How to Use a Composter: Tips for 5 Types of Composters

woman adding more compost ready materials to bin

Say you just brought the most amazing indoor or outdoor compost bin home. What next? Well, now you need to know how to use the composter. This guide is here to help you start composting successfully. We’ll explore the following sections to cover everything you need to know about compost bins and tumblers, and what you can do with the finished compost.



There are many different compost systems out there, so you can use the table of contents to go to the section that’s relevant for you. Or, you can become knowledgeable about the composting process involved in each! To become a true compost connoisseur, you can read more about common compost dos and don’ts and troubleshooting tips


The different types of composters

A countertop composter

In recent years, the traditional compost pile has been joined by many new and innovative ways to produce compost. Making compost is now easier than ever before—thanks to compost tumblers, vermiculture systems, smart composters, and closed bins that use an anaerobic process. If you’re just getting started with composting, you may want to consider the following to find the best type of composter for you.

Tumbler composter: As the name suggests, a tumbling composter is a fully closed bin that is turned or tumbled to mix the organic waste. In doing so, it aerates the materials and speeds up the decomposition process. 

Electric composter (Lomi): For composting made easy, an electric countertop composter produces nutrient rich dirt at the touch of a button. Perfect for those without outdoor space, it provides a worry-free option to transform food waste and other organic materials into natural fertilizer. 

Worm composter: Hungry worms love fruit and vegetable scraps. In a vermiculture, or worm composting, system, they’ll devour your kitchen scraps to transform it into something that can support your garden beds. 

Bokashi composter: Unlike aerobic composting systems, a bokashi composter works without oxygen. Providing the ideal environment for composting, it makes use of a microorganism inoculant to produce a fermented product that can be buried in the garden. 

Stationary composter: A standard compost bin is where compostable materials can be deposited. Heat, aerobic organisms, and a good carbon to nitrogen ratio will help to break down the materials into finished compost.

Now that you know the different types of composters available in the market, let’s take a detailed look at how to use each one.


 

Tumbler composter: what it is + how it works

woman balancing out carbon rich material with coffee grounds and grass clippings

Many people choose to use a compost tumbler because of its relative convenience. While it does need a sunny, outdoor space, it’s designed to provide adequate aeration (oxygen) without the need to physically turn the compost pile with a pitchfork. 


What is a tumbler composter?

A tumbler composter is a fully sealed container. To mix the compost materials, it can be spun, tumbled, or rotated. Designed to be an easier alternative to traditional compost bins, a compost tumbler will provide oxygen for microorganisms that help to speed up decomposition. 


How to use a tumbler composter

When it comes to how to use a compost tumbler, the process is fairly simple. You’ll want to start by getting the right tumbling composter for your needs. There are a range of sizes available, as well as those that come with one or two separate chambers—which will allow for continuous composting. Some may be up higher on the ground, which may be more convenient if you have mobility restraints or are concerned about pests.

Once you’ve explored compost tumblers to find the best one for you, you can begin the process by adding a bit of fresh compost or garden soil as a ‘starter’ for your compost tumbler. Then, you’ll regularly add both carbon rich materials and nitrogen rich materials. This includes food scraps and garden wastes. As with any composting system, it’s critical to provide a good balance of both.

If you have a dual-compartment compost tumbler, be sure to fill up just one side at a time. Once full, it can be left for a few weeks or months to allow the composting process to transform it to finished compost. Meanwhile, the second empty compartment can be filed.

Another important thing to consider with compost tumblers is the tumbling itself! To ensure that the beneficial microorganisms get enough oxygen, consider turning the tumbler any time you add organic materials.

One or two spins every couple of days should work. Avoid overmixing, as it could cool the compost tumbler down and slow the decomposition process.

As with any composting system, moisture content is crucial. What’s in the compost tumbler should have about as much moisture as a wrung out sponge. If you’re adding a lot of wet materials, be sure to balance that out with dry, brown materials, like dried grass clippings, dead leaves, or sawdust. 


 


 

Pros & cons of using a tumbler composter

Designed to be an easy way to support beneficial microorganisms with adequate oxygen, a tumbler composter has many pros. However, because it does require outdoor space and can fill up quickly, it may not be the best solution for all homes. 


Pros 

Cons 

  • Easy to turn compost
  • Closed system can help prevent rodents
  • Produces minimal odors
  • Good for people with mobility issues
  • Drainage holes provide nitrogen-rich liquid
  • Suitable for small outdoor spaces
  • Produces finished compost quickly
  • May attract insects
  • Can be expensive
  • Single chamber will require you to wait to add more scraps
  • Not very insulated and may not work in cold temperatures
  • Can’t process meat, dairy, eggs, fish, fats, oils, and grease
  • Only suitable if you have outdoor space

 

Lomi composter: what it is + how it works

Lomi composter next to plants and food waste

If other composting practices seem too difficult or space and time consuming, learning how to use a Lomi composter can be a life changer. Once the indoor electric composter is set up on a flat surface somewhere convenient, all you need to do is add composting materials.


