Tuesday, 25 November 2014

How to use a urban tumbler composters bins

How to Make Compost using a Compost Tumbler: Finished Compost



how to use a compost tumbler.[good]

how to use a compost tumbler.[good]

Composting Tips for Compost Tumblers

Why composting tips for compost tumblers?

When you buy a compost tumbler you probably figure you've bought a perfect making compost solution. A unit that will handle all your biodegradable garbage with incredible ease. A composter that keeps everything clean, neat and tidy and at two week intervals rewards you with a rich earth compost.

However, a surprising number of people end up with an expensive tumbler they have trouble turning and either a barrel full of material that hasn't rotted down at all or that is now full of a wet, stinking, rotting mess - that they can't somehow even get out of the composter because they can't turn the darn thing.

If you're used to making compost in a simple pile built over some time on a bit of ground and left to break down for several months to a year remember you have all nature's resources waiting in the wings to fix your mistakes. Not so with the closed system now on your deck.

Give your tumbler a chance to work well by paying attention to these composting tips.

Composting Tips for Tumblers - The Short Sweet Version

  • Activate by adding a bit of compost, soil, horse manure or purchased compost activator.

  • Add a balanced mix of materials with a Carbon Nitrogen ratio of about 25.

  • Shred your compost materials to small sizes.

  • Make your compost a batch at a time - or more simply stop adding materials and let the process complete.

  • Keep moist - as wet as a squeezed out sponge.

Composting Tips for Tumblers - The Epic Version

Activate your First Batch or Two with a Compost Activator

Your new tumbler is a sterile place. The whole compost process happens because of the living decomposers in nature. They are definitely not present in your new composter.

Your kitchen scraps and yard wastes will naturally be covered in some of the bacteria and fungi you need to get the compost cooking. However, to give your first few loads a boost add a handful or two of compost if you have some available, or healthy soil, or horse manure. If none of the free stuff is readily available buy a compost activator. You'll need it only for the first couple of batches.

Don't clean your compost tumbler between batches. The bits of material left in the composter will activate your next batch. Expect your first few loads to take longer to break down.

Balance Your Mix of Compost Materials to a C/N Ratio of About 25

A compost tumbler is a closed system, and one you are hoping is going to churn out finished compost in 2 or 3 weeks. If you have the right balance of nitrogen rich green material and carbon rich brown material - in other words a Carbon Nitrogen ratio of about 25 - there is at least some hope that you will succeed.

Too much of one or the other will turn your tumbler into an expensive contraption that stores either guck or fluff and has little hope for getting to finished compost anytime soon.

For composting tips on getting the right mix check out our compost ingredients page. There you'll find list of many of the materials you will be adding to your tumbler along with their C/N ratios.

The tumbler will mix this up but it is worth doing a little premixing of your own. Mix up a bowl of kitchen scraps with some shredded paper then add the mixture to the unit.

Shred It, Chop It - Make Small Bites for Microbes

It always speeds things in the compost up when you chop or shred your materials before adding them. In a tumbler this is more important.

First of all you spent serious money to buy the tumbler and you likely want your compost fast. Leaving it all in the tumbler for a year to slowly decompose I'm betting isn't in your plans. Chopping material into smaller bits makes more surface area available to the bacteria and fungi who will be at work breaking this stuff down. This really speeds things up.

Second, with any luck you won't have your back up shredders - little animals tunneling about, the earthworms churning through the ingredients, and the larger insects that would help by shredding materials in a pile located on the ground. Don't add them to your tumbler - it will get too hot for them and they won't be able to escape.

Here's a composting tip. Look in your kitchen and office for tools to shred your compost materials. With kitchen scraps and ideal shredding tool is a food processor. A couple of pulses and your materials will be perfect for the tumbler. Or you can chop stuff with a knife, kitchen shears or pruners into smaller 1-2 inch pieces.

For paper I use a cross cut paper shredder. It kind of wrinkles up the bits of paper a bit so that you have air pockets and less matting.

Make a Batch of Compost - Bake a Batch of Compost

Tumblers are small batch composters. Think of a batch of cookies. You add your ingredients, mix them up, then bake. You don't open the oven half way through and add more flour and then pop them back in the oven.

A batch composter is a bit like baking cookies. Keep adding your ingredients until your tumbler is almost full. Don't fill it all the way or the contents won't mix. Then stop adding new material. The time - the promised two to three weeks to convert that stuff to compost - starts when you stop adding stuff.

Storing Stuff While Batch Bakes

Hardly anyone gets finished compost in two or three weeks. At the two week period the compost might broken down enough to move out of the tumbler and either mulched around your garden or left to cure for a few months.
Meanwhile the kitchen wastes keep coming. What to do? Here are three composting tips to solve this problem:

  • Buy two compost tumblers and fill one while the other bakes.

  • Buy one of the dual compartment composters such as the Jora composter, or the Compost Twin.

  • Get a lidded bucket and layer your waste with some sawdust or shredded paper. Then add the whole bucket to the tumbler right after you empty the tumbler.

Moist as a Squeezed Out Sponge

Moist as a squeezed out sponge is at times an elusive goal. Happily, because the system is closed with of course some sir coming in it does tend to keep a steady moisture level. People in desert area will find a tumbler keeping the material moist. Those living in areas with lots of rain will find the tumbler keeps the compost from getting soggy.

