Tools For Creating The Best Compost Fast!
Creating your own compost at home isn’t very difficult and can be done by virtually anyone but as with any task, having the best tools for composting at your fingertips can make the task even easier, lighter, and more successful.
Here I’ll go over some of the most common and useful gardening tools that can be used for composting. These tools include Compost bins, covers, thermometers, carts, and hand tools like pruners, rakes, and aerators just to name a few.
If you would like to know more about the basics of starting a compost pile at home, visit our Different Types Of Composting page for more information.
Tools For Composting
Here are some of the tools that can help to create a great compost pile at home to aid your garden beds in the near future.
There are links included in the list and images that allow you to purchase them online through the compostingbasics.com referral links, but many of these tools can be found at your local home and garden retailer or even some yard or estate sales in your area.
I’ve organized the tools in order of when you may use them following the steps to making a compost pile from start to finished product.
Leaf Shredder or Wood Chipper
When it comes to making compost fast, the smaller the bits you put into it the quicker they will break down and turn into compost.
For many small backyard compost piles, you most likely won’t need a shredder. The number of leaves and branches you get in a season may be easily dealt with by cutting the branches up with pruners into small 1 to 2-inch pieces that can easily break down. Large amounts of leaves can be chopped down using your lawn mower and slowly going over them over and over until they are just tiny pieces themselves. The leaves should be very dry when doing this so it doesn’t clog the mower and always wear safety glasses when doing this as the mower could throw up debris as you go.
If you are handling a larger property or just have more materials to compost.
The easiest way to get all your yard waste into the tiniest of pieces is to use a wood chipper or leaf shredder. If you tend to get a lot of branches or even hard stocks like corn, sunflowers, or hydrangea and rose branches.
Bypass pruners are small pruners that can be held in one hand and are generally used for pruning around the garden. For composting though, bypass pruners work great at chopping down small branches and tougher greens into small pieces when there is not too much to do.
There are many types and manufacturers of bypass pruners however I have always had good luck with the Felco brand. The quality has always been good and they won’t break the bank.
As simple as it is, a good lawn rake can make a big difference in collecting your material for the compost pile. Make sure the tines ars stiff and don’t bend easily when using the rake to hold the material as you pick them up and ensure that the handle feels good in your hand and won’t break easily when raking heavier amounts of leaves or grass into a pile.
As far as the shape of the handle I prefer the old-fashioned straight wooden handle however many people do like the ergonomic handles for less back strain that is out there. It’s really a personal choice when it comes to that.
Large Leaf Bags
Large leaf bags are great for storing extra leaves from the fall time for use later in the Spring and Summer seasons of the following year as a great carbon source for your compost material.
Many compost enthusiasts use plastic garbage bags for this because they are airtight however I have found that if the leaves are too moist when you put them in the bags then the leaves may begin to get moldy over time and that is not great for your future compost.
I like Paper leaf bags. They are easy to poke some vent holes in them as needed, stand straight, and hold their shape if not allowed to get too wet and can be included with the leaves in the compost pile when you use them instead of having to throw them out with the trash like the plastic ones.
When full, try to store your leaf bags in a ventilated area that allows air to get to them and keep them dry if possible. Try to use your leaves up through the season or at least move the bags from one location to a different one once in a while.
This is to prevent animals like mice or squirrels from nesting in and around them.
Start With A Compost Pile
Compost bins come in many different styles and sizes. You can start with just a simple pile, no bin needed, and go up from there. Most backyard compost systems consist of at least one or more actual containers that will hold the compost in a tidy place and will aid in the creation of great compost.
Compost bins can be made of anything from mesh formed in a tube that can have your materials thrown in from the top and mixed either by turning from the top or even by tearing the mesh away, setting it up again right next to the original pile and then filling the half made or so compost back into the container to keep breaking down.
Other bins can be made of wood slats, recycled plastic bins, and even old pallets being recycled for different use. There are many styles of compost bins to choose from and all will work just as well.
Compost Tumblers are compost bins that have been placed on their side and put on a post so that it can be turned periodically to allow mixing of the material. If choosing one, I would get a tumbler that has two chambers so that at some point you can transfer the almost finished product into the second drum to finish composting, while the first could be left for new and raw materials to start the composting process.
