13 Homemade Compost Tumblers For Your DIY Composting Project

Compost Tumbler Or Bin – What’s The Difference?

A compost bin is a static container that produces compost in situ in the garden. Compost bins are open to the ground. Compost tumblers are not open to the earth and require manual rotation. Compost material for each type differs, as does the time to produce compost and the space required.

Compost tumblers and compost bins have the same end goal;

To produce nutrient-rich compost for the gardener, utilizing organic waste from the household and yard.

And without a doubt…

Both methods produce a great end-product!

But there are some differences between the two methods, from an ingredient point of view, the composting method, the size of the units, and the time needed to produce compost.

As we compare these two familiar composting favorites, you’ll get a better understanding of the main differences between them.

This should let you decide which method suits you best and how you can apply these tools in your gardening process.


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How To Make Compost

As we mentioned, there are 6 basic ingredients you will need to make your compost. You need:

  • a compost bin to place materials into
  • brown and green materials
  • oxygen
  • heat
  • and water

There are several styles of compost bins, but rotating bins offer an easy solution to composting. You can place the bin outside in your backyard to start the process. As you create different forms of waste, these products can be added to the bin. Waste falls into two categories, brown and green. Your browns are dry leaves and greenery around your yard. Green waste includes leftover food scraps from your kitchen. There should be a ratio of 20 brown materials to 1 green material. Note that we will go more in depth on what to put into your bin in the next section.

Once the materials are in your bin, you will need to provide oxygen, heat, and water. With a rotating composter, this step is easy. A rotating composter allows you to easily mix your compost to allow for more oxygen. The more oxygen you use, the faster the process goes. The bin will also naturally provide the heat necessary for the composting process to occur. Finally, you want to make sure the level of moisture in your bin is correct. Too much water and the process can be smelly, too little water and the process will go slow. Be sure the contents look moist but not wet. Add more brown materials to dry the mixture, or add more green materials or water to moisten it.

Advantages to Using a Rotating Composter

The rotating composters, or compost tumblers, from Lifetime are designed to ease composting and make it an efficient process. It can be difficult to get the right amount of oxygen, heat, and water in your composter. This composter’s rotating design allows you to easily mix your compost and allow for more oxygen to flow. The materials of the compost bin are made to naturally absorb and retain the heat needed for composting. Finally, the design allows you to open your bin and make sure it has the right amounts of water and materials.

There is a lot less work that is needed on your end to compost. The entire bin is made with the composting process in mind. Instead of finding a way to rotate your compost, you can simply unlock the composter and give the compost a spin. This provides the space for oxygen that is needed in decomposition. You can then lock the bin and let it handle the temperature inside. Meanwhile, the bin has a door so you get easy access to the contents. You can get some compost going and keep adding to the bin overtime.

A Few Tips for Using a Compost Tumbler

Because of its design, there are also a few limitations to a compost tumbler. None of which are worth ditching this option altogether though.

You might just need to do pay close attention to the following to achieve the best results:

1. Use Compost Accelerators

Due to the tumbler’s enclosed and raised design, bacteria colonies may have a hard time getting to the compost to start the decomposition process. Sure, they’ll get there eventually, but if you really want to make plant food right away, then jump-starting the process is a good idea.

Using the compost accelerator will get the party started as it will feed your workers and increase their volume.

2. Focus on Moisture Control

Excess moisture can be a problem with compost tumblers so it’s important to pay close attention to this. Make sure to balance your greens and browns nicely as any imbalance between the two can really throw your composting time off.

If you intend to water your heap, make sure to control it. Tumblers do not have good drainage, so the water can easily get trapped inside.

Adding more browns after watering can help absorb the moisture, though, so be observant if you need to tweak your pile’s composition.

3. Chop, Chop

A popular composting “hack” people like to share is to cut down your waste into smaller pieces to make them easier to break down. This can help accelerate the decomposition of your compost, which can also shorten the process nicely.