If the moisture level is wrong it's because of what you put into the barrel. If things are too wet it will start to stink. If it is too dry it will stop breaking down.

Here are a couple of composting tips for adjusting compost moisture. If wet add dry sawdust, wood pellets or shredded paper. If too dry add water a cup at a time turning the composter after each addition.

Turning the Tumbler

Some tumblers are easier to turn than others. I really have trouble with my beautiful blue globe for example. When you choose your tumbler recognize that to get compost fast you need to turn it daily or every other day. This keeps the aeration high which ignites the whole process. If you don't turn it you have a static pile that will take several months to break down.

Pick a tumbler that you figure you can turn. A tall, strong young man could likely handle any tumbler. Someone like me should look carefully for one where reviews never say I had trouble turning it.

Subscribe to my Free ezine - the Compost Pile

10 Tips for Making Better Compost

Here are the top 10 ways we know of for making compost in less time and of better quality than ever before.

1. Get the Optimal Balance of Compost Materials

It's important to get the right mixture of ingredients in your compost to ensure that it heats up nicely and breaks down effectively.

Here's how:

Getting the right mixture of brown (carbon) materials. to green (nitrogeneous) materials will make a huge difference. Adding too much brown material will result in a compost pile that takes a long time to break down. Adding too much green material will result in a compost pile that is slimy and smelly that doesn't break down well. In order for your compost pile to break down quickly and efficiently you should feed it just the right balance of brown and green materials.

The microorganisms in our compost bins need both carbon and nitrogen to thrive; carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein synthesis. For every one unit of nitrogen used by the bacteria they also consume about 30 units of carbon. So in order to keep the bacteria working efficiently we need to supply them with a mixture that is about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Needless to say, most materials don't have a ratio of 30:1. However, if we know the approximate C:N ratio of the materials we use in our compost, we can combine them so that the total mix will be close to 30:1. It's really not that complicated.

2. Turn the Compost More Often

Adding fresh oxygen into your compost pile by turning it more frequently will help your compost break down faster. Here's why:

Many of the bacteria that break down your compost need air to survive. A week or two after the pile is made these bacteria will start to die off as they start to use up the available air in the pile. This drop in the amount of bacteria will result in the compost pile cooling off a bit from it's peak temperature. When this happens it's time to turn the pile to get more air into it.

When turning your compost pile, move the drier material from the outer edges of the pile into the center and break up any clumps to get as much air into the mixture as you can. Moisten any of the materials as you go if they seem dry.

If you have the time, we suggest turning the pile every 14 days or so, or when you see the temperature fall from the next peak in termperature of about 110° - 120° F. That's more often than most of us have time for, but, in general, the more you turn the pile the faster you will have finished compost. If you're using a plastic compost bin, an aerator tool will make the job of turning much easier. A garden fork is often the best tool for turning compost in an open style bin.

Another way to get more air into your compost is to stick a stake or metal rod into the pile and wiggle it around to create an air pocket. Some people even drill holes along the length of PVC pipes and the pipes horizontally as they build their compost pile.

3. Check the Moisture Level of your Compost

Acheiving the correct moisture content is an important factor in keeping a compost pile working efficiently.

The key to getting the correct moisture in your compost is to moisten the pile without making it too wet and soggy. Many people recommend adding moisture until the material is as moist as a wrung out sponge. This is far too wet. If you can squeeze water out of it, it's definitely too wet. If your pile is too wet adding some dry brown materials such as chopped leaves or hay should help dry it out.

If you live in a very dry climate, make an indentation in the top of the pile to collect rainwater and help keep the pile moist. If you're in a rainy area cover the top of the pile with a tarp or other covering to keep it from becoming too wet.

A moisture content of between 50-60% is desirable in an active compost pile but how many of us know how to measure moisture.

4. Use the Berkeley Method of "fast composting"

A really fast method of composting known as the "Berkeley method" or "fast composting" produces finished compost in as little as 14 to 21 days.

Fast composting produces a higher quality compost in less time than traditional methods. The finished product contains a higher nutrient value becauase nutrients are not lost to leaching from rainfall and long-term exposure to the elements. The original Berkeley method involved the layering of carbon and nitrogen materials but today, many composters mix all the materials together into one large fast compost pile.

The jury is out on which of these options helps the pile to heat up faster. Choose whichever option you feel most comfortable with. For the purposes of this article we will mix all of the material together.

5. Shred Some of the Ingredients - Especially the Brown Material

If there is one secret to making compost faster, it is finely shredding the carbon rich ingredients such as leaves, hay, straw, paper and cardboard.

Shredding increases the surface area that the compost microbes have to work on and provides a more even distribution of air and moisture among the materials. Since it's the brown materials that take the longest amount of time to break down, shredding them significantly reduces the finishing time of compost.

The type of chipper or shreddder used is not important, provided it can handle the materials. Rotary lawn mowers can also be used for dry leaves by running the mower back and forth over a pile a few times although this method is not as effective as using a commercial shredder. Some readers have recommended shredding dry leaves in the bottom of a plastic garbage bin with a rotary grass trimmer - we do not recommended this method due to the risk of injury. If you insist on giving it a try, be sure to wear both gloves and goggles!

Nitrogen rich materials such as manure, vegetable wastes and green prunings can also be shredded. Soft succulent materials do not need to be shredded because they break down very quickly in the compost pile.

