Compost Tumbler

A co-worker hit me up last week and asked if I wanted a free compost tumbler. I’ve seen them before and thought they might be useful but I never purchased one due to the high price point. Needless to say I was intrigued and took her up on her offer. I asked what was wrong with it and she said nothing. Shes petite and said it’s just too hard for her to tumble. She brought it in today and it appears to be fully functional and ready to go aside from needing a little cleaning up.

Any tips on how to use these things? I’ve read 25:1 or 30:1 is the sweet spot for Carbon to nitrogen ratio. I envision using mainly shredded leaves and grass clippings with veggie scraps as well.

I had one and use lots for grass and old dry leaves, food scraps, didn’t use any meats, some people do, as well as an activator like blood meal. Some water and turn it everyday. It worked well. I guess I should add, after awhile it really didn’t provide that much compost for the amount of time spent with it and it was one of the larger ones. We ended up creating a pile in a box area and turning it over with a pitch fork. However, if free… nice to have.

I had one for a few years and did not like it.

  • It freezes worse in the winter because it is off the ground
  • The steel of the drum is not very heavy duty, so you can’t load it more than about half full otherwise it will bend the metal. I think corrosion of the metal in constant contact with damp compost would make it last less than 10 years.
  • If you only load it half full, you can’t fit much compost in it. For us it was a couple months of kitchen scraps.
  • I probably overloaded it, but after about two years the teeth broke off the plastic spur gear handle so it wouldn’t tumble without wrestling it by hand to get it to turn over

I ended up giving it to the neighbors when I build a wood compost bin in our yard:

My static wood bins are a lot less work to manage and have a way higher capacity. And they were pretty cheap to build.

But if you got it for free, you might as well give it a try.

I have one and really like it, but I use it with two important things in mind. The issue is you have to stop and let the compost cook if you want to use it, so you really need more than one pile or tumbler. I use mine like a predigester of household scrap, paper waste, and other household compost. I follow very few instructions or guidelines other than trying to add paper basically until the moisture level seems right. When I get to half full or so, I turn it in to my compost pile. It keeps my dogs out of the compost pile and puts the compost next to the deck without being smelly, so my wife is willing to help with the compost. She won’t carry food scraps to the pile behind the garden.

You reminded me of the temperature… that was an important measurement you had to monitor. Unlike @HollyGates ours was very sturdy. But agree with @HollyGates about freezing and maintaining temperature off the ground. This was the one we had or very similar it has been a few years:

I got rid off mine after some time. It gets very heavy and actually makes very little compost for an effort. The regular standing bin is a lot more productive and easy, and it does not require any attention, except to unload it once a year.

I loaded it up tonight about half way full. It holds 72 gallons. Mostly shredded leaves and fresh cut grass clippings with banana peel, apple peel, and lettuce. Spun it around a few times. It is quite heavy but easily manageable for an ape like myself. I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes. But as mentioned Ed I do t expect to get huge loads of compost from it. I set it next to my existing pile of wood chips and leaves.

I use mine more like a worm composter. I dont buy special worms. I just toss any worms I find into the tumbler. By the end of the summer it’s loaded with them, and lots of little baby ones, so they must be breeding. my compost is about half leaves, 1/4 grass clippings, 1/4 kitchen scraps (mostly coffee grounds and banana peels).
I empty it in the fall, and fill it up by the end of winter. once it thaws it starts working pretty quickly. I start adding worms and by mid summer the first batch is done. I can get two batches each summer.

There is a bunch out on the net about “recipes” for compost. It’s not super critical, especially if you keep an eye on it and adjust if things aren’t going as you want.

One of more important things may be to decide if you want more fungal or bacterial compost. The ingredients and proportions vary depending. And which you want depends on how you want to use the compost.

If you are making the compost for fruit trees, you likely want fungal compost. Check out Michael Philips books, and on line. For annuals more towards bacterial. A lot you can play with. Of course, you can just make compost too, and not worry about all the details.

I basically just use mine for kitchen scraps and weeds, and don’t worry about ratios at all. Now, I don’t get much out of it either, but it feels good to put the garbage to use, and it still produces a little bit.

I think that’s pretty much the idea. Being green rather than getting a lot of stuff.

We bought a compost tumbler a few years ago. It was really hard getting the green/carbon ratios correct and after numerous attempts I gave up on it. I’ve since started using worms to process all of my food scraps:

This has worked exceptionally well and the worm castings look phenomenal. Once I make a couple of alterations to my worm bin this will be the ideal way to dispose of food scraps IMHO.