Are compost tumblers any good?

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Are compost tumblers any good?

Also: What should I not put in a compost tumbler?

Where is the best place to put a compost tumbler?

Do I need a compost tumbler?

Using a compost tumbler is a good way of making compost. The tumbling action in a compost tumbler and shows that all the material gets the maximum amount of air that it needs for it to convert to compost. This is the main advantage that a compost tumbler has over a static compost bin.

To get the best out of a compost tumbler you need to know how to use them. Turning over a compost tumbler, will mix air into the composting contents. For this reason compost, in tumblers, will be formed much faster than in a static compost bin. Tumblers are designed to make compost turning easy. 

Compost tumblers are mainly used for making compost from small quantities of food-waste that’s regularly added to them. If you have a large quantity of grass clippings or shredded garden waste, then, compost tumblers may not be any good.

For large amounts of organic waste you have fewer choices. Compost bins are always going to hold more compost than compost tumblers. Compost bins are static. You aren’t going to be trying to move them over in one go in the same way as you would with compost tumblers.

For very large amounts of grass clippings and generally shredded garden waste, compost tumblers would be pointless. You would only be able to process small amounts of a mountain of waste. Often, the best thing for garden waste is to forget about compost tumblers or bins and just make a big heap.

The main advantage of using compost tumblers is that of speed. The rolling action will open up the waste inside the barrel. This will allow air into the mix. It’s the aeration that speeds up the whole process.

You would achieve the same by turning over a compost heap or contents of a static compost bin, using a garden fork but this is always a chore. Anything that’s a chore rarely gets done.

Are compost tumblers any good? Yes, get one now!

Compost tumblers offer the convenience of being easier to move over. They are designed with ease of rolling in mind. 

When you look at and compare static compost bins with compost tumblers, you will notice that there’s, usually, a stark difference in the quality of build. Compost bins tend to be built down to a price. They can be quite flimsy. This isn’t a problem for something that’s going to be static for most of its life. 

Compost tumblers need to be built strong enough to be pushed over. They’re often off-the-ground on a stand. The frames that hold compost tumblers up, need to be good enough to support a well built barrel and the contents when full. So, when you look at compost tumblers and then look at the price, it’s the design and strength that you are paying for.

Compost tumblers have a limited capacity which means that they can fill quite quickly. When the tumbler barrel is full, you need to leave the amount of material to break down. You need to keep rolling it over to complete the rotting process but you mustn’t be tempted to add any more food-waste as you see the volume shrink away.

For most compost tumblers you need to adopt a batch procedure. When the contents of a batch are finished, then you can extract the entire amount from the compost tumbler. The empty vessel can then be refilled for the next batch.

With batching very much in mind, some compost tumblers have been designed to have two or more separate chambers. This allows for one chamber to be filled and then closed off. The other chamber or chambers can then be filled in turn, while the whole composter barrel is being regularly rotated.

Compost tumblers require a disciplined approach. You need to know when to stop adding food-waste to it. You need to keep turning it until it’s reached the point of maturity where the compost in it is any good or good enough to be used.

Among the variations in compost tumblers there are those that need to be rolled around on the ground. The Rolypig compost tumbler is in this category. Where the Rolypig differs from any other is that this is an in-one-end and out-the-other system. The Rolypig compost tumbler is not a batching system of making compost.

Other compost tumblers that are rolled around on the ground have to be closed off for the finishing period. Unless it’s multi-chambered, the tumbler barrel will have to be emptied onto the ground.

This will provide you with a heap of, hopefully, usable material which can be used in the garden. The lid can then be replaced and refilling can commence.

Compost tumblers that are mounted on a stand can be easier to manage. Particularly if you don’t have much room for rolling anything around. There’s often the added advantage of a handle to turn to help with the rolling process. 

Most compost tumblers that are mounted high enough off the ground have room in under to place a wheelbarrow. This will make it easier to empty out the contents when the time comes. You can then wheel it off to wherever you want it.

One question that I’m often asked is: are compost tumblers any good at keeping out pests? The answer is, generally, yes.  Compost tumblers that are raised off the ground will be difficult to get at. If anything does manage to scale the supporting frame, it would have to gnaw its way into the compost chamber. All of this would be a bit exposed. Any vermin trying this  would be taking a risk too many.

For compost tumblers that sit on or near the ground, vermin may stand a better chance but there are a couple of points that make it awkward for them. 

The whole point of compost tumblers is that they need to be rolled over regularly. Where tumblers move from one location to another through regular rolling, this is unsettling for most vermin. They like the security of things staying in the same place. If it moves, they tend not to trust it.