If you don't have a chipper or shredder you can chop your materials into smaller pieces with pruning shears or strong scissors. We often do this with our tomato vines at the end of the season. It takes a fair amount of effort but the results are worth it.

6. Use a Compost Tumbler

Using a compost tumbler is one way to get finished compost in a short amount of time with minimal effort. Although most of us will not be able to make finished compost in two to three weeks as some manufacturers claim, there are significant advantages to using a tumbler.

The most significant benefit is the ease and convenience of turning the pile. Turning an established compost pile can be a lot of work, so much so that most people simply don't do it often enough. Compost tumblers do produce finished compost in a much shorter amount of time than most other methods. Compost tumblers tend to be more expensive than other bins and their capacity may be limiting to those with huge amounts of material but for most people it's the quickest and most effective method there is.

There are now a wide variety of quality compost tumblers available including:

The Original Compost Tumbler

This tumbler has a large 18 bushel capacity and a gear driven drum for easy turning even when full. Internal mixing pins help push freshly added materials to the core where temperatures can reach 150+ degrees. Aerator/drainage devices on the door provide air intake without loss of compost (also prevents leaching of nutrients into ground below). Screened vents on end caps help to ensure a constant flow of fresh air into the bin (helping to prevent odors). View details on Amazon »

RotoComposter Compost Tumbler

This tumbler has one large capacity compost drum that rotates on a stable base for quick and easy mixing. It comes fully assembled so there are no worries about putting it together. It's made from recycled plastic and holds 12 cubic feet of material. It has a 16 inch wide twist-on vented lid. View details on Amazon »

Mantis ComposT-Twin Composting Bin

This 2-chamber rotating composter lets you "cook" one batch while you add new material to another. It's built with a sturdy tubular frame and has aerator vents. The easy-to-turn handle and gear system makes for easy mixing. This tumbler is a bit pricey but it's a solid work horse with a capacity of 10-bushels. View details on Amazon »

More information on compost tumblers is available at: compost-bins.org

7. The Secret Compost Ingredient: Alfalfa Meal

Adding an activator such as alfalfa meal to your compost provides the much needed nitrogen and protein that really speed up the process.

Activators are a source of both nitrogen and protein, ingredients that assist the organisms to break down the organic material. There are many commercially made activators that are worth a try. We have tried a few but nothing has come close the the results we have seen with what we call "our secret compost ingredient."

The activator that we call "our secret ingredient" is Alfalfa meal! In some areas you will find Alfalfa Meal in garden centres and it is also available from online retailers. Wait unti you see what it does for your compost. The results are remarkable!

You can also use fresh manure, bone meal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, comfrey, or even high-protein dry dog food (yes, that's right, dog food!) as a compost activator.

8. Use More Than One Pile

If you have a lot of material to compost it's a good idea to start a new pile rather than adding to an existing pile.

Once the composting process begins and the material in the pile starts to break down it is advisable to avoid adding new material unless there is an imbalance of greens to browns that should be corrected. Adding new material to an existing pile will usually prolong the wait for finished compost and, in an open pile, the longer the process takes the greater the risk that nutrients will be lost to leaching.

A better idea is to start a brand new pile with the fresh material. Both piles will be break down more efficiently and will be ready sooner!

9. Start a Worm Compost Bin for Food Scraps

Worm Composting, also known as vermiculture is an often overlooked composting method. It's not just for city folks anymore!

One advantage of worm composting is that it can be done indoors and outdoors, allowing for year round composting. It also provides those living in apartments with a means of composting. Worrm compost is made in a container filled with moistened bedding (often shredded newspaper, or shredded fall leaves and a handful of sand or soil) and red wrigglers (also known as branding or manure worms).

You add your food waste and the worms and micro-organisms will eventually convert the entire contents into rich compost. Worm compost bins are also a fun and eductational project for children!

10. Grow your own super-charged organic fertilizer

If you have a spare garden bed, consider growing a patch of comfrey. Comfrey has deep roots that absorb nutrients from the subsoil, which are then stored in the leaves. Comfrey leaves have a high level of nitrogen making them a great activator for compost piles but their real value is in making comfrey fertilizer for your plants. When you compare the nutrient levels of compost with comfrey fertilizer at the end of this article you'll see why we use the term "super-charged."

Growing Comfrey

Comfrey is a hardy plant that will regrow from small pieces of root so it is important to choose the site with care. Comfrey rarely sets seeds so it won't infest your garden. The plants will do well in full sun to near full shade in an area that gets lots of moisture. Space the plants 2 to 3 feet apart and stand back and watch it grow. In the first year cut the flower stalks and add them to the compost heap. In the second year you should be able to get 3-4 cuts from a single comfrey patch. Just take a pair of shears and cut them back to about six inches from ground level. Wear gloves because the leaves can irritate skin.


Add items to the compost tumbler that you would normally put in a compost pile. Leaves, grass clippings, leftover produce and food waste are all items that can safely be added to your compost.

how to use a compost tumbler.[good]

Rotate or roll the compost tumbler at least once daily to mix all the ingredients and to aerate the compost. The tumbler conserves heat, which helps break down the contents faster. Having compost in a sealed container keeps the smell down as well.



