In this post I’d like to show you how to build a tumbling composter using an old plastic drum or barrel. Compost is the foundation of a great garden and a tumbling composter can help you make plenty of it!
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Post updated 24 November 2017.
In my garden, I now almost exclusively use tumbling composters with the exception of the leaf mold bins and a Geobin composter which handles a huge amount of compostable waste for fall garden cleanups and chicken coop cleaning after winter deep litter has been used. I used to have a large open compost bin and heap until recently, then I moved to the tumbling composters.
Advantages of a Tumbling Composter
As an organic gardener, compost is very important to me and the fertility of the soil and the nutrients of the produce that we will subsequently harvest.
I love tumbling composters and they offer a few advantages over the traditional open compost bins including:
- rodent free – if you have trouble with voles, mice. rats or other critters setting up shop in your compost, try a tumbling composter.
- easy mixing – by rolling the composter you are introducing air and mixing up the ingredients.
- dog free – I can finally keep my dogs from eating the compost!
- smaller footprint – tumbling composters take up less space than a traditional composter making them ideal for smaller urban gardens.
- less flies
- less smell
- less work
How to Build a Tumbling Composter
To make the composter you will need:
– 2×4’s cut to the appropriate height (we wanted to fit a wheelbarrow underneath to collect the compost once ready)
– 2 sawhorse brackets
– 1 drum (we used a 55 gallon drum)
– 1 pipe long enough to go through the drum with overhang at each side
– metal sheeting to make interior baffles to aid mixing (optional)
Drill plenty of air holes around the barrel or just place airholes on the ends of the barrels. Don’t make them too big or you will lose the compost as the barrel turns.
Cut a large hole at each end of the barrel so the supporting pipe will slot through.
Cut the 2×4 to the height that works for you. We wanted to be high enough to fit a wheelbarrow underneath. Slot the wood into the sawhorse brackets and screw to secure.
With some help, lift the barrel with the pole through into the top sawhorse bracket and open up to close. The barrel should move freely.
Take care when filling the barrel and turning it when it contains material, it will get heavy. Take all precautions to operate the tumbling composter in a safe manner including appropriate positioning and securing of the system.
One Up Your Tumbling Composter
Some things which can help your basic tumbling composter even better:
- add drawer handles to aid with turning.
- a baffle inside will help agitate the compost more during turning, making it mix better and add in more air.
- Small holes close together on each end can provide better air flow through the composter.
- add compost leachate/compost tea catchment.
- add clip to hold door open for filling or emptying.
Tumbling Composter Tips
Using a tumbling composter is similar to traditional composting; you need a good mixture of dry brown materials like leaves or shredded paper and fresh, green materials.
Chop or shred materials to increase the surface area and speed up composting.
The material in the tumbling composter should be moist like a wrung out sponge. Check the moisture level as you add material.
Turn the composter a few times every day.
To find out more about composting take a look at some other posts below:
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