3 Bin Compost System

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We highly recommend using a 3 bin compost system. A 3 bin compost system allows you to have different piles of compost in various stages of “doneness”. In a nut shell, you move the contents of each bin when the bin on the left is full. By the time all the bins are full and you are ready to move them again, the compost in the bin on the right is ready to be used in the garden.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Benefits of a 3 Bin Composting System

The problem with “traditional” composting is that the compost never truly breaks down all the way. Since we’re always adding new ingredients to the pile, it is always “cooking.”

 As a result, you never actually know when the compost is ready to be used in your garden.  With a three-bin system, compost is being turned and moved while new compost is starting so you always know when your compost is ready and you are always making new compost.

3 bin compost system

How do you manage a 3 bin compost system?

You have 3 bins about 4’x4’x4′ and next to the bins you have a round wire bin filled with leaves. 

  1. Start by adding your food scraps to the bin on the left and cover them with leaves. 
  2. Once the left bin is full, use a pitchfork to scoop it into the middle bin. This process aerates the pile, helping to speed up composting.
  3. Then start filling the bin on the left again. Layering food scraps and “browns”.
  4. When it is full again, move the contents of the middle bin to the bin on the right. 
  5. Then move the contents of the left bin to the middle bin.
  6. Once the left bin is full again the contents of the right bin should be finished composting and ready to be spread in the garden. If we find any sticks or uncomposted scraps, we toss them back into the middle bin to compost some more.

Contents will generally take about two to three months to compost completely, longer in cooler weather.

Want to Know More About Composting?

Check out our FREE Key to Black Gold: Composting for Beginners eBook!!

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    The Key to Black Gold: Composting for Beginners eBook

    How to build a 3 bin compost system?

    We love this post on building a three bin compost system- How to Build a Three Bin Compost System

    Where to Place Your Compost Bin?

    Placing your compost bin in the right location will help you have a well functioning operation. You will want to place them on a level, well-drained spot over soil or lawn (not a paved area). A partially shady area is ideal- suck as under a deciduous tree- where the bin will have protection from the sun as well as from freezing winter winds.

    3 bin compost system


    One thing it is NOT, however, is smelly. An overly fragrant compost pile is a bad sign. If everything is in balance and properly covered, your compost pile should not smell.

    You need to be especially carefully about weed seed getting into your bin. You can’t really move your system once you’ve gotten started, and the compost sits directly on the ground. 

    Therefore, it can be easier for weed seeds to infiltrate and you can then transfer those seeds directly to your garden – something you really don’t want to do. To avoid this, you might want to lay down a few sheets of cardboard before you set your 3-bin compost system in place. This will help suffocate weeds and the cardboard will break down nicely, leaving you with rich, fertile soil beneath your bins (a plus if you decide that you ever want to plant where you once had your compost piles).

    Moisture can be problematic. If you live in a particularly wet area, or during abnormally wet periods of the year, you may find that your compost pile gets too wet. While a compost pile needs to be somewhat wet in order to get the microbial action really going, too much moisture can spell disaster for a compost pile.

    You can put a pallet over the top of the bins, which will let in some moisture but not too much. You can also leave the bin open on one side. This will let some moisture infiltrate but will still give you a spot where you can get your pitchfork into the bin to shovel out the compost and to turn it on a regular basis.

    3 bin compost system

    This 3 bin compost system is a compost factory that efficiently pumps out heaps of finished black gold in weeks, rather than the months you would typically wait during a more hands-off approach. Are you ready to start composting with the three-bin system?  I know it can be a little overwhelming for your first endeavor into composting but you won’t be disappointed!

    Still a little overwhelmed?  Maybe try a tumbling compost system, you can read about them here.

    compost tumbler

    Get Your Kids Involved…

    We love getting our kids involved in every aspect of our homestead.  We start by reading them books about the different things we are doing.  Here are some great books about composting for your kids.