Are you thinking about starting a compost pile to grow great food for your garden’s soil right in your own backyard? Are you tired of throwing away kitchen scraps and watching them get carted off to the landfill? There are a lot of composting methods out there but may I suggest 3 reasons to use a compost tumbler?
A What is a Compost Tumbler?
First things first, what is a compost tumbler? Well, there’s the name brand version – ComposTumbler. It looks a lot like the ad for the EarthEasy composter above but is more rounded. The ComposTumbler units cost about $400 depending on what size you buy; The EarthEasy ones vary. I’ve had two commercial tumblers in my gardening career and I like them very much for the reasons you’ll see enumerated below.
If you’d like to save money by making your own compost tumbler, there are DIY compost tumbler designs for which you can buy or scrounge parts. There are a variety of different kinds but the basic idea is that you have some kind of drum (barrel shaped container) into which you put your kitchen scraps and then you roll the drum once a day in order to keep all the composting particles rotating and actively breaking down. You periodically add some moisture in order to keep the decomposition process going and in two to three weeks, you have black gold to add to your vegetable beds or container garden.
#1 – A Compost Tumbler is easy to use
You cook at home and you end up with a lot of kitchen scraps – peels, onions skins, apple cores. What can you say, you eat healthy and there are vegetable casualties. You don’t want to throw them in the garbage and you’ve read about compost and think its a great way to get food for the garden from stuff you already have on hand. Score. You put in the scraps, you turn it a few times a day and you’re done. No three bin structure to build, no pitchfork to turn the muck (except when you’re working it into your soil) and less backbreaking labor.
The hardest part for us is to remember to do the rotating every day. You also need to make sure you get water to it now and then; some people add a line from their drip irrigation that mists right into the barrel of the tumbler.
#2 – A Compost Tumbler is quick
Standard composting set ups usually require 3-9 months to finish decomposing. Because of the daily agitation, a compost tumbler will produce useable compost in 14-21 days. Ta da. You CAN do what’s called “hot agitation”, which is this constant turning and dampening, without a tumbler but it’s very, very hard on the body.
Those numbers are for those of us who remember to turn every day, dampen, sing songs to our compost, etc. I’m an airhead and forget to turn mine a lot and so I hover around four weeks to finish a batch of compost. You’re smarter than I am, though – I bet you can do it in fourteen days!
#3 – A Compost Tumbler is easy to empty
Standard composting methods leave you with a big pile of compost on the ground and that means lots of bending and scooping and digging around with shovels. Many compost tumblers are designed to tumble on a stand so that when you harvest the compost, all you need to do is put a wheel barrow underneath the opening and dump out the compost inside the drum.
Some are designed to be free rolling so you can just roll your tumbler to where you need to empty it. Sometimes you need to scoop or scrape, but that’s a lot easier than pitchforking huge mounds of compost.
There are drawbacks to using a compost tumbler, of course. There’s the…uh…well, there’s the thing with…um…give me a minute, I’ll think of something. Oh yeah, you’ll have to buy or build one. Oh, and if you’re garden is really big and you’re trying to generate all your own compost, you’ll need more than one – in fact, you may need several large ones. Or, you can have one compost tumbler that’s just for kitchen and garden waste and also grow cover crops to augment your soil’s health.
Another thing, you can’t compost in the winter if you live where the contents of your tumbler will freeze. My niece nearly lost a tooth one year trying to turn our tumbler after several good freezes. Vermicomposting can be done indoors, in the winter, though.
Either way, you may just want to take a look at the humble compost tumbler and see what you think.
Whatever method you choose, compost making follows the same rules and its important to follow them well. To learn how to make delectable compost, visit these links: For the lazy person; You need to compost; Black Gold; Different Methods. Trust me, they’re all good – go read them.
To learn more about DIY compost tumblers, here are a few ideas: From Urban Farms online, a bucket tumbler; Using a 55 gallon drum; and another. Honestly, this kind of thing is more a matter of how you learn; if you’re a visual learner, like me, you’ll love YouTube for this!
Here’s how you can bypass a composting unit all together.
Have you ever used a compost tumbler? Loved it or hated it – feel free to fill us in below in the comment section!