What is a Lomi composter?

A great food waste strategy for modern living, the Lomi composter is an electric composter that does a lot of the work for you. The convenient, stink-free device turns nearly all types of food waste into dirt, in as little as 4 hours. 


How to use a Lomi composter

man adding kitchen waste to Lomi

To operate the Lomi, just add your composting materials to the bucket (underneath the max fill line). Choose one of three modes: Eco-Express; Grow; or Lomi Approved. If you add bioplastics in the Lomi Approved mode, be sure to use a 10:90 bioplastic to food waste ratio. A LomiPod (microbe mix) and water can be added to assist with the process.

Like with other methods of composting, don’t try to compost non-organic materials (like plastic or glossy paper), human or pet droppings, butter or cooking oils, fruit pits, or hard bones. If you add wet materials (like leftovers), consider balancing it out with dry materials, like paper towels or napkins.

Within 4-20 hours you’ll hear a beep indicating that the Lomi cycle is complete. The nutrient rich dirt can be added to a green bin or waste bin, sprinkled on your lawn, or used for your plants. Grow Mode is the best to use when you want to transform things like vegetable peelings, tea bags, and egg shells into a material that can support your plants.

When you empty the bucket of natural fertilizer, however, be sure to mix it with a 1:10 ratio of garden soil before you add it to plants. If you used a LomiPod while running the Lomi, it’ll support your garden beds even more with beneficial microbes.

You can also leave the nutrient rich dirt in the Lomi and add new materials before letting it run through another cycle. Having dirt in there already will add some beneficial microbes to support decomposition. This means you can run the Lomi up to 3 cycles before emptying your bucket—making it even easier for you! 

 

Lomi by Pela

Lomi

★★★★★

Lomi allows you to turn food waste into plant-ready nutrients in under 24 hours. Boost your plants while reducing your waste.


 

Pros & cons of using a Lomi composter

Like any composting solution, a Lomi does come with both benefits and drawbacks. While more than 100,000 people have fallen head over heels for the Lomi, it does come with a few cons. 


Pros 

Cons 

  • Easy to use
  • Odor free
  • Won’t attract insects or rodents
  • No more smelly garbage
  • Creates natural fertilizer
  • Cuts down on food waste sent to landfill
  • Can process things most composting systems can’t (meat scraps, fish bones, seafood, pizza, moldy food)
  • Sells out quickly
  • Requires electricity (minimal)
  • Cost
  • Can’t process cooking oils, fruit pits, and liquids

 

Worm composter: what it is + how it works

woman with dog adding compostable waste to bin

If you need some composting support, consider turning to worms for help! Used in the process of vermicomposting, worm species like red wiggler and european night crawlers will help to eat things like vegetable scraps, fruit waste, and coffee grounds.


What is a worm composter?

A worm farm will typically be made up of two large bins. One will be where the worms live and where the food scraps are added, and the other will collect “worm tea” and castings. The worm castings (their feces) provide a great, nutrient-rich amendment for your garden! It offers many of the same benefits as bone meal fertilizer—no steamed animal bones required.


How to use a worm composter

After the bins are established and filled with worms and bedding (leaves, shredded paper, egg cartons, straw), maintenance is relatively simple.

Every day, a worm will eat roughly half its body weight in your food scraps. To add your organic materials to the worm farm, dig a little hole and bury it beneath a layer of bedding. If necessary, add more shredded paper on top.

Over time, you’ll learn what your worms do and do not like to eat. You’ll likely notice that they can only tolerate very small amounts of onions and citrus peels.

As the worms process their food, they’ll produce compost. This can be harvested in two ways. You can dump out the entire bin to use the compost. Alternatively, you can lure the worms to one side of the bin so that you can scoop out the compost from the other.

At this point, you’ll probably wonder how to use worm compost! It can either be sprinkled across your yard or added to pots or garden beds as plant food. Just don’t add too much to a single plant, as it can burn the stem. 


 


 

Pros & cons of using a worm composter

A worm composting system could be considered a win-win for the worms and your garden. However, because living beings are involved in the process, it’s important to realize that a vermiculture system might not be for everyone. 


Pros 

Cons 

  • Provides great soil amendment 
  • Can be odor-free
  • An indoor system (perfect for apartments)
  • Can make an affordable, DIY worm farm
  • Can’t tolerate extreme heat or cold
  • Worms may escape
  • Can’t process meat, dairy, and bones
  • Takes some time to maintain
  • Requires bedding
  • Might attract insects

 

Bokashi composter: what it is + how it works

woman adding kitchen scraps and other materials to compost pile

The fermenting, microbe-utilizing bokashi method of composting originated in ancient Japan and/or Korea. The process hasn’t changed much in the thousands of years that have followed—the system still relies on the use of microorganisms to break down food waste. 


What is a bokashi composter?

Using a bran that’s been inoculated with beneficial organisms and a food source (typically molasses), bokashi composters transform organic matter like veggie and fruit scraps into a fermented pre-compost material. The small bin can be placed underneath a countertop or in a corner of your kitchen or placed outdoors, but freezing temperatures will significantly slow down the process. 