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Load the composter with green and brown garden waste. For every 6 inches of brown garden waste, add 4 to 5 inches of green waste. A good ratio to remember is 25 parts of brown, or carbon, matter to one part of green, or nitrogen, matter.

Add enough water to the composter to moisten the materials. Do not use so much water the pile becomes sopping wet. You will need to add more water if the pile becomes dry during the composting process.

Tips & Warnings


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Getting the most from your tumbler.

Our correspondent in Santa Fe, New Mexico writes in to tell us of an encouraging sight he sees. One of the city’s schools is flanked by a number of raised garden beds where the students grow vegetables in the spring and summer. Nearby are a half-dozen compost tumblers into which he’s seen students loading the remains of those gardens as well as leaves and kitchen scraps. This extends the students’ lessons that start with simple seeds. Not only are they learning about plants and other aspects of biology, they’re learning about recycling waste, building healthy soil. and the science behind decomposition. Imagine the possibilities.

The main thing this sight brings to our New Mexican friend (he admits) is jealousy. He only has one compost tumbler and he wishes, like the students, he had more.

The benefits of compost tumblers  make them perfect for most home gardeners. They keep their contents neat and contained. Not all of us think that a compost heap is a beautiful thing (right, dear?) but even those who see a pile of decomposing leaves and grass clippings as an eyesore can’t slight the sight of an efficient compost tumbler. The best thing about them? They make accomplishing the act of composting much easier. Why spend time with a garden fork turning over a heavy and unruly heap every few months when a few cranks and turns mixes your compost and provides the aeration it needs to work effectively?

And that’s the other great advantage. Compost tumblers. when used correctly, can speed up the process, doing what might take years in a moderately efficient heap a matter of months in a tumbler. Again, this happens only when the right conditions are applied. Though that’s not difficult, its the reason you may have heard your neighbor complain that he didn’t end up with finished compost in nearly the time he thought he would. But again, with a little attention to detail, you can turn a tumbler full of scraps into a wonderful soil amendment in a season or less. Here’s how.

Most important is providing the right ratio of green to brown ingredients. This means balancing nitrogen and carbon ratios in a way that’s sutiable to conditions inside your tumbler. Most compost tumblers recommend that you load your barrel with roughly 75 percent grass clippings or green equivalent and 25 percent other ingredients such as kitchen scrapes. This varies from the traditional brown-green mix in open piles or heaps. Why? Because the mostly closed tumbler system affords less chance for evaporation. The other important thing is to take advantage of your tumbler’s rotating feature. Moisture levels are important. If what’s in your barrel seems to dry, as it might be after loading in a pile of leaves on a sunny autumn day, add some moisture, then tumble to spread it around.

Compost should be turned every several days. Turning compost every five or so days mixes more oxygen into the decomposing materials allowing the process to continue at its most accelerated rate. It also exposes more surface of the composting materials to the microorganisms that accomplish the process (see The Biology of Composting ). Too much turning can also inhibit the process by short-circuiting the decomposition process and not allowing heat to build. Checking the contents of your tumbler every few days will give you a feel for how things are going, how many days the materials need to reach maximum heat, and just when that heat starts to decline. That’s the time to turn.

Other small tricks: don’t continually add materials to your tumbler. Once it’s reached near full capacity — you want to leave some space so that there’s plenty of air and room for the materials to mix when turned — wait until what’s inside is finished before emptying and reloading. The temptation to add more materials increases as the contents inside decomposes and is reduced. Don’t do it. And make sure, as you go along, that any venting your tumbler has is kept clear. Fresh air is critical to the process.

When starting a new load add a shovelful of finished compost to introduce the microorganisms that will do the work of decomposition. Even better, use one of the compost starter products that concentrate such microorganisms. Such products can speed your results and are particularly useful in the (mostly) closed environment of the tumbler. What about holding compost over winter? We frequently start a batch in the fall with leaves, kitchen scraps (potato peelings), and organic goat manure (because grass clippings are hard to come by then) and turn as long as conditions allow. Eventually, frozen weather or snow put an end to this. We’ve never had a problem but imagine very damp contents could expand and damage the container. But again, we’ve never had this problem. In the spring, start turning as soon as you can. Even after over-wintering, in the harsh Montana climate, we’ve been able to turn out ready compost by the Fourth of July.

Like anything else, you’ll get better using a compost tumbler the more you use it. Pay attention to the details and your own special conditions and you’ll reduce the time it takes to produce a finished batch. You can see the value of having two tumblers going so that you can load one as the other finishes. Our friend in New Mexico says he’s already made his wishes  known to Santa. Here’s hoping she’s listening.

Composting Step-by-Step with a Backporch Compost Tumbler

I started composting a while back because I was sick of throwing huge piles of kitchen scraps into the garbage, especially since I knew that my landfill-bound kitchen scraps could, with a little effort, be turned into absolutely amazing fertilizer for my garden.

Oh, and I also knew that composting would enable me to use fewer plastic garbage bags (although I still haven't elimated these yet. darnit!).

As I was considering how I wanted to go about this composting busines, several of my friends recommended that I get a worm bin. My boyfriend, however, did not like the idea of having a bin and a bunch of squiggly critters inside the apartment so I opted for a compost tumbler instead. The exact bin I chose was the Backporch Compost Tumbler because I can simply rotate the drum on its axis in order to aerate the contents of the bin and also because it is small enough to fit on my enclosed porch (unfortunately, it's made of plastic. Argh!).

