Last week, we spoke on pallet composting, one of the cheapest, if labor-intensive, entries into the home composting game. Today, we're going to talk about Compost Tumblers. While slightly more expensive than a pallet compost bin (which can often be made for free), they are much easier to maintain since hand turning the pile is no longer part of the process. Hand cranking the tumbler takes 30 seconds or less and doesn't involve a pitchfork. This is one of the easiest composting options available, outside of a compost service, like Purple Bucket.
Compost Design: Compost Tumbler, Drum Tumbler
Ease of Install: *2/5 (store-bought options)
Cost of Setup: $81.29 and up (see below)
Continuing Costs: $0.00
Ease of Maintenance: *2/5
Protection from Wildlife: **4/5
* (1 being easiest, 5 most difficult)
** (1 offers zero protection, 5 is Fort Knox)
Affordable options are available
Lightweight and easily moved when empty
Not accessible to all but the most persistent domestic pets, backyard livestock, and local wildlife
One of the least strenuous composting methods
Most households will need two tumblers minimum, to allow for filling of one tumbler, while the second is 'cooking'. Multi-compartment options reduce the batch size but also reduce the number of tumblers needed.
Requires frequent turning of the tumbler (A few times per week; still easier than hand turning piles)
The contained aspect of the tumbler can lead to diminished biodiversity in the microbe biome (a lack of worms and other soil-based life), which some studies have shown to slow the composting process slightly
Households with low compost needs in the garden
Those looking for composting options that don't require strenuous activity
Anyone looking to ease into composting
Households with high moisture compost and less dry materials. The frequent turning of the drum will aerate and dry excess moisture quickly
Not ideal for:
Anyone with a large garden (there are better large-scale options)
Anyone whose household creates high output quantities of compostable items
Tumblers work best when filled quickly and composted as a batch. High output households would need several to handle the volume.
Why we love Compost Tumblers:
The compost tumbler is accessible to most, requiring minimal amounts of effort to operate. Unlike a standalone compost bin, which requires hand turning with a shovel or pitchfork (see last week's article on Pallet Compost Bins), the compost tumbler can generally be turned with ease using a hand crank. They are great for use in a kitchen garden that's close to the house, since it's convenient to both the house and the garden for filling, and future using of the compost.
Perhaps the best feature of the compost tumbler is its ease of maintenance. It requires very little effort to fill, turn, empty, and clean, making it accessible to most composters. To maximize quality and minimize the processing time, fill the tumbler as quickly as possible with your desired mix of nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich materials. Once it's full, you don't want to keep adding to it. You will be tempted, as compostable materials shrink as the composting process progresses. However, adding fresh materials will slow your composting process and lead to uneven results.
Once the tumbler is full, simply turn it a few times each week, and when you do, check to make sure moisture levels are maintained to keep compost damp but not dripping wet. Watering won't be required too frequently due to the contained drum. With that said, you'll have to find the 'sweet spot' on your air vents to maintain moisture and allow air flow. Allowing for excessive air flow will dry your compost and slow the process. However, a lack of oxygen will also slow the process, especially on a full drum.
That's it. In 12-16 weeks, you'll have compost. Many tumblers advertise compost in 4-6 weeks. Unless, it's the middle of a hot summer and you meticulously weigh and measure your ratios within the tumbler, you won't likely get good compost anywhere close to 4-6 weeks. 12-16 weeks is what you should expect, though it may take longer depending on your contents, turning schedule, and other variables.
1-3 Compost Tumblers*
Depending on your household size and output
Multiple mid-size units or multi-chamber compost tumblers are best, as it allows for one or more to be left to 'cook', while another unit is available to be filled.
* A few good options:
Another article on compost tumblers:
For those of you that aren't ready to jump into the DIY compost game, please try out Purple Bucket's compost pickup service. There are no commitments and you can keep your compostable waste out of the landfill and contribute to revitalizing our local Bailey soil. More info here: www.PurpleBucketCompost.com
*We are recommending this item as a way of increasing composting within the community. With that said, we may receive a small commission from Amazon if you choose to purchase after clicking this link. We promise to only recommend products that support our mission of increasing local composting activities, reducing landfill contributions, and reducing our community's carbon footprint*
We aim to provide you with the info you need to jump start your composting adventure, whether on your own or by partnering with us at Purple Bucket. Please continue reading and learning on your own and let us know how we can help.
- the Purple Bucket Team