Apr 042013

Garden Compost Tumblers (5) are a great way to recycle your kitchen waste and soft yard clippings faster than stand alone composters.  In fact, most tumblers will bioconvert at a 15-25% higher rate, producing buckets of nutrient-rich humus for your garden. While results may vary depending on a multitude of variables, the most important include: aeration, surface to volume ratio, temperature and proper moisture balance.   While it is not impossible nor overly complicated to build your own from affordable parts available locally, many gardeners are willing to make the long term investment and purchase units with the features they desire.  Some of the more popular characteristic of tumblers include: number of compartments, ease of spinning, locking mechanism, and durability.  Dual Drum (1) models are by far the most popular, due to a larger overall capacity and the ability to have various ages of compost.  Let one side cook while the other is being filled. Most of the dual systems also share the same infrastructure and frame and are therefore space savers by design.

Another key attribute is the ability to spin the drum.  One of the easiest to tumble (and most enjoyable) is the Rolling Orb (2).  Simply roll the ball to your filling area then roll it to a sunny spot for cooking. It is surprisingly easy to move around the yard and the kids obsess over it (you may want to get an extra one just for them).  A lot of people who use their tumblers for decomposing food scraps like the feature where the drum locks in place.  With these it is easier to add waste, as well as empty the finished humus.  The Tierra Tumbler (3) sports a locking pin mechanism that freezes the drum while accessing contents.  This particular unit has the added bonus of portability by means of two, back wheels.

While many of the systems we offer are designed with enhanced structural integrity and durability, some definitely stand out in comparison to the others.  The Heavy-Duty Rotational (4) is an impressive unit that uses weather-resistant materials and may be used year-round in the harshest of climates.  It was developed with longevity and superior quality in mind.  In addition, composters colored black tend to work slightly faster because they absorb radiant heat from the sun.  The elevated temperature helps encourage the growth of the beneficial microbes, so best to place the unit in an area that receives at least 3-4 hours of direct sun per day.

Most seasoned yardlers understand composting space can be at premium, especially for woody debris such as branches and shrub clippings.  We recommend keeping hard woody materials out of your tumbler and instead focus on softer waste streams such as leaves, kitchen food scraps, shredded paper and green garden clippings.  Your finished compost will be ready sooner and of a finer texture.  But don’t go sending anything to the landfill – place the excess woody debris in an out-of-the-way Wire Mesh Bin (6) and let them quietly decompose on their own. Those are a great complement to any composting tumbler that focuses on the softer ingredients.

To get your tumbler cooking, compost accelerators may be employed, but are definitely not required.  To take advantage of your locale’s indigenous microorganisms, simply grab a few handfuls of compost from an active pile or collect some partially decomposed leaves and use either to seed your drum.  These microbes should reproduce indefinitely, under favorable environmental parameters.  Last but not least, don’t neglect spinning your drum(s); this is a key task that aerates the pile and helps maintain uniformity throughout.  Should the contents get all clumpy due to overly wet conditions, simply break up clumps with a plastic hand claw and add some dry shredded office paper to the mix.  Never over fill your drum as the empty space is necessary for proper operations.

  2 Responses to “Compost Tumblers and Tips on Using Tumblers Correctly”

  1. Hello,
    I was reading from your site on how to compost. And I was curious about the c-n ratio. I have a tumbler outside, and its main ingredients are shredded paper, pulp from a juicer grass clippings/vining plant clippings, and coffee grounds(mass coffee grounds, from cafe’s). I think the only brown source in this list is the shredded paper right? If so everything else should be green because its all fresh . That being said, I am adding those greens almost daily, if not every-other day. What is the proper ratio my tumbler should be?

    Thanks, Richard

  2. An optimal C:N ratio for household organic waste that helps balance the needs of the microbes and mitigate foul odor is 20:1 to 35:1. To bump up the carbon in any pile, add any of the following items: shredded cardboard, straw, dried brown leaves, sawdust and paper. We would not recommend using newspaper or magazines, due to the dyes and ink chemicals. Be careful with sawdust from treated lumber – the preservatives can harm the beneficial microbes. Kitchen food scraps are generally well-balanced in their C:N ratios; if you are dealing primarily with yard wastes, use a debris ratio of 3 Brown (twigs, dried leaves): 1 Green (grass clippings). A good rule of thumb: ammonia smells mean too much nitrogen. Slow decomposition probably means too little nitrogen and/or moisture. Correct accordingly.

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