Terra Composter: First Look

– Posted in: Tools and Equipment

The terra composter comes with a drain (circled) for obtaining compost tea

The terra composter comes with a drain (circled) for obtaining compost tea

Recently I was sent the Terra Composter, a composting container made by Algreen, a Canadian company. I was particularly interested in checking out their claim that the composter is “designed to withstand a Canadian winter without cracking,” because they guarantee it for twenty years.

I took a lot of pictures with my daughter’s camera as I “unboxed” the composter, but apparently when I thought her camera was taking the picture, it was just focusing. So I don’t have as many pictures as I would like. I wanted to show you that it had an insert that fit into the bottom of the composter, allowing for a couple of inches at the bottom where liquid–what Algreen calls compost tea–can collect. You can draw this liquid out into a container by use of a drain, which is circled in my photo.

On our large, rural property, we generate a lot more plant and food waste than this 45 gallon composter can hold. But I thought the Terra Composter would be handy during the winter, set up by the back door, where we could deposit our food scraps without donning boots and avoid schlepping a bucket full of food waste through the snow. I suppose we could use shredded bank statements for the “brown,” though I don’t expect much composting to happen in the winter.

This folding shovel is the hand tool provided to dig out compost

This folding shovel is the hand tool provided to dig out compost

Included with the composter is a “hand tool to dig out compost,” as described on the packaging, or a compost mixing tool according to the description on Amazon. As far as I can tell, it is a sturdy, folding camping shovel, measuring 23 inches when open and 9 inches when folded in thirds, very similar in design to this one. I am not certain it will be the best tool for removing compost from the back, but it looks like it could slice tree roots in any reasonably-sized planting hole. No mention of it was made in the instruction sheet, oddly enough.

So here are some questions I’d like to see answered:

  • Will it really keep out rodents? You’d be amazed what a rat can chew through, or the size hole a vole or mouse can slip through.
  • Will poking a sturdy twig into all the air holes be sufficient to provide oxygen for the composting process?
  • Can it really hold up to freezing and thawing with moist plant waste inside?
  • How long will it take the residents of Purdyville to fill it up?

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know after snow melt how it held up.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

When dealing with frost it is always best to be paranoid. In the spring never think it is too late for one more frost to come. And in the fall never think it too early.

~Rundy in Frost

Comments on this entry are closed.

Cathy April 8, 2013, 5:10 am

This looks nice. Did it work well? What is it made of – it sure looks like ‘terra’ means as in ‘terra cottah’.

I use a homemade bin myself. We had to replace an old, small, cube-ish water tank when its bottom cracked. I cut off the lower front half and used channels etc to make a sliding door. Also painted it black to absorb more heat. Works moderately well.

greg draiss December 21, 2010, 6:28 am

I like the ComposTumbler. Made in PA. All american. Spins easier. No axle runnng through the middle that always gets in the way of scooping out finished compost

grass hopper November 18, 2009, 9:19 am

curious to know whether it worked for you. hope to give it a try by myself. compost bin for children a nice post on how to inculcate recycling habits right from childhood. give it a try.

Terra Composter September 28, 2009, 10:41 am

For Canadian residents, the Terra composter is avaiable from Home Hardware:


It’s also available online from GardenSuperMart.com:


Deborah at Kilbourne Grove September 8, 2009, 7:43 pm

Kathy, I am quite interested if this terra cotta composter lives through the winter for you. As a Canadian, I have not seen this composter for sale anywhere here yet. Is this a prototype that they are testing for release on the market next year? It is very attractive, something difficult to find, and desirable if you have a small city garden. I also keep a winter composter by my back door, and move it in the spring. I cannot be bothered to climb the snowbanks to get to the main ones.
.-= Deborah at Kilbourne Grove´s last blog ..Between Two Ferns =-.

Cindy, MCOK September 8, 2009, 1:55 pm

I hope it works out well for you, Kathy. I like the looks of it much better than most I’ve seen.
.-= Cindy, MCOK´s last blog ..Through the Garden Gate: Monday, September 7th =-.

Rochelle (Acquired Taste) September 8, 2009, 12:00 pm

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I choose to add yours to my list @ http://acquiredflavor.blogspot.com/2009/09/green-thumbs-are-in-need-of-being.html .

If you would like for me to take your link off my list let me know or if you would like to add anything to it, feel free to comment!

Lynn September 7, 2009, 10:26 pm

Want one! Looks perfect for winter. Curious to know how it performs. Do you have trouble with rodents in your compost? I haven’t seen a big problem here, just birds and the Beagle. He loooooves corn cobs.

Kathy Purdy September 8, 2009, 9:51 am

Our current compost pile is far enough away from the house that I have no idea what animals are visiting it besides the chickens, who don’t care if they’re caught snitching. It’s inside their enclosure, after all. But every winter we have problems with rodents getting into our old country house. I don’t really want to provide them with a cozy base of operations, nor do I want to come face to face with the enemy when I lift up the lid.

commonweeder September 7, 2009, 3:50 pm

The idea of a composter by the door during the winter is a lovely one. Right now I have a big new compost pile near the Potager, but the old black barrel compost bin in next to the hen house, where I have to go every day anyway. No getting away from boots and a slog. sometimes snowshoes are required.
.-= commonweeder´s last blog ..Horticulture and Culture =-.

Annie in Austin September 7, 2009, 2:35 pm

The appearance does make it tempting, Kathy – but those airholes look pretty big.
Our squirrels can chew through anything! For urban composting we need a model where stainless steel window-type screen is implanted over the entire interior during the molding process ;-] \
I hope it works for you – having an attractive composter right outside the kitchen door would be great in winter.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
.-= Annie in Austin´s last blog ..Looking for Julie and Julia =-.

Daffodil Planter September 7, 2009, 1:49 pm

Am curious to hear your end-of-winter review. Looks like it could be an ideal back door helper, if large enough for a week’s worth of scraps.
.-= Daffodil Planter´s last blog ..Correcting color mistakes in the garden =-.

Kathy Purdy September 7, 2009, 1:57 pm

Oh, I was hoping it’d hold a winter’s worth of scraps. Forty-five gallons . . . well, maybe two months’ worth. Won’t know till we try, right?

Sylvana September 7, 2009, 9:05 am

It sure is good looking. Wouldn’t the metal shovel chip the pot?

Kathy Purdy September 7, 2009, 11:27 am

Unfortunately, Sylvana, my photo of the rear of the composter is one of the shots that didn’t “take,” but if you look at the images at either the Algreen or Amazon sites, you will see that the composter has a rear door. The access is wide enough that I don’t think you would be frequently hitting the edges of the bin. And, of course, just because the little shovel is included, doesn’t mean you can’t use a different tool to remove the compost.