How to use a bokashi composter

Using a bokashi composter is a relatively simple process. You’ll just add your organic waste and some bokashi mix/bran, then press down to remove any air bubbles. At least once a week, the liquid should be drained from the bottom of the bucket. Once the bucket is full, you’ll need to wait 10-15 days to allow it to fully process.

When it comes to how to use bokashi compost, you have a few options. Because it’s not technically compost (yet), what you remove from your bokashi bin can be buried in the garden so that it continues to decompose into rich humus. Avoid burying it really close to plant roots though, as it’s pretty acidic and could do damage to the plants.

You can also use the liquid compost that comes out of the bokashi bin. It can be diluted and used as a liquid fertilizer that’s rich in beneficial microorganisms. As a good rule of thumb, you’ll want to use approximately a 1:100 ratio of bokashi liquid to water. It’s better to use it near the plant roots, not their foliage. 


Pros & cons of using a bokashi composter

The bokashi system of composting doesn’t require a lot of space and can process food waste relatively quickly. However, because it doesn’t produce compost that can immediately be used in the garden, it may not be the best food waste solution for all households.  


Pros 

Cons 

  • Relatively quick process from start to finish
  • Can compost meat, fish, eggs, and dairy
  • More pleasant vinegar smell compared with other systems
  • Relatively affordable
  • Doesn’t require a lot of space
  • Requires regular draining of liquid
  • Small bucket size means it’s not suitable for yard waste
  • Full bin has to rest before it can be dug into soil
  • Need to regularly purchase bokashi bran
  • Can’t process moldy food



Stationary composter: what it is + how to use

person adding more compost to compost piles

Often made of plastic or wood, a traditional compost bin or compost pile is something that is permanently located outdoors. Sunny spots are best, as they’ll provide more heat to assist with decomposition. 


What is a stationary composter?

A stationary composter is exactly what it sounds like—compost piles or compost bins that are placed in a permanent (at least semi-permanent) location. Typically used for large households or in large farms or outdoor spaces, it can process a lot of food and garden waste—when maintained appropriately. 


How to use a stationary composter

When it comes to using a stationary composter, ensuring adequate oxygen and moisture levels is one of the most important things. The composter itself should be designed to assist with this, often using holes for airflow or a cover to control moisture. But some additional support from you may be required.

A garden fork (if it fits) should be used once or twice every week to turn the compost pile in order to ensure aerobic conditions. When it comes to its moisture content, you should never let the composting materials get to a point where they feel wetter than a damp sponge. This may occur from adding too many water-rich raw materials without balancing them out with dry, brown materials.

If you add mostly kitchen scraps, you’ll end up adding a lot of nitrogen rich materials. So that you don’t end up with a slimy, stinky mess, it’s absolutely essential that you balance it out with carbon rich material. To do so, you can add thin layers of the food waste with things like cardboard, dead leaves, and sawdust.

Similarly, don’t be tempted to add a lot of thick layers of yard waste or fresh grass clippings to your compost bin. If you do need to compost grass clippings, allow them to lay out in the sun and dry (turning brown), or add them in small amounts at a time.

Also, weed seeds and diseased plants should be left out of the compost bin. They can spread in the compost, leading to future weed or plant disease problems.

An inappropriately maintained compost bin may also bring about pest and rodent issues. Because something like a slowly decomposing banana peel will be extremely attractive to flies and rats, you may want to consider wrapping chicken wire around the aeration holes to prevent rodents from squeezing through.


Pros & cons of using a stationary composter

Often considered a more traditional way of composting, stationary compost piles and compost bins are a tried and true method for dealing with food waste—when maintained properly. However, this type of compost system does require a little more effort on your part.


Pros 

Cons 

  • Relatively affordable
  • Produces great soil amendment
  • Good for use with kids
  • Can accommodate large amounts of garden waste
  • Can be hard to aerate
  • May attract pests
  • Difficult to move
  • May not work during winter
  • Can produce odor
  • Requires outdoor space
  • Not suitable for all types of waste (meat, dairy, oils, bread)


As you can see, good compost can come about in a few different ways—each with their own pros and cons. 

Compost bins aren’t for everyone. We aren’t all blessed with backyards for compost tumblers. Some of us don’t have the space to bury the fermented material from a bokashi bin.

With busy modern lives, more of us want to transform our fruit and vegetable scraps and other organic matter without having to worry about pests or odor. Fortunately, electric kitchen composters like the Lomi can help with exactly that.

Unlike compost bins and tumblers, Lomi is capable of transforming hard-to-compost items into something that can support your potted plants and garden. It’s a great solution for meat and dairy products, banana peels that can take up to a few years to decompose, and even Lomi-approved bioplastics!

If you’ve had food waste on your mind and are wondering whether or not to use an electric food composter to support our planet in a stink-free way, consider this your sign from the universe to do so. 


Written by: Heather Seely