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My Compost Tumbler Experience

Most of my composting has been sheet composting, but I also use bins to provide extra compost for certain garden areas or to use in seed starting or container gardening.

my composters

I have had these three compost tumblers for several years.  Due to their large size it was a bit of a challenge to move them from my last home to my current home.  But they are so convenient, I’m appreciative of the muscles (i.e. my husband and sons) that helped me move and reassemble them.

With these tumblers, I’m able to generate a wonderful soil amendment in about three months.  It takes a bit longer in the winter when it’s cold.  Warm ambient temperatures speed up composting.

It takes me about a month to fill one of the composters, and then I let that one cook and move to the next one, so I continually rotate my use of the three bins.  These composters generate a large bucket full of compost.

I’m not dedicated enough to worry about “hot” composting.  I don’t concern myself with the exact temperature, moisture content, and precise ingredients that will cause my pile to heat up,  so I don’t get my compost hot enough to kill weed seeds.  I’m cautious about adding seeds from invasive plants. They won’t be killed without heat.

Over the years, I have refined the items I compost in these containers.  I use a mixture of about 60% “browns” and 40% “greens.”  If you have enough material, it’s best to fill up the composter all at once. The larger initial mass will speed up composting and might generate heat.

My biggest strategy for success is to only compost items that will break down quickly.  For “greens”, I use kitchen scraps like spoiled lettuce, vegetable peelings and, and trimmings from strawberries and tomatoes.  I use coffee grounds and include the filters since I’ve found that they break down quickly.  Every so often I will get used coffee grounds from my local Starbucks.  I don’t use heavy course items like banana or orange peels.  I use grass clippings (I don’t use chemicals on my lawn) and pulled weeds, but avoid weeds’ tough stalks.

For “browns”, I save leaves in the fall.  I chop up the leaves with a lawn mower, and then store them in plastic trash bags.  Then I add them to the composter as I add greens which are more readily available year round.

I sprinkle some water in the composters if they are getting dry.  I don’t soak them, but try to keep them as wet as a wrung-out sponge.

I don’t use a compost activator.  Research has shown that the wastes that go into home compost introduce all the microorganisms needed for composting.  Nitrogen materials do cause a compost pile to activate more quickly, so I’m attentive to adding grass clippings and coffee grounds, two high nitrogen ingredients.  Urine is another high nitrogen substance.

I have my tumblers in a place where I walk frequently so I turn them often; about twice a week.

my compost

When the compost is ready, it’s like Christmas at my house.  My tumblers give me a gift of this treasure that I use as a mulch around my vegetable garden in areas that need TLC.

My compost area has room for one more of these tumblers.  I’m happy with the composters I have, but unfortunately, can’t remember where I purchased them.  So I’ve been shopping around.  I’ve pretty much decided on this tumbler.  It’s inexpensive, and people that have purchased it are happy with the fact that it’s easy to assemble is easy to turn, just like the ones I have.