Where should you NOT put a compost bin?

QUESTION: Where should you NOT put a compost bin? It would be messy to move it once we start filling it up, so I want to put it in the right spot the first time. – Jack K

ANSWER: Short answer. Anywhere is fine, but try not to put it too close to your door or any windows you open, in case you do something wrong that causes bad smells or insects and pests.

Placing your compost bin in direct sunlight won’t actually help the heating process along, and direct sunlight can make working with the bin less comfortable for you during the heat of the summer if you live in a hot region.

In a warm climate, direct sunlight on your compost heap will also cause the water that’s keeping it moist to evaporate. For those reasons, if your weather stays warm, it’s best to position your compost pile in the shade. However, avoid placing it too near a tree, or the tree’s roots can grow up through the bottom of the compost in search of nutrients. 

If you live somewhere with cooler temperatures and more rainfall, moisture loss won’t be a concern for you, and the rain will probably introduce more moisture than your compost needs. That’s why if you live in a cold, wet region, you’ll want to select a sunny location. Some windbreaks near your compost pile can also help keep the moisture in it that wind would otherwise cause to evaporate.

Shade is especially important for those using the vermicomposting method, as too much sunlight can be a death sentence for worms. Worms should be protected from rainfall as well, or they can drown. Vermicomposters often keep their bins indoors, in a garage, a closet, or under a counter.

You’ll also want your compost pile to be located on top of dirt as opposed to concrete if possible—unless you’re using a closed container, in which case it won’t matter. Beneficial insects are able to climb right into compost piles that have a dirt bottom, and they’ll help the decomposition process along, making your compost system more efficient. If you place your compost on dirt, you should use wire mesh or hardware cloth as a base to keep out rodents and other animals. Another reason not to set your compost heap up on concrete is that the concrete will inevitably be stained where the compost has touched it.

Because watering your compost will be easier if you’re able to use your garden hose, you should set the pile up somewhere that the hose can stretch to if possible. Otherwise, you’ll have to lug containers of water back and forth to the pile whenever you need to add water.

Similarly, you’ll want your compost to be situated near to your garden so it’s easy to access. However, you may wish to put some distance between your compost and your home in case you have trouble with pests or smells (although these should not be an issue when the compost is properly managed). For similar reasons, you should avoid placing your compost setup too near to a neighbor’s property.

If you set your compost up in a spot that has twice as much room as your system will take up, it will make turning the pile much easier. You’ll be able to easily turn the pile over and rebuild it right next to its previous location. However, if you’ll be using passive composting and won’t be turning the compost as often, that amount of extra space won’t be a concern for you. Passive  composters just need to leave enough room around the bin to make it easy to access from all sides.