Compost tumblers are great if you have a very small amount of vegetation and kitchen scraps to compost and you would prefer not to do much digging as the entire process is handled within the tumbler itself.
Compost thermometers can come with either digital displays or analog versions. Both work well and both are vital tools if your goal is to create a hot compost pile, which produces the fastest compost and can keep breaking down material all year round.
One way of determining when compost is ready is to take the temperature regularly of the core of the pile or bin. There is an ideal temperature you want to keep your pile at, and in order to do this properly you need a good compost thermometer that has a 12-inch or longer probe and is easy to read. Stainless steel is best for corrosion resistance.
To learn more about the temperatures that compost piles can reach and for the best compost results visit our How To Build A Hot Compost Pile page.
Soil Moisture meter
A soil moisture meter is a tool that measures the moisture content of the soil of compost. It is a small, handheld device with a probe at one end that is pushed into the soil or compost to measure the moisture level. The short probe is typically made of metal or plastic and has two or more metal prongs at the end that come into contact with the soil.
The moisture meter works by measuring the electrical conductivity of the soil. The prongs of the probe have a small electric current running through them, usually from one aaa battery, and when they come into contact with the soil, the electrical resistance of the soil is measured. The higher the moisture content of the soil, the lower the electrical resistance will be, and vice versa.
The meter usually has a display that shows the moisture level in a numerical value or a visual indicator, such as a colored dial or LED lights. A moisture meter may also have additional features, such as a pH meter or a temperature sensor.
In composting, a soil moisture meter can be used to determine if the compost pile or bin has the correct moisture level for optimal decomposition. In a hot compost pile the moisture needs to be checked more often because as the heat rises, moisture will decrease faster. Compost needs to be kept moist, but not too wet, as excessive moisture levels can lead to anaerobic conditions and slow down the composting process. By using a soil moisture meter, I can easily monitor the moisture level of the compost and adjust it as needed.
As far as affordable analog meters go, this meter will give a simple moisture reading between wet and dry and with a deep probe will get as deep into the pile as you need to go.
A compost aerator is a tool that is designed to easily dig deep into your compost and mix it as you pull it back out.
This is done to allow oxygen to flow deep into your compost mix and allow the microbes to breathe and continue breaking down the organics. Without this, you risk the pile becoming anaerobic, or without air and stopping the composting process altogether.
Compost aerators do this by either corkscrewing its way into the pile and as you pull back. the screw forces the compost apart as it goes.
Another version is like a metal spike that goes into the pile easily as it is a straight tube, but once you pull back up on it, two small prongs protrude out from the sides like a wall anchor and pull at the materials as you lift.
As a faster way to produce compost or as a way to prolong the working season of a normal compost pile, using a compost cover can aid in your work.
When it comes to a pile or an open-to-the-air bid, a simple tarp draped over can do the trick.
The goal with a compost cover is to keep the pile warmer, longer so that it will aid in the microbial activity to break down all the materials.
In some cases, the lid on your compost bin may be enough to keep the heat in.
a compost sifter is an important tool for composting because it helps remove pebbles, plastic bits, uncomposted organics, and other debris that you don’t want to end up in your garden soil or potting soil. Sifted compost also allows you to break down the final product into finer compost and makes it easier to load into a wheelbarrow or garden cart later and spread throughout the garden. Sifted compost can be mixed with peat moss and added to your garden beds to help enrich the plants going forward.
A good compost sifter will have a stainless steel or galvanized metal screen so that it won’t rust, a sturdy frame, and two legs on one end to hold it up at the right angle. The one pictured is for use in a wheelbarrow or large garden containers.
DIY Compost Sifter
If you feel handy, plans can be found for some great diy compost sifter ideas that can be put together with wood surfaces, metal screens, and some deck screws.
A garden fork is a hand tool with a handle and several long, sturdy, and pointed tines or prongs at the end.
The tines of a garden fork are typically made of forged metal and are designed to be heavy-duty so that they can be used to dig, lift, and loosen compost and other garden materials.
The tines can vary in number, typically ranging from three to six, and may be straight or curved.
