Tumbler Rumbler 

Composting with a tumbler? What do we mean and how do we do it.

Tumbler composting is essentially composting within a sealed container. A container which can be rotated to mix the materials within! Having a good seal and insulation helps retain heat which is essential for the breakdown of compost matter. This method was introduced to speed up decomposition and make composting a lot easier in relation to the physical side of things. No pitch pork or hard labour needed. 

Consider the tumbler method if you don't have space for a compost heap​, but are still interested in producing larger quantities of compost matter.

Essential knowledge to get you started

You will be choosing this method if you are ready to start composting a larger quantity of scraps as well as the addition of garden clippings. The advantages of tumbler composting? Less physical labour (the premise is that you have an effective pivot and rotating system that takes the strain off your back), less chance of vermin and rodents (as the tumblers are usually elevated and sealed), elimination of weeds and pathogens (via the decomposition process of heat) and a faster production of compost matter (if you do it right).

If you do it right, you can produce a quality compost matter in the space of 2- 6 weeks.

Things to consider before choosing your tumbler

Space, budget and functionality

Space - Your choosing this method because you have a decent size outdoor space for a compost tumbler, but unfortunately not a decent size backyard to fit a compost heap. These tumblers when compared to Indoor compost bins are larger and can hold a larger quantity. I've placed mine on the corner of our balcony on some astro turf and it looks pretty neat. 

Budget - Unfortunately, when compared to other composting methods, investing in a tumbler comes at a higher cost $$$. Bonus points if you can score one that has a tap inbuilt for the compost juice.

Functionality - The purpose of a tumbler is to relieve the physical efforts of traditional composting methods. Generally speaking, the matter only needs to be turned a few times a week and rather than getting out the old pitch fork, the bins turn on an axis via a handle. Tumbler compost bins are generally made of pretty durable and hardy materials. You can even find ones out there that are constructed from recycled materials which is an added bonus for the environment. Make sure you inspect the handle and rotating axis to ensure they are durable as you will be rotating a significant load. If your able to invest some good $$$, there are tumblers out there with wheels. What's the purpose? to allow you to wheel your bin over and empty straight onto your garden!

The disadvantages of this method

There are advantages and disadvantages to each composting method. It is important to note that with the tumbler composting method, heat is the prerequisite for producing a quality compost matter. High temperatures and good insulation are key. If you live somewhere where the weather is very cold and you are unable to sustain heat within your bin, this method might not be for you, sorry guys (but there are ways around this - see below).

Another thing to note, is that the more frequently you add fresh matter to your bin, the more you prolong the process of decomposition (this is why some smart people invented dual chamber/continuous use tumblers).

Top Products on the market

What we love and why we love it

Yukchuk under-counter

Yimby Tumbler Composter

- Dual chamber/ two chambered design
- Made from recycled plastic with a steel frame
- Easy functionality

- Requires assembly of bin and frame
- Capacity (37 Gallon/ 140 Litres)

Full Circle Fresh $29.99

Lifetime Compost Tumbler

- Large capacity (80 gallons/303 Litres)
- Made from durable, UV protected, hardy material
- Large opening  allowing for easy access and emptying

- Requires assembly of bin and frame

Spin Bin Compost Tumbler

- Lid and opening on both sides so user friendly
- Large capacity (60 Gallons/227 Litres)

- Requires assembly
- No handle -  requires manual spinning of the tumbler

Exaco ECO-2000

Envirocycle Mini Composting Tumbler

- Black sleek design and durable material
- Comes with a 5 year warranty

- Not as easy to tumble as it fills
- Single chamber design as opposed to dual chamber design

Norpro Ceramic Compost

Good Ideas Compost Tumbler

- Made out of 100% recycled material
- Comes pre-assembled

- Single chamber design as opposed to dual chamber design

190L Compost Tumbler

- User friendly design, wheeled base easy for movement
- Large capacity
- Made from 90% recycled materials

- Single chamber design as opposed to dual chamber design

What you can and can't recycle

There are certain rules for which you have to abide by with any composting technique. As far as tumbler composting goes there are certain items which you should and shouldn't recycle.

As a general rule - you should stick to 1:2. This means 1 part nitrogen to 2 parts carbon (or 1/3 nitrogen to 2/3 carbon). The key for nitrogen based materials is green and wet. This generally includes things like kitchen food scraps and fresh grass clippings. Carbon based materials include (but not limited to) dried garden clippings, dried leaves, and branches.  For a more in-depth list of nitrogen and carbon materials, see here.

