Think Outside The Bin: Compost Tumblers Offer Speed, Convenience and Efficiency


  • Author Dave Berning
  • Published November 7, 2011
  • Word count 494

Gardeners and those interested in living a "green" lifestyle understand the benefits of composting. Composting turns kitchen wastes, garden debris, newspaper and cardboard into soil brimming with fertility. Composting reduces the amount of trash going into landfills. Composting eliminates the need to bag or burn garden debris such as leaves, grass clippings and weeds. But composting using the traditional composting bin method is a slow process, taking up to a year to fully decompose materials. Keeping the pile aerated involves backbreaking work turning the mass of organic matter with a shovel or spade weekly. An open compost pile can draw unwanted vermin to the yard, such as raccoons, opossums, snakes and rats. Finally, a traditional compost pile that is positioned in full view of the neighbors may become a bone of contention. The compost tumbler is a low-tech, simple solution that eliminates these problems and offers every homeowner the opportunity to improve the health and vigor of their lawn, garden and indoor plants using what normally would be thrown away.

Composting tumblers are cylinders or spheres designed to hold between 35 and 210 gallons of organic matter. The cylinder will have vents that allow aeration of the material. Turning and aerating the compost is facilitated either by the cylinder being mounted on a stand and having a handle attached, or by the unit having a curved base that allows the cylinder to rotate. The original compost tumbler was manufactured from galvanized aluminum and mounted on a tall stand; this type is still available, but most of today's smaller models are made from recycled plastics. Both the metal and plastic models are durable, lasting as long as 10 to 15 years, and the plastic models are easy to rinse out with a garden hose. One advantage of plastic compost tumblers is that many provide a basin for collecting compost tea; this nutrient-rich concoction can be used to water indoor and outdoor plants. When the materials are fully composted, the large latching door on the tumbler allows finished compost to be removed with a trowel or shovel or dumped into a garden cart if the unit is mounted. When the tumbler is filled with the right proportion of nitrogen-rich to carbon-rich materials and is rotated daily, the composting process is reduced from 1 year to 3 months. Many gardeners recommend having two tumblers, so that one will be available for use when the other has been filled and the composting process is underway.

Compost tumblers generally are the size of a trash can, so they can be tucked behind shrubbery or even placed inside a storage unit. The tumbler is great because it keeps critters out but holds needed moisture in. Composting in a tumbler can even be done during winter as a black plastic cylinder absorbs and retains heat, keeping the composting bacteria active.

Composting can be quick, clean and tidy if a gardener thinks outside the bin. Compost, composting, compost tumblers, composting bins, composter, compost can, how to make compost.


Dave Berning was born and raised on a dairy farm in Ohio. He still enjoys working the land both on the family farm and his own backyard and garden. He owns and operates a lawn and garden supply company with his brother Mark. Visit them at

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