Batch vs. Continuous Composting

Composting has long been known as a way to reduce waste and enrich the soil in gardens. The process has gained popularity, with innovations in bins and other materials. In becoming more common, several different types of composting have arisen, and each form has its own proponents. Batch and continuous composting are two of the most popular, and main ways, to reuse your yard scraps. In continuous composting, browns and greens are added to a preexisting compost bin as they are created, and not necessarily on a schedule. In batch composting, the organic material is kept in a pile until there is enough to mostly fill a tumbling compost bin. The compost is then tumbled regularly and no new materials are added. Researching the advantages and disadvantages of each will help you make an informed decision on which type is right for you.

Continuous composting is the most common form used by the average homeowner. This system requires a compost bin, usually with a harvest door at the bottom for retrieval of the finished product. To the top of bin, alternating layers of greens, such as grass cuttings, fresh leaves, and fruit and vegetable trimmings, and browns, like dead leaves, twigs, and stems, are added on a regular basis, as they are obtained. This system does not require collecting and saving useable materials, and often requires a smaller space or bin than batching. This pile does require turning regularly, either with a pitchfork or specially designed aerator, and takes anywhere from 6 to 24 months to create a useable product. Mixing the fresh and already decomposed items together can also make the finished compost harder to separate from the unfinished, and retrieval of the compost can be difficult.

Batch composting occurs when the biodegradable greens and browns are collected and placed in a spinning or tumbling composter all at once. This system usually creates compost in as little as 4 to 8 weeks, and does not require as much manual turning. Most of these bins are designed to spin on a stand or axle, or the vessel itself can be manually rolled to aerate the mixture. For individuals or smaller families, collecting enough raw materials to create a sizeable batch can take a large amount of time, and require additional space for piling the items. Greens may also need to be placed in plastic bags or containers prior to use, and can begin to decompose while waiting to enter the bin. Additionally, ensuring the proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen may be more problematic in this type of composting.

Both continuous and batch composting are great ways to reduce and reuse kitchen and yard waste, with a healthy garden as a reward. Each system has returns and drawbacks, as well as its own advocates. Finding the right method for you will help you enjoy the process and minimize your impact on the environment. We have a large line of compost bins and accessories available in our Composting Department.