For compost tumblers that are mounted on low stands that allow the barrel to be rolled on the spot, any vermin may feel safer to investigate. However, There is an advantage that all compost tumblers have that holds true. Provided the tumblers are rolled regularly the fresh food-waste, that vermin would be interested in, will rot down very quickly.

Vermin prefer fresh food or food that’s, perhaps, gone a bit mouldy. They won’t be interested in any smells that emerge from compost tumblers that smell of anything that’s, clearly, rotting.

Vermin are put off by hydrated white lime

There’s one sure way of accelerating the rotting of food-waste  and deterring rodents and that’s by adding hydrated white lime. If you’ve read any other posts on, you may have seen me mention this before. The white lime powder will reduce any acidity in the compost which will allow for faster, more efficient composting of any organic material.

What should I not put in a compost tumbler?

What should I not put in a compost tumbler?

There’s a whole list of materials that most people will tell you that you should not put in a compost tumbler, bin or heap. But there’s no difference between a compost tumbler and a compost bin when it comes to selecting what can or should not be put in compost.

Whatever you put in a compost tumbler will, generally, turn into compost much faster than making compost in a static bin. This is due to air being incorporated into the mix every time you turn a compost tumbler over.

But there are some things that should not be put in a compost tumbler or a compost bin of any kind, for one reason or another. This may be because the item won’t convert into compost; it may not be organic waste. 

There are some materials that shouldn’t, specifically, be put in a compost tumbler because they won’t break down fast enough to match the speed of breakdown of the other components in the tumbler. This may lead to residues of undesirable materials being present when you come to handle the compost from a compost tumbler.

What should I not put in a compost tumbler? Anything carbon based and once living.

Such materials would become fully degenerated if allowed much longer in a compost bin where everything is expected to be left on a longer time-line. Compost tumblers are all about speed. 

Looking around and listening to what’s being asked, I’ve put together a list of waste-materials that some people think could or should not be put in a compost tumbler or put in any type of compost.

Can branches of garden trimmings be put in a compost tumbler?

Compost tumblers are usually small or have limited space. Garden trimmings, especially anything woody, tend to take up a lot of space. This type of material needs to be chipped or shredded. Even if you do this it will take up space. You should not put bulky, woody materials in a compost tumbler.

Woody material takes longer to rot than most things. The best place for it is in a compost bin or a basic heap. There’s no point in putting wood chips in a compost tumbler. They will only take up valuable space that you want for regular amounts of food-waste.

Can branches of garden trimmings be put in a compost tumbler? Yes but chip it first.

Can I put ashes from a fire in a compost tumbler?

This is another material you should not put in a compost bin. It will take up too much space. It won’t contribute anything to the composting process in a compost tumbler or bin. 

If ever you feel tempted to put ashes from a fire in a compost tumbler or bin, make sure that they are cold. Hot ashes will risk melting and damaging a compost tumbler or bin as they are often made from plastic.

Can I put ashes from a fire in a compost tumbler? No, just spread it on the ground.

Another reason why fire ashes should not be put in a compost tumbler or any compost, is because ashes often contain elements that extend the acidic factor. However, this can be reduced by adding hydrated white lime.

Can those sticky labels on apples be put in a compost tumbler?

These can often find their way into compost when an apple or some other piece of fruit has rotten so much that it gets thrown out. The rotten apple can go in the compost. The sticky label should not be put in any compost. 

Can those sticky labels on apples be put in a compost tumbler? No, you’ll see them in the compost.

These little stickers are made from plastic and won’t rot down. They won’t do any harm if they are put in compost but you will keep seeing them when you finally extract compost from a tumbler or bin.

Can bits of fish and meat be put in a compost tumbler?

Most people will tell you that you should not put bits of fish or meat in a compost tumbler. In most cases they would probably be right. I would argue that provided the volumes here are small there shouldn’t be a problem.

Can bits of fish and meat be put in a compost tumbler? Yes but add some white lime.

I feed bits of fish and meat among other food-waste to the Rolypig compost tumbler. The important point to make here is that you need to add hydrated white lime when adding this type of material to any composting system. The lime will speed up the compost and deter vermin.

Can dog-poop be put in a compost tumbler?

Dog poop is something that needs to be out of sight and out of mind for as long as possible. Therefore this is something that you should not put in a compost tumbler.

Can dog-poop be put in a compost tumbler? No! You don’t want it in there!

Dog poop could go in a standard compost bin or heap as this will be left undisturbed for much longer than a compost tumbler. Remember to use hydrated white lime where dog poop is involved.