Below is a step-by-step on how to use it, which can pretty much be carried over to any similar tumbler or bin.

1. To start composting, begin collecting your kitchen scraps. I collect mine in an old garbage can for a day or two before I add them to my composter.

2. When you've got the time, add your kitchen scraps to your compost bin. These scraps, by the way, are considered "green" or "wet" materials and contribute nitrogen to the pile. To compost properly, you need to balance out the carbon-nitrogen ratio. More on that later.

3. Shred some paper. This paper will add carbon to the pile and is considered "brown" or "dry" material. By the way, it's important that the paper (and veggie scraps) are made into small pieces to speed up the composting process.

Note: I say to add paper because it is the most convenient source of carbon in the winter, but a variety of other "brown" materials that are easier to come by in the summer and fall are actually preferrable.

4. After shredding the paper, add it to your compost pile. A general rule of thumb in terms of carbon-nitrogen ratios is to add 3 parts of high-carbon materials (ex. paper) to every one part of high-nitrogen materials (ex. kitchen scraps). I usually follow this as best I can, and then just add extra paper if the bin starts to smell at all. It seems to work pretty well.

5. Then close your composter up and give it a few good turns.

And that's it. If you follow these steps, you'll end with a bunch of compost that looks like this:

Not too exciting right now, but eventually this pile will turn itself into nutrient-rich dirt, which is pretty cool. Also, despite the fact that there is months and months of garbage in the bin, it doesn't smell bad at all (except for the slight smell of rotting citrus from the grapefruit I added a few weeks ago). Apparently, that's the magic of the carbon-nitrogen ratio.

To learn more about composting, check out this comprehensive website on composting from the University of Illinois. It provides all the necessary details on materials you can and can't use in your bin, carbon-nitrogen ratios, and the many types of compost bins and piles.

For fun, you can also take a look at the following cute video on creating an outdoor compost pile or experiment with this awesome compost calculator. both courtesy of Planting Milkwood .

Making Your Own Compost Tumbler at Home

what is compost tumbler.[read]
how to use a compost tumbler.[good]

If you own a yard or garden and grow flowers or crops, you will undoubtedly know the importance of compost to provide much-needed nutrients to them, to enable them to flourish and offer you a year-long bounty. If you depend on purchasing compost, you will also know that the costs can sometimes outweigh the profits, especially if you tend to gardening as just a hobby.

There are certain rules to keep in mind when dealing with home-made compost. Firstly, you will have to separate the carbon and nitrogen waste. To give you an idea of which is which, we have devised some pointers to common waste and which category they fall under:


  • Fruit and vegetable scraps, together with most other table scraps

  • Grass and garden weeds

  • Flower cuttings and green leaves

  • Seaweed

  • Chicken manure

  • Ground coffee and tea leaves


  • Other leaves (not green)

  • Straw or hay

  • Wood ash

  • Newspaper

  • Shredded paper and cardboard

  • Sawdust and wood chippings


As you can see, most of the waste originating from your garden and kitchen would act as nutrient-rich compost. But, the question remains В– how do you convert all of the above into fresh and manageable compost?

Building Your Own Compost Tumbler

The benefits of building and owning your own compost tumblers are twofold. Firstly, you would not need to buy weekly or monthly supplies of compost, which may or may not be added with fertilisers or other chemicals. Secondly, you would need to handle the bags of compost when purchasing, unloading and then storing it in your garden shed.

The essential components of compost tumblers are rather basic and should incorporate the following:

  • 13 gallon garbage can with cover

  • 2 gallon garbage can without cover

  • 1 brick

  • Electric drill with 1/2-inch diameter drill bit

  • 5 gallon bucket

  • Shovel

  • Old blanket

Here are the steps to put them all together:

  1. Drill six holes at the bottom of the 2 gallon garbage can and 24 holes around it, using a 1/2-inch diameter drill bit. It is not important where the 24 holes are positioned, as long as they are spaced at least 2-3 inches apart. These holes allow for easy drainage and also allow air to seep in, accelerating the decomposition.

  2. Place the brick in the 13 gallon garbage can so that its length lies in the centre of the can. Empty the soil collected in the 5 gallon bucket into the can, until the soil reaches the height of the brick inside the can.

  3. Position the 2 gallon garbage can into the 13 gallon one by settling it on the brick. Close the cover of the larger of the 2 cans.

  4. When the compost is ready to be inserted inside the larger can, open the cover and empty the waste into the smaller container. This process can be suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

  5. Once waste is added close the lid and wrap the old blanket around the 13 gallon can to keep it warm.

Steps on Adding Waste

Although it might seem an easier task than believed, it is important to know how to prepare the compost, for maximum benefits. Here are the basic stages of preparing the waste:

  1. Use fresh soil as the base of your compost pile as this would allow worms and other organisms to aerate and prepare the compost for use.

  2. Add straw or twigs to the pile as this accelerates aeration and assists in drainage.

  3. Continue to add layers of waste, alternating between moist and dry. Examples of dry waste would be wood ash, sawdust and straw. Moist waste would be teabags, food scraps and seaweed.

  4. Place the green manure (made of buckwheat, clover or wheatgrass) to activate the pile and speed the process. Any nitrogen source outlined earlier would do the trick.

