Composting is an incredible way to reduce kitchen waste, enrich your garden soil, not to mention save tons of money! The easiest way to learn how to compost is with a simple compost tumbler. You don’t need much space in your yard, and it is less work than manually turning a traditional compost pile.

Do you drink a lot of coffee?! Learn how you can use coffee grounds in your garden compost!

The Benefits of Composting with a Compost Tumbler

  1. Rich, Nutrient-Dense Soil: Compost generated from a compost tumbler is a powerhouse of nutrients that can transform your garden soil into a thriving ecosystem.
  2. Reduced Waste Footprint: By composting your kitchen scraps and yard waste, you avoid organic matter from going to landfills, reducing methane emissions and decreasing your environmental impact.
  3. Faster Decomposition: Compost tumblers provide an ideal environment for decomposition, promoting faster breakdown of organic materials compared to traditional composting methods such as a compost heap or a stationary compost bin.
  4. Space-Efficient: Compost tumblers are compact and can fit in small spaces like patios or balconies, making them suitable for those living in town, the city with limited yard space.
  5. Pest and Odor Control: The enclosed design of compost tumblers helps deter pests and minimizes unpleasant odors, creating a more enjoyable composting experience in small spaces

Tumbling Composter With Two Chambers

The best composter for making your own compost in your backyard!

The Best Composting Materials

The best way to achieve a balanced compost mix by combining nitrogen-rich green materials (e.g., vegetable scraps, coffee grounds) with carbon-rich brown materials (e.g., dried leaves, straw). I like to aim for a ratio of roughly 3 parts brown to 1 part green.

Brown MaterialsGreen Materials
– Dry leaves
– Straw
– Newspaper/Shredded Paper
– Dry grass clippings
– Wood chips
– Sawdust
– Dry plant stalks
– Pine needles
– Paper towels/napkins
– Fruit and vegetable scraps
– Grass clippings
– Plant trimmings
– Green leaves
– Non-seeded weeds
– Seaweed
– Livestock manure
– Alfalfa hay or pellets
– Cut flowers and/or greens

Tip: To accelerate decomposition, chop or shred larger materials into small pieces. This increases surface area, allowing microorganisms to break them down more efficiently.

Where to Keep Your Composting Tumbler

When deciding where to place a compost tumbler in your yard, consider the following factors:

  1. Accessibility: Choose a location that is easily accessible for adding materials and turning the tumbler. It should be convenient to reach with a wheelbarrow or compost materials.
  2. Sunlight: Opt for a spot that receives partial to direct sunlight. A sunny spot helps with the decomposition process by raising the temperature inside the tumbler. However, if you live in a hot climate, partial shade can prevent the compost from drying out too quickly.
  3. Odor considerations: While a well-maintained compost tumbler should not produce strong odors, it’s still a good idea to place it away from living spaces or areas where the smell could become bothersome.
  4. Aesthetics: If you are concerned about the appearance of the compost tumbler, consider placing it in a less visible part of your yard or use screening or plants to create a visual barrier.
  5. Stability: Ensure that the ground is level and stable to prevent the tumbler from tipping or wobbling during use.
  6. Proximity to garden or plant beds: If you plan to use the compost in your garden, it can be convenient to place the tumbler close to your garden beds for easy access.

How to Start Using Your Compost Tumbler

Most compost tumblers have 2 chambers (sometimes 3). When you first start out with using your compost tumbler, choose a side to start adding your organic materials.

The compost tumbler that we own has a “+” sign as well as a “circled” arrow. Some models may vary with the icons but they all have the same purpose. One is for the side that you are adding to, and the other is letting it be (other than turning) to start the composting process.

At the beginning it doesn’t matter what side each icon is, both chambers should be empty.

Once you have chosen your side, start adding the right balance of brown matter to clean food waste. Each time you add new material spin the composter at least 10 times to allow airflow and to speed up the composting process for a quicker finished product.

How to Know if You Are Putting in the Proper Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio

It can be difficult to determine if you are adding the right balance of green and brown matter into your compost tumbler. In all honestly, it is all about trial and error and being mindful of what you are adding. I started out by being cautious by adding in a few handfuls of brown matter, such as dry leaves, each time I added in our food scraps. This allowed me to feel confident that I wasn’t creating a stinky mess. Luckily by being mindful of the right mix, we were successful with creating rich compost for our gardens.

How Often Should You Turn Your Compost Tumbler?

It is ideal to turn your composter at least 10 times after adding in food scraps and yard waste. Aim to remember to turn your composter once a day, and a few turns each time. The more you turn the faster you will receive the best results!

If you forget to turn your composter, don’t sweat it! Just head out there and turn it a couple times! You are not ruining your compost materials, you are just slowing down the process! I must admit, there has been a few times I didn’t turn our composter for a whole month in the summer once Ryan started to cut the grass. My weekly reminder was when I would cut the grass and add our lawn clippings.

Why does Turning Your Composter Matter?

Regularly rotate or tumble the compost bin to provide aeration, which is vital for the breakdown of organic matter. Aim to turn the tumbler at least once every few days to ensure proper oxygen circulation.

Should You Add Water To Your Compost Tumbler?

It is a good idea to add a little water to your compost tumbler from time to time to maintain the moisture level. But how do you know if your composter needs water, and how much water do you add?!

Insert your hand or a garden tool into the compost pile and squeeze it. If the compost feels dry and crumbly, it needs moisture. If it feels excessively wet and waterlogged, it needs better drainage or more carbon-rich materials.

Dry and hot weather conditions can quickly dry out the compost, so you may need to add water more frequently during these periods. Conversely, during rainy or humid periods, you may need to reduce watering or adjust the composting materials to maintain the right moisture balance.

Some materials, such as dry leaves or wood chips, may require more water to break down effectively. If your compost mainly consists of carbon-rich brown materials, you may need to add water regularly to prevent excessive dryness.

It’s important to strike a balance between moisture and aeration in the compost tumbler. While water is necessary for decomposition, excessive moisture can lead to anaerobic conditions and unpleasant odors. Aim for a compost consistency similar to a damp sponge—moist but not dripping wet.

After adding water, mix the composting materials thoroughly to ensure even moisture distribution. Observe the compost pile over the next few days to assess the moisture level. Repeat the process if necessary, making adjustments to maintain the ideal moisture balance.

Remember, it’s easier to add water gradually than to correct an overly wet compost pile. Regular monitoring and occasional adjustments will help you maintain the optimal moisture level, ensuring efficient decomposition and a healthy composting process.

How Full To Fill Your Compost Tumbler?

When filling a compost tumbler, it’s important to maintain a balance between providing enough space for airflow and allowing the composting materials to decompose effectively. While the exact fill level can vary based on the specific design and capacity of your tumbler, a general rule of thumb is to not fill any compost tumbler over the turn bar within the chambers. If the tumbler is overfilled, it becomes difficult to rotate or spin the contents effectively.

Once your chamber is half full, switch to the other side and don’t add any more materials to the full chamber. Continue turning and watch the moisture content.

It can be difficult to not add more organic matter once you notice the levels of the compost decreasing, but DON’T! This will just add more time to your decomposition process.

How Long Does the Composting Process Take Using a Tumbling Composter?

You should have fresh compost mix in as little as 4 weeks if you maintain your composter in ideal conditions. It may vary depending on your climate, how much green material vs. brown matter is processing, and moisture levels. The composting process speeds up in the warmer months, but can slow down to a stall in the winter months.

How to Speed Up The Composting Process in Your Outdoor Composter?

For fast composting be sure to follow a strict ratio of browns and greens, have optimal moisture levels and turn and frequently as possible. A quick way to break down fruit and vegetable craps faster is to pre-cut them into smaller pieces.

What NOT to Put in Your Compost Tumbler

There are a few items that you should avoid adding to your compost bin to avoid stinky smells, fruit flies, and a slower decomposition process.

  1. Meat and fish: Animal products like meat, bones, fish scraps, and dairy products can attract pests and create unpleasant odors. They also take longer to decompose and may introduce pathogens.
  2. Grease and oils: Grease, oils, and fatty substances should not be added to the compost tumbler as they can create an imbalanced compost and attract pests. These items do not break down easily and can cause the compost to become slimy.
  3. Pet waste: Pet waste, such as dog or cat feces, should not be composted in a regular compost tumbler. They may contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can survive the composting process. Pet waste should be disposed of in a proper waste management system.
  4. Diseased plants: Avoid adding plants that are diseased or infested with pests to your compost tumbler. The high temperatures reached during composting may not be sufficient to kill the pathogens, and you risk spreading diseases to your plants when using the compost.
  5. Weed seeds: While composting can kill many weed seeds, some may survive the composting process and get spread in your garden when using the compost. It’s best to avoid composting weeds with mature seeds to prevent unintentional weed growth.
  6. Synthetic materials: Non-biodegradable or synthetic materials such as plastics, metal, glass, or treated wood should not be added to the compost tumbler. These items do not break down and can contaminate the compost.
  7. Charcoal or ash from treated wood: Charcoal ashes from grills or ashes from treated wood can contain harmful chemicals that are not suitable for composting. Only use ashes from untreated, natural wood in very small quantities.
  8. Chemicals and pesticides: Avoid adding materials treated with chemicals or pesticides to your compost tumbler, as they can harm the beneficial organisms responsible for decomposition.
  9. Large branches or woody materials: While small woody materials can be composted, larger branches or thick woody materials take much longer to break down. It’s best to use a wood chipper or find alternative uses for these materials.

Composting with a compost tumbler offers a convenient and efficient way to transform kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich compost for your garden! By following the guidelines and tips outlined in this guide, you can be confident in using your compost tumbler to create high-quality compost for your garden while reducing waste and saving money!

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