Can glossy paper be put in a compost tumbler?

Ordinary paper e.g. news paper can be put in a compost tumbler. This will play an active part in providing a balance of carbon (browns) to match the nitrate (greens) in the com post. This is important in any composting system.

Can glossy paper be put in a compost tumbler? No, it’s better left out.

Glossy paper usually consists of thin layers of plastic or other components that provide the desired glossy finish. Glossy paper tends to take a long time to break down and parts of it may not break down at all. The general guidance has it that this is something that you should not put in a compost tumbler.

Can sawdust from treated wood be put in a compost tumbler?

The reason for treating wood with preservatives is to prevent rotting. One of the chemicals used for this purpose is arsenic. You should not put sawdust from wood that’s been treated with preservatives in any compost. The chemicals involved in wood treatment will not break down. They will live  through the composting process and survive into the soil.  

Where is the best place to put a compost?

Where is the best place to put a compost tumbler?

Very often the best place to put a compost tumbler will be on a hard standing that’s out of sight but near enough for making regular trips from the kitchen. The place that you choose will need space around the tumbler so that you can roll it with ease and remove the finished compost.

If you’re looking at getting a compost tumbler that’s going to be high off the ground, on a stand, you need to be aware that the foundations on the ground need to be firm. As the compost tumbler starts to fill, it will become heavy. 

A compost tumbler placed on unstable ground may tip over. The ideal place for this type of compost tumbler would be on a concrete pad or solid stony ground.

A compost tumbler doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture. Unlike a static compost bin which has to be placed in a position where it will need to stay for years, a compost tumbler is more mobile.

There will be regular occasions when you will need to empty a compost tumbler. This will be when the batched contents of the tumbler have reached a point of maturity where you can call it compost. 

When a compost tumbler is completely empty, this is an opportunity to move it to a new location. It may not be so easy if you have a double or multi-chambered compost tumbler. There will be composting material in one of the chambers which will require assistance when moving the tumbler to a different site.

There are two main considerations when locating a place for a compost tumbler:

For rolling over

You need space around the tumbler to be able to easily get at it to roll it over. The rolling action is not complicated but it would be difficult in a confined place.

For emptying out finished compost

When you want to remove the contents of a compost tumbler, you will probably want to place a wheelbarrow next to it. Some of the best compost tumblers are set up to allow you to place a wheelbarrow directly under the barrel. This makes the handling of finished compost simple.

Is the best place in shade or sun?

Generally, the best place for a compost tumbler is in the shade. There is an argument that the heat of the sun will help to heat the compost in the tumbler and this is true, up to a point. 

The amount of compost in a compost tumbler that will benefit from the sun’s heat will be that which is on the extreme outer regions of the tumbler. It will only affect the side that’s facing the sun. 

Sun-light can be destructive over a long period. Your compost tumbler will probably be made from plastic or have some plastic components. Plastic components tend to suffer when placed in the sun for long periods, some more than others.

Some plastic is treated with ultraviolet light stabilizers which will extend its life. This may include the barrel that makes the greater part of your compost tumbler, especially if it’s made from black plastic. 

Any plastic components on a compost tumbler that haven’t been stabilized will show small cracks if placed in the sun.

Do I need a compost tumbler?

Do I need a compost tumbler?

If you want to make compost quicker than a static compost bin will do, you will need a compost tumbler. Compost tumblers can be very easy to manage. You can feed it with food-waste just like a static compost bin. You only need to roll it occasionally.

If you are happy to put food-waste in a static compost bin, allow it to pile up over time and wait, you will have compost one day in the future. This may provide all your compost needs. Some people make some really good compost using nothing more than a static compost bin.

You may not need it but when you’ve got it you’ll want it

It really comes down to how important food-waste recycling is to you. I use a compost tumbler because I use the Rolypig system which is an in-one-end and out-the-other compost tumbler. Do I need a compost tumbler to make compost? No, not really but having used the Rolypig for as long as I have, I would loathe going back to the old way of using just a static bin.

So, for me, compost tumblers aren’t so much a question of need but want.

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What else would you like to know?

How do I know my compost is working?

Can I put rotten vegetables in compost?

Why is my compost clumping?

Do you need two compost bins?

Should I cover my compost pile?

An grass clippings catch fire?

Is Rice compostable? Can you put coffee filters in a compost bin? Can you put meat in compost?

Can you put lemons in compost? Cherish by Hannah Wood Can I put moldy food in compost?

Can you use weeds for compost? Can you put garlic in the compost? Can I put dog poop in my compost?

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