  5. Keep the compost moist (either through watering or hosing) or allowing rainwater to collect.

  6. Cover the pile with plastic sheeting, old rugs or carpets or wood to help retain moisture and heat.

  7. Be sure to turn the compost over with a shovel every few weeks to add fresh oxygen to the pile.

Benefits of Building Your Own Compost Tumbler

Apart from the savings in cost, having your own compost tumbler will enable you to control exactly what type of waste is added to your valuable source of nutrition for your crops or flowers. As long as you are aware of what should be added and in which order, you are bound to enjoy the huge benefits of producing your own home-made compost.

You would not need to worry about running short or storing large amounts of compost as it would now be available on demand. It only takes a couple of minutes to prepare the whole mixture and feed your plants or crops with the sustenance they deserve!

Buying a Compost Tumbler

There are many benefits to making your own compost tumbler, the obvious one being the cost savings. But sometimes you may not have the time or patience it requires to make your own. Should this be the case you can purchase a compost tumbler from many places online or even your local hardware. The benefits of buying instead of purchasing include quality and lifespan. Generally a quality made compost tumbler will be made from steel and have a manufacturer's warranty or some sort of guarantee that it will last a certain amount of years. Easy composter has a range of steel rotating compost bins for sale which include a colorbond finish and warranty.

Other Articles You May Enjoy

Browns and Greens - Your Ideal Composting Ingredients

Composting Basics - Learn How to Compost

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Compost: The Trash That Is Really Treasure

Simran Sethi learns how to compost the right way and explores her composting options.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS has results from testing compost tumblers on the market and comparing them to compost created in compost bins or piles.

Testing Compost Tumblers

You've seen the ads: "Now you can have dark, rich compost in just a few weeks!" What an appealing message. Whether you grow flowers, vegetables, herbs or houseplants, compost is "black gold" in the garden. We never have enough of it, and can't make it fast enough. Compost tumblers, the ads say, can give us a steady supply every couple of weeks. Designed so you can crank, turn or roll the container to turn and aerate the compost, tumblers come in several sizes.

Before you run out and buy one, however, be aware that those headlines are advertising hyperbole at best. In our tests, tumblers did not produce finished compost any faster than a well-managed compost bin or open pile.

To be sure, the ingredients appear to be composting faster because you are likely to turn the contents more often in a tumbler, thus introducing air — one of the four vital ingredients (the others being nitrogen, carbon and water) — that is necessary to turn vegetable matter into compost. But if you build an open pile the same size as a tumbler's capacity, use the same ingredients in both and turn the open pile whenever you rotate the tumbler, they will produce compost in the same general time frame. So, why should you buy a compost tumbler?

Last summer we conducted a field test of various compost tumblers versus open compost piles. Although most of us at MOTHER use cold composting methods (substituting time for the work of maintaining a hot pile), we ran a hot pile as a control.

Under our environmental conditions, both the open (hot) pile control and the tumblers yielded rich, finished compost in about 10 weeks — a far cry from the 14 days some of the manufacturers claim. The tumblers were certainly easier to use than turning an open pile with a pitchfork, but they did not appreciably increase the speed of production when compared to a properly managed open pile. Ease of turning is probably the main benefit tumblers offer, but as you will see below, some are easier to turn than others.

Although the decomposition time is not increased, compost tumblers do have advantages in addition to ease of turning. By and large, they are clean, neat, unobtrusive, pest-resistant and odor-free. Because of this, tumblers often can be used in urban and suburban areas, where local laws or restrictive covenants may prohibit open compost piles.

One pleasant surprise during the testing, in what turned out to be a drought year, was that the enclosed tumblers retained moisture better than the open pile, which had to be watered frequently.

Compost Tumbler Styles

Compost tumblers fall into four general categories based on their construction:

Crank-operated drums. A horizontally mounted drum rests on a raised framework. A crank assembly lets you turn the drum easily, while the internal baffles help mix the materials, adding air.

Because the drums are raised relatively high, emptying them is simple. Merely push a wheelbarrow under the drum, position the door and open it. Compost pours directly into the wheelbarrow.

This style of tumbler tends to cost about twice as much as other styles. But, as with anything else, you get what you pay for. In this case, you trade money for ease of operation.

The Mantis ComposTwin and the ComposTumbler are examples of this design; the former has a double drum and the latter has a single drum (available in two sizes).

Center-axle drums. A vertically mounted drum rotates around a central, horizontal axle supported by a wood, metal or PVC frame. Operation is generally easy, particularly with the models that have doors on both ends. The central axle acts to break up and mix the materials. Most of these tumblers are mounted low to the ground, however, so emptying them can be a chore unless you have a low-boy wheelbarrow that happens to fit under them.

The Urban Compost Tumbler (UCT) and the Tumbleweed are this type.

Base rolling drums. A horizontally configured drum rolls on a ground-level base. Some of them actually have rollers, while others have molded rounded points to suspend the drum and let it rotate. Obviously, the tumblers with rollers are easier to turn. To help make rotating easier, several of this style have steps molded into the body, so you can use your feet and legs to turn them, thus theoretically easing back strain.

Because the base rolling tumblers virtually sit on the ground, emptying them can be awkward. You have to shovel the compost out — through relatively small openings — rather than pouring it.

Typical of this design are the Envirocycle, the Step-down Composter and the EZ Composter.

