Are you planning to do composting at home? Then the first thing you should know is what exactly the composting process means and the different composting methods. Basically, it refers to an aerobic (yet with oxygen) and controlled process, which aims to convert organic materials into a soil amendment rich in nutrients.
You can also create mulch out of it via natural decomposition. The resulting product would be a nutrient-rich compost, which refers to a crumbly, dark, and earthy-smelling material. Expect microorganisms to feed on every organic material and kitchen waste that you put inside the compost bin or pile.
These microorganisms will also utilize nitrogen and carbon for growth and reproduction, as well as oxygen for breathing and water for the proper digestion of materials.
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Top Reasons to Compost at Home
Composting is a worthwhile activity that you can do at home, especially if you think about its usefulness to the environment. Basically, it is a natural means of recycling. It is beneficial in the sense that it can significantly lessen trash, improve the health of the soil, and help deal with climate change.
Just deciding to turn your yard waste, trims and food scraps into compost is enough to create value-added and beneficial soil amendments. You can then use it in protecting the environment and building more resilient communities.
Here are the major reasons why composting at home is a good idea, especially in terms of protecting the environment:
Helps recycle yard trimmings and food waste or kitchen scraps, giving you the opportunity to manage even an organic waste in a sustainable manner
Significantly lowers the number and volume of materials disposed of in trash incinerators and landfills – These include food waste and kitchen scraps, yard waste and trims, leaves, and grass clippings. It also ensures that powerful greenhouse gases do not end up getting released into the atmosphere.
Builds healthier or well-nourished soil – Composting is also good for the environment in the sense that it can help conserve water, avoid soil erosion, and boost the growth of plants in your yard or garden.
Benefits of Using a Compost Tumbler for Composting
One of the most valuable materials for composting is a tumbler. You can use a compost tumbler, which typically refers to a barrel or any other similar container mounted on a frame.
The compost tumbler comes with a handle attached to its barrel, making it possible for you to rotate it inside the frame. This is essential for ensuring that you get to tumble the composter’s contents.
What’s great about compost tumblers is that they help make the compost process more convenient, faster, and easier. It simplifies the whole composting procedure, making it less laborious to do and making it easier for you to see the high compost tumblers worth.
In general, most compost tumblers provide the following benefits:
Easy and convenient to use
Produces compost quickly
Compact and space-saving
Looks tidy and neat
Minimizes foul odors
Prevents unwanted pests from penetrating inside
With these benefits, it is safe to say that the compost tumblers are incredible solutions if you are one of those who want to use a composting material, which is hassle-free and has the ability to produce rapid results. However, it is still advisable to keep track of the entire composting activity when using the mentioned solutions.
It is also crucial to understand their different types, their individual benefits and drawbacks, and how to make them and set them up for success.
Types of Compost Tumblers and Their Pros and Cons
Vertical compost tumbler
This specific compost tumbler operates by vertically affixing or attaching a container around an axle positioned horizontally. With that, the container will have an easier time spinning from one end to another.
It can result in the effective mixing of composting contents and consistent aeration and decay. The height of your vertical compost tumbler will have a say on how easy it would be to empty it. The reason is that you can put a wheelbarrow directly beneath the container.
Has a horizontal axle that helps with the spinning motion of the tumbler
Guarantees consistent aeration and decay
Effective in combining the contents of the compost well
Easy to empty
Lesser capacity compared to horizontal tumblers
Horizontal compost tumbler
In most cases, the horizontal compost tumbler features a rollable container that you have to set up on a base then put at ground level. Expect the container to bear additional capacity and weight compared to the vertical-designed compost tumblers.
The horizontal compost tumbler or container also retains its relative rotation or ease. One more fact about horizontal compost tumblers is that they feature cranks designed to handle turning. All of these cranks are vented to let fresh air fuel the process of composting.
There are also more sophisticated models and designs of horizontal compost tumbler, which utilizes piping in bringing oxygen to the central part of your barrel. These often come with paddles set up within the barrel that aid in mixing and aerating the composting materials upon turning them.
Have a higher capacity and weight compared to vