Are you thinking about starting a compost pile to grow great food for your garden’s soil right in your own backyard? Here are tips for beginners on how to use and even DIY a compost tumbler. There are a lot of composting methods out there but here are 3 reasons to use a compost tumbler!
If you’re a garden nerd like me then you know that the more composting methods you know how to use, the better. If you decide you’d like to learn about vermicomposting (composting with worms), be sure to read that section of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. Don’t have a copy? No problem! You can get your own copy here. If you’d like a FREE sample of the vermicomposting section, just email me at Tessa@homesteadlady.com and I’ll get you set up. To learn more about the book, just click below.
Let’s sat you’ve decided to grow some of your own food this year. You’ve even tested your soil to see what kind of amendments to add to it to help it grow food for your family.
Don’t know how to test your soil? No worries, here’s a detailed how-to from Project Zenstead.
Almost all soil types can benefit from a healthy top coat of compost, but how do you make compost without too much hassle? The simple answer is, 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. The ComposTumbler units cost about $300 depending on what size you buy. I’ve had two commercial tumblers in my gardening career and I like them very much for the reasons you’ll see enumerated below.
There are variations on the compost tumbler design, of course. Here’s one called a compost ball that Andrea formerly of Little Big Harvest uses:
DIY the Compost Tumbler
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.
Here’s one video tutorial on YouTube on how to build your own.
You can also visit the link under this photo from Lonestar Farmstead on how to make your own compost tumbler.
3 Reasons to Use a Compost Tumbler
You can certainly make a bin system for compost or simply bury kitchen scraps in the ground. However, if you’d like to compost the easy way, here are just a few reasons to use a compost tumbler.
#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 just to be hauled off to the landfill. You’ve read about compost and think it’s a great way to get food for the garden from stuff you already have on hand. Score.
With a compost tumbler, all you have to do is put in the scraps, turn it a few times a day and you’re done. No three-bin compost structure to build, no pitchfork to turn the muck (except when you’re working it into your soil) and less backbreaking labor.
You also need to make sure you get water to your compost tumbler now and then. Some people add a line from their drip irrigation that mists right into the barrel of the tumbler.
These units are so easy to use that you can turn the chore over to your kids easily. It’s perfectly possible for you children to open the unit, dump the scraps in and close it back up, turning it a few times before they leave. Just make sure that your child is tall enough and strong enough to work with the compost 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 usable compost in 14-21 days. Ta da. Well, those numbers are for those of us who remember to turn our compost every day. 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!
On a traditional compost pile, you CAN do what’s called “hot agitation”, which is this constant turning and dampening. However, it’s a lot of work and time and very hard on your body.
#3 – A Compost Tumbler is Easy to Empty
Standard composting methods leave you with a big pile of compost on the ground. That means lots of bending and scooping and digging around with shovels. Many compost tumblers are designed to tumble on a stand.. This means 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 compost tumbler to where you need to empty it. Sometimes you need to scoop or scrape from the compost tumbler, but that’s a lot easier than pitchforking huge mounds of compost.
The Drawbacks of a Compost Tumbler
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.
- 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. Remember, I can send you a free sample of that vermicomposting section when you email me at Tessa@homesteadlady.com.
Either way, you may just want to take a look at the humble compost tumbler and see what you think.
The Rules of Compost
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:
Cover graphic gratefully attributed to this Pexels user.