Works well

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Cooked leftovers 
  • Small green prunings/grass clippings
  • Tea bags and coffee grounds
  • Wilted/dried flowers
  • Shredded newspapers and cardboard (Including tissue paper, toilet rolls)
  • Egg shells
  • General garden waste/old potting mix
  • Human and animal hair
  • Vacuum cleaner dust

Works not so well

  • Large Bones
  • Meat and dairy products
  • Large branches
  • Fat and oils
  • Pet waste/faeces
  • Glass, plastic, Aluminium (common sense, would you eat these?)

Tips for a successful tumbler compost

  • Ensure that your scraps are broken down into smaller sizes before putting them in your bin - this will help speed up the decomposition process. 
  • Ensure that you turn your mix on the regular, 2-3 times a week is optimal. 
  • Make your compost one batch at a time - by adding ingredients on the regular you prolong the process (this is why we recommend dual chamber bins).
  • If your compost becomes to wet: it may become smelly. To fix this: you can try adding more carbon based scraps or alternatively add sawdust or dolomite to reduce the acidity. Ideally you want your matter as moist as a squeezed out sponge. 
  • If your compost becomes too dry: You can add more nitrogen based scraps or small amounts of water. There are also bedding and insulation options you can place over the top of the heap to keep the compost insulated in colder months.
  • To speed up the process of your tumbler compost you can try adding an activator which is full of nutrients and micro-organisms. Horse manure works a treat too.

Activator: What it is and why we use it

Activator is simply a protein product that is high in nitrogen and is used for several different reasons. Primarily, it is used to break down materials high in carbon (low in nitrogen). It can also be used to warm up compost mixtures where process is delayed because of a cool environment. 

It's important to note that unless you intend to compost a lot of high carbon materials (which is unlikely in an urban space environment) you won't need a compost activator. Balancing out imbalances in your compost bin/tumbler can be achieved via alternative techniques.  

'Liquid gold'

Did you know: URINE (yes that's right, Urine!) has been well known to be used as a liquid household compost activator? It's FULL of nitrogen! It's free, natural and abundant. So if you don't find this idea too disgusting, why not give it a try?

On average, a single toilet flush will use between 4-9 litres of water! So think of using urine on your compost a way to save water and energy - make a positive impact on your environment.

It is Interesting to note that male urine is better than female urine as it is slightly more acidic.

If you are concerned about using your urine - don't worry - It's generally pretty safe. Urine is mostly sterile but stay away from the use of it if you are ill or have a urinary tract infection.

Remember: Balance is key - you don't want a compost heap that is too wet or nitrogen heavy. ​

Having problems with your pH?

Testing the pH of your compost soil is CRUCIAL. What do we mean by this and why?

 ​PH is a value given to the describe the acidity or alkalinity of a subject, in this case soil.

​A deranged pH level will affect the final outcome of plant growth and absorption of nutrients.

​You should be checking your soil pH at least once every two weeks. The optimal neutral pH level you should be aiming for is between 6.0 - 7.0. (Be sure to look at the type of plants you have - different plants like different environments).

​If you test your soil and you find that your pH is > 7.0, this means your soil is alkaline. ​Alkaline soils have a direct impact on plant growth (stunting) and the ability for plants to absorb soil nutrients.

​​If you test your soil and you find your pH is < 7.0, this means your soil is more acidic. Acidic soil, similar to the problem of alkaline soil, will affect a plants ability to absorb nutrients and can eventually become toxic. Acidic soils will directly impact the absorption of beneficial bacteria and can leave your plants susceptible to disease and pests.

Important to note: The ph value will vary in parts of your soil due to temperature and mixture. As a general rule, it is a good idea to test the pH of various different areas of your soil and then calculate a mean pH value.

​​There are some simple techniques you can explore to fix an abnormal pH

Acidic soil solutions
Slow solutions include:
Neutralise by adding crushed egg shells
Avoid fruit scraps such as peels and pulp​
Fast solutions include:
Adding agricultural lime

Alkaline soil solutions
Slow solutions include:
Neutralise by adding small amounts of peeled fruit skins mixed with damp newspaper bedding
Fast solutions include: 
Add agricultural sulphur, iron sulphate, or aluminium sulphate

How to test pH

There are a multitude of cheap and effective soil tester kits available these days for pH testing. You can source these from your local nursery or hardware store or alternatively, online have some good solutions, see below!

Have some questions you want answered about tumbler composting bins? Feel free to leave a comment below! 

Using a tumbler to compost takes out the physical strain of traditional composting methods. If you have a decent outdoor space, but not quite decent enough for a compost heap, time to consider investing in a tumbler compost bin. They can produce a compost matter within weeks. Want to learn more?

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