If you have the time, chop down, shred, or just pick apart your biodegradable waste before throwing them into your composter.

Can You Put Moldy Food in Compost or Worm Bin?

Are you lost on whether you should put moldy food in your compost? Worry no more. Yes, you can. You can add moldy fruits and vegetables to your compost pile in the backyard.

Advantages of compost tumblers

There are reasons, though, other than taking the work out of turning, why a tumbler might be useful.

  1. If you have a rat problem. It’s not the only way to combat vermin, but the right choice of tumbler provides an instant solution: something metal, with the compost compartment held well off the ground without needing large air gaps because the tumbling achieves aeration. Tumblers like these also allow you to compost food waste that is normally taboo—small amounts of meat, fish and fat—as the high temperatures will break them down quickly and vermin are excluded.
  2. If you have back problems which prevent your turning the heap. Choose your equipment carefully. A tumbler that you push along the ground yourself is likely to strain the healthiest back. Those which pivot around a central axle carry most of the compost in the bottom half and can be difficult to swing over. The best for a back problem is likely to be one of the more expensive types which is turned via a handle and geared cogs. These take a great deal of effort out of turning. Check whether you can maneuver a wheelbarrow underneath for easy unloading.
  3. If you have very large quantities of grass clippings and soft sappy material to compost. Too much of this in a normal compost heap causes anaerobic decomposition, leading to unpleasant smells and sludge. A tumbler, because it introduces air so readily, reduces this problem considerably, although dry material is still necessary. Grass clippings halved their volume in about a week when I turned the tumbler daily. They can then be mixed in, if wished, to a normal heap. A tumbler should always have drainage holes to permit liquid to escape, and this, if collected, provides a nitrogen-rich solution for liquid or foliar feeding.
  4. If you have very limited space to compost. It may be worth considering if you have to site it on concrete (fluid will drip into the container you place under the tumbler, rather than oozing out at the bottom).
  5. If you enjoy tumbling. I know it sounds daft, but it’s actually fun. I trialled a super tumbler — Henchman’s Compact Compostumbler (available here in USA) — and can honestly say I loved its high quality construction and ease of turning. In fact, tumbling might get your otherwise reluctant children involved. A three-year-old relative was fascinated by mine and looked forward to more composting at every opportunity.
  6. If you want an ultra-fast output. Adverts suggest that you can make usable compost in as little as three weeks and yes, I’ve done it. It’s not a piece of cake, and you should ensure that your tumbler comes with instructions specifically for this. Be prepared. The balance between carbon and nitrogen is critical, so ingredients need to be measured. Moisture levels need to be monitored, as does the temperature. The end result is quite rough, but would be useful as a mulch.

By Helen Gazeley

Create A DIY Compost Tumbler Today

Now that you’ve had a chance to look through the steps, it’s time to gather your materials and start building!This DIY project isn’t a very difficult one, and it should only take you a couple of hours at most to complete. It’s great for beginners, too; as long as you know how to use your power tools, you should have no trouble completing this DIY compost tumbler project.

Of course, there are always issues and troubleshooting areas to look out for with this and any DIY project. When you know what to look out for before you begin, you’ll be better able to deal with problems that may arise along the way.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind that can help improve your composting tumbler experience:

  • Consider using different types of hinges and locks depending on the size and type of barrel you use. This DIY compost tumbler project is entirely up to you, so you can adjust the hardware as needed to meet your specific needs.
  • Whatever you use to build this tumbler, pick hardware that will allow the door to secure as firmly as possible. This will prevent pests from getting into your compost.
  • Consider using nuts and bolts instead of screws if you’re worried about sharp edges inside or around your compost tumbler.
  • Start slow, with a 50/50 mix of brown and green materials, before adding anything that could cause composting issues.

Keep all these tips in mind as you work through the steps above and make your own composting tumbler. With the right materials and a little time and effort, you’ll have a tumbler that will work for your household’s compost for a long time to come.