You want to grow your own food, use up your kitchen scraps, and make the world a better place. It’s time for the compost tumbler you’ve been reading about to turn your leftovers and lawn scraps into beautiful, beautiful composted dirt. But just how long does it take to compost in a tumbler? We have researched the answer to this essential gardening question.
Composting in a tumbler is much faster than composting in piles. Because you turn the compost every few days and thankjs to the heat generated in the contained space, you can expect to turn your scraps into compost fairly quickly. How quickly? If you’ve got your mix just right, sometimes as little as two to six weeks.
In this post, we’ll discuss different tumblers and how they work, along with what items to put into them. We’ll also look at various composting speeds and compare tumbler composting to more traditional methods.
Composting In A Tumbler
Composting is nature’s way of breaking down organic materials into dirt. When a pile is left to its own devices, the process can take months to years, depending on the size of the pile and what’s included in it. But humans, intelligent beings that we are, have come on with a faster solution—The Composting Tumbler.
Composting tumblers, in simple terms, are enclosed barrels that have some means of turning them. Because they are a closed system and sterile at that, they may also need some additional help like a compost activator or a few handfuls of horse or chicken manure. Once you’ve made a batch or two, don’t clean it out thoroughly. The little bit remaining from your previous batch will help get things cooking in your new batch.
This compost tumbler by Miracle-Gro has an 18.5-gallon capacity, is easy to turn, and even comes with a free pair of gloves. It’s heavy-duty, food-grade plastic and should cook your compost up in just 4-6 weeks. Its small size makes it suitable for even city balcony gardeners.
If you don’t have access to farm-fresh manure, try an organic compost starter like this.
What Can You Compost And How Long Will It Take?
This is how tumblers differ from outdoor piles or bins. In the outdoors, moisture can evaporate or go into the soil. But because your tumbler is a closed environment, there’s no place for moisture to go. For that reason, it’s recommended you think about a ration of 25% kitchen scraps to 25% yard clippings.
Any natural material can be composted. Things like leaves, grass clippings, shrub trimmings, flowers, and straw can all be mixed in with your kitchen scraps. From the kitchen, you can compost fruits and vegetable scraps, tea, and coffee grounds, even eggshells. You’ll want to avoid composting meat trimmings, bones, or fatty foods like cooking oils.
The main thing for timing, though, is your carbon to nitrogen ration. If you have more carbon type items (think about yellow and brown things like straw, sawdust, hay) versus nitrogen items (like vegetables and grass), your compost is going to take longer to decompose.
One trick that can help is to chop your kitchen scraps up finely in a food processor, like this one.
If you want to speed up your composting, think about getting a two-barrel capacity composter. That way, you can have two batches cooking at different speeds. When one is ready, the other will still be breaking down. That way, you can always be processing your scraps and creating vibrant, beautiful compost for your plants and garden.
This large capacity, 37-gallon, dual-chambered tumbler, is a favorite. It’s beginner-friendly and, when placed in direct sunlight, can create compost in as little as two weeks with the right preparation and turning.
Tumbler Composting Versus Bin Or Heap Composting
Compost Bins Versus Compost Tumblers
Maybe space is not an issue for you, and you’re not sure you need a compost tumbler. What’s the difference between just piling it on the ground or creating some bin?
Bins are often made of thinner plastic than tumblers and can crack over time. They are typically open-bottomed, so once in place, they are not designed to move around. Tumblers, on the other hand, can be moved easily. Bins have a larger capacity than tumblers, but they are also hard to turn. They can also be harder to empty, though many are designed like the one below with removal doors at the bottom of the bin.
Bins often take longer than tumblers to compost, often two to three months, versus just a few weeks for the smaller tumblers. And because they are one unit, you’d need to have two separate bins to achieve the same results as a dual-chambered compost tumbler.
Compost Tumblers Versus Compost Heaps
The most significant advantage of compost heaps is you can add materials and walk away from it. You can speed its process by turning the contents, but the benefit of rain and sunlight and time is that the process will do it on its own. You can use a series of piles from the oldest materials to newest and always have someplace to put your lawn and kitchen waste and always have a collection of compost at the ready. This will take a bit of space, though.
The advantage of the tumblers versus the heaps is that you can use them in a small space. You will have composted soil in far less time (weeks versus months to a year), and any smells are contained inside of the tumbler.
It’s up to you which method of composting is going to be right for you and your garden. But do give composting a try, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as turning the detritus from the garden into something worth its weight in gardening gold.
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