Roll-Around Sphere Compost Tumblers. These are giant molded angular balls that you fill with composting material and then roll around your yard. The idea is initially intriguing; in practice, however, they tend to he the most awkward to use and the most difficult to empty.

Roll-around composters are not really round, but are faceted like a geodesic dome. As a result, they only roll on what would be their equator. And, instead of rolling like a snowball, they swing to the left or right in sharp arcs. The heavier they are loaded, the less control you have.

The Bio Orb and the Large Batch Composter are examples of this style.

Compost Tumbler Features: Pros and Cons

Once you have decided which kind of tumbler you want, look at the specific features of each. It's the little things that can make or break a design.

For instance, compare the Envirocycle to the EZ Composter. The former has a hinged door. The latter has a round hatch with finely threaded screws. As a result, loading and unloading the Envirocycle is considerably easier than loading and unloading the EZ Composter, which has a hatch that is difficult to screw down even when the unit is new, let alone after dirt and debris clog the threads.

Among center-axle types, some, such as the Tumbleweed, open at both ends, while others, such as the Urban compost Tumbler, open only atone end. Having openings on both ends makes loading and unloading simpler. However, the extra air flow of the UCT's patented core-aeration system, which precludes having both ends open, might he worth the trade-off.

Capacity also can be an issue. Many models come in more than one size. At first blush, the larger size seems to make sense because it produces more compost in the same amount of time as a smaller one. But the larger one also might he heavier and more difficult to operate.

There's another aspect of capacity to consider. Composting speed is a function of the last items to he added. That is, you won't get a full load of compost unless you've put in a full load of organic material. This doesn't mean you can't add material a little at a tune. What it does mean, however, is that "time to completion" is measured from the last of those small additions.

Because of this, you may want to have more than one unit. Start by completely filling one with a mixture of brown and green compost material. Examples of brown material are fine mood chips, brown weeds, straw, leaves and kitchen scraps; examples of green material are grass clippings, green garden cast-offs and manure.

While that batch "cooks," you can slowly fill another unit.

This is the idea behind the ComposTwin: You can have one bin filled and composting while you are adding fresh ingredients to the second bin.

Compost Tumbler Operating Factor

Whichever unit you choose, you should be aware of certain operational factors:

1) Ignore recommendations to use compost accelerators. About half the manufacturers still recommend this practice, yet study after study has shown that such additives have no appreciable effect on the composting process.

2) The proportion of green material to brown is more crucial in a closed tumbler than in an open pile. If you don't add at least 40 percent browns, you'll end up with a slimy, smelly mess instead of compost.

If nothing else is available, keep a bag of leaves or a bale of straw handy and use it as necessary to maintain the balance. In most cases where users have reported poor results, it turns out they have been adding only grass clippings and kitchen scraps to the unit.

3) All tumblers are pest-proof to rodents, dogs and other animals — not to insects. When you open a tumbler, be prepared for a cloud of gnats to emerge. The fact is, these same gnats hover over open compost piles, but you are less aware of them because you don't encounter them in mass.

4) Monitor the moisture content. Tumblers retain moisture letter than open piles, so you don't need to add much. Usually, grass clippings alone provide more than enough moisture. Your working pile should feel like a clamp sponge.

If it's wetter than that, leave the door open awhile so it can dry out. Occasionally you may have to add a small amount of water. If so, add no more than a cup at a time, and be sure to tumble the contents after each addition.

5) Air is crucial to the composting process. Periodically check to ensure the vents in your composter haven't been clogged by organic material. If you think the mix isn't getting enough air, rotate tile tumblers more frequently.

Compost Tumbler Sources


What is a Compost Tumbler?

A compost tumbler is a compost bin designed to be rotated, so that materials inside are remixed for aeration and faster composting. Most are supported off the ground by a frame, so they can be situated on sealed pavement. The same materials that could be added to a regular compost pile can be added to a compost tumbler, and often the tumbler is able to heat and break down the material faster and with far less water than a pile. The result is a rich, uniform fertiliser for the plants in your garden. Compost tumblers are usually more expensive than regular compost bins but the utility they offer makes them well worth considering.

I have seen a few different designs innovative people have implemented to get their compost tumbling. All will do the job just as well as a purchased one.

Filling a Compost Tumbler

All kitchen scraps, egg shells, weeds and prunings, grass clippings, leaves, newspapers and plain cardboard can be added to a compost tumbler, and a mix of all these ingredients plus a bit of soil makes for a good recipe.

With one end closed, I fill my tumbler with all the compostable materials I’ve collected over one week. Kitchen scraps have been preserved in buckets with bokashi (no bad smells), egg shells have been left to dry out, newspapers and plain cardboard collected in a separate bin, and weeds and prunings collected in a bucket.

My neighbour is a lawn-mower man by trade, and he’s allowed me to take as much grass clippings as I wish for my garden. It’s not a necessary ingredient in a compost tumbler, but I use a lot of it because I can. It allows the bin to heat up very quickly and very hot.

I half-fill the compost tumbler with grass clippings, shred newspapers and cardboard before adding them, crush egg shells and add the carton as well, any weeds and prunings go in, and kitchen scraps are emptied in along with water from rinsing the buckets. I finish filling the bin with grass clippings then close the lid and tumble the bin until the materials are thoroughly mixed.

