon that I use to pull my kids around in and to spread it,I’ve found it easier to use my fertilizer spreader than a wagon. The only thing that really cost me was the hay rake-$12@ Lowes.

  4. […] tempting to get outside, clean up and have your yard waste carted away.  Compost veterans say the yard is actually the easiest place to start composting. All you need to do is rake plant debris into a […]

  5. […] Minimum Composting Equipment Requirements | CompostMania […]

  6. I Have 2 Bens, we rotate from one to the other. Past from last year and Future (next year). I install soaker hoses midway in the piles and Aeration Tubes of PVC or Plastic drain tile. Then turn the piles as I add new material. I also throw material from last years pile on to the Future pile, that has not broken down yet.
    I decompose kitchen material in a separate rotating ben and add that to the compost as it breaks down. Hope this helps someone. Have fun with it!!

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