The garden fork I use is probably more than 20 years old and is a TruTemper brand. It’s fantastic if you can get one.
The one pictured here is a TABOR Tools brand fork and has a good rating for being very tough.
A wheelbarrow is an essential tool for composting in many ways.
First of all, I use a wheelbarrow to transport compost materials from the gardens and anywhere else I’m collecting new greens to the compost bin or pile. This saves us gardeners from carrying heavy loads of compost materials back and forth over long distances and saves our backs.
Secondly, a wheelbarrow can be used to mix compost materials together before adding them to the compost pile or bin. This works when you are not trying to stay firm on the layering technique and ensures that the compost is well-balanced and contains a mix of green and brown materials.
As the raw materials break down, they need to be turned or mixed periodically to ensure that all materials are being broken down evenly. A wheelbarrow can be used to turn the compost pile by loading it with compost, then dumping it back onto the pile, repeating the process several times for each batch of compost.
When compost is ready, it can be moved from the compost bin or pile to the garden using a wheelbarrow. This allows you to spread the compost evenly throughout the garden beds and provide nutrients to the plants. Overall, a wheelbarrow is a versatile and practical tool that can make composting more efficient and effective.
I prefer a wheelbarrow that is made of metal, has a pneumatic wheel, and sturdy handles. This may not be necessary in your case but it may be the landscaper in me wanting a good sturdy wheelbarrow that will stand the test of time.
Soil Test Kit
You can see how important it is to check your soil quality and how to do it on our 5 Ways To Test Compost Quality page.
A soil test kit is a tool used to analyze the nutrient content and pH level of the soil in your compost. A kit will typically include a set of testing components, such as vials, test strips, and instructions for conducting the tests.
There are several versions of tests but in general, to test compost with a soil test kit, a small sample of the compost is collected and mixed with water or other chemicals included according to the instructions. The mixture is then tested using the testing components provided in the kit. The results will indicate the levels of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as the pH level of your compost.
Testing compost with a soil test kit can be beneficial for several reasons.
First, it can help gardeners identify any nutrient deficiencies or imbalances in their compost. This can help inform you if you need to make any amendments to the compost in order to promote healthy plant growth.
STesting the compost also allows you to check the pH level and know for sure if it is too acidic or alkaline. Compost with a pH level that is too far outside the optimal range can impact plant growth and nutrient uptake.
Finally, testing your compost can help you monitor the health of the soil over time and make adjustments to your composting practices as needed.
A compost accelerator, also known as a compost activator, is a product that contains microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that help to break down organic matter in your compost more quickly. They are designed to speed up the composting process and produce compost more efficiently.
If you have a large compost pile or a lot of organic material to compost, using a compost accelerator may be helpful in speeding up the process and producing compost faster. It can also be useful if you have limited space for composting and need to create compost quickly.
However, if you have a smaller compost pile or a limited amount of organic material, you may not need a compost accelerator as the natural decomposition process may be enough to create compost in a season.
It’s important to note that using a compost accelerator is not a requirement for making compost. A well-balanced compost pile with the right mix of green and brown materials, adequate moisture and oxygen, and regular turning can break down without the need for additional additives.
A compost caddy is just a simple bucket or pail that is used to transport raw materials from the kitchen for example, to the compost bin.
The caddy usually is designed to go a day or two without having to empty and usually has a handle and a lid. There are ones that have charcoal filters that allow the pale to breathe and not release any smell into the home or anywhere the bin is being stored while holding the materials.
Pictured is a Bamboozle Kitchen Compost Bin. Made of sustainable bamboo fiber this bin will keep the elegant look and feel to any kitchen.
Maintaining Your Compost Tools
As with any tools you use throughout your life, it is far more often the case that it will be how you use them and not necessarily how “good” the tools are that will benefit you the greatest. If you look after them, and keep them oiled, clean, and out of the rain when possible, you should get a lifetime of use with any of them.
More Composting Information
Visit our Different Types Of Composting page to find out more about the various styles and types of composting to try in your garden.
When it comes to the tools needed for successful backyard composting, you can worth with just a few basics. But, as with any other hobby job, there are always many more options to help make the tasks easier and the end result, better!