When to Tumble a Compost Tumbler

A good mix of materials will heat up as they begin to break down. This should happen within the first week after filling a compost tumbler. It is not necessary to tumble during this phase, and it may in fact cause the pile to cool down, which is undesirable. Allow the hot phase to persist, and when you notice a drop in temperature this is the time to tumble.

After tumbling the first time, the material should heat up again, though its unlikely it will reach as high a temperature as during the first phase. Once again, wait until the temperature drops before tumbling again.

After the second tumble, the material may not heat up again, and will most likely remain warm. This means it is still active, but active with a different group of bacteria and fungi to the first phase. The material breaks down slower in this phase, and oxygen should penetrate as the bacteria and fungi require, which means you shouldn t have to tumble again. From now until the compost is finished, only tumble if you detect a bad smell.

A compost thermometer is a great tool for monitoring the activity of materials in a compost tumbler. I ve used one many times to determine the right time to tumble, and a good time to empty the bin.

Emptying a Compost Tumbler

To empty a compost tumbler, the best way is to lay a sheet of strong cardboard down underneath the bin, open one lid and tip the compost out. Pick up the cardboard and tip the compost into a wheelbarrow. It takes me a few tips to empty my compost tumblers. Be sure only to tip out what you can easily pick up and carry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why compost in a compost tumbler?

Traditional methods of composting usually involve rotating/turning a pile of built material, which is a back-breaking task. Compost tumblers make this job a hundred times easier.

Consider using a compost tumbler if:

  • You dont have a space in your garden for a compost pile. Tumblers can be situated on paving or sealed concrete without making a mess.

  • Rats are being attracted to your compost pile. Tumblers are rat-proof.

  • You want to produce a lot of compost fast (like me!). Use your tumbler as I do, in conjunction with cardboard compost bins or other stationary bin, for a fast turn-over of compost.

What can I compost in my compost tumbler?

All organic materials can be composted, one way or another, but some materials require more time or more heat to break down properly.

  • In general, your compost tumbler can take all kitchen scraps, egg shells, weeds and prunings, grass clippings, leaves, newspapers and plain cardboard.

  • If you re certain your materials will heat above 50degC (thermophilic temperatures), you can also add meat and dairy waste, but add it after you ve mixed the normal ingredients, then bury the meat and dairy materials in the centre to ensure they are heated and broken down.

  • You can add branches or wood chips, but these take a long time to break down and will not be finished when everything else is ready. However, these materials will continue to break down after you ve applied your compost to your garden.

  • You can also add soil amendments to your compost, even though they will not break down. For example, I ve added clay, biochar and cuttlebone to my tumblers, so that they are mixed in with my compost when I spread it around my garden. They are also covered and filled with humus and moisture, ready to help my plants and soil grow. I ve also added leftover chicken manure pellets and super phosphate to my compost tumbler, so that it is not so concentrated when it ends up in my soil.

  • You can also add soil modifiers such as lime and sulphur to your compost tumbler, but these may hinder the composting activity, so it s best if possible to add the modifiers gradually and directly to your soil.

How often should I tumble my compost tumbler?

  • When its first filled, to mix the materials thoroughly.

  • Again, once the initial heat phase begins to cool.

  • A third time, once the second heat phase begins to cool.

  • A fourth time, only if you detect a bad smell.

Do I need to water my compost tumbler?

Fruit and vegetable scraps have more than enough moisture in them to break down, as do fresh grass clippings and any other fresh plant material. Newspapers and cardboard might need to be moistened before adding, but consider there might be enough moisture from other materials to dampen them. It is better that your materials are too dry, so you can add a bit of water until it;s damp, than too wet, in which case you will have to tumble every day to avoid bad smells!

When will my compost be ready?

Your compost will be ready when it is dark brown or black and crumbly, cool, and smells earthy. You shouldn t be able to distinguish any of the original materials, and there shouldn t be signs of fungus or warmth which suggests it is still active. Even if it s warm, you can still add it to your soil, but it wont be ;plant-ready until it has finished breaking down. Allow three months for your tumbler to fully break down a batch.

Should I keep adding to my compost tumbler?

You certainly can add to your compost tumbler, though it is better to batch-fill, to take full advantage of the heat that can be generated. If you add materials gradually, you may not achieve high temperatures, and you will find it more and more difficult to tumble, as the weight of the material becomes concentrated into smaller particles.

How much compost will I get from my compost tumbler?

A nice mix of materials filled into your compost tumbler should reduce to between 1/4 and 1/3 the original volume in finished compost. In my experience, one batch can cover a 5 square meter garden bed a few centimetres thick.

Why isn my compost heating up?

The materials in your compost tumbler heat up as bacteria become active. Their activity depends on moisture, air, and a good mix of carbon-rich material and nitrogen-rich material.

  • Newspaper, cardboard, straw and other plant stalks are carbon-rich materials. Bacteria consume this for energy.

  • Leaves, grass-clippings, vegetable scraps and manure are nitrogen-rich materials. Bacteria consume this for protein.

  • Including a variety of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich material in your compost tumbler ensures bacteria have all they need to create compost.

  • Experiment with different amounts of materials until you find a recipe that suits you.

The ideal moisture conditions in a compost pile is damp, but not sopping wet. If your pile is too wet, add dry shredded cardboard or newspaper and stir it through. Your amended pile will not likely reach thermophilic temperatures, but it should be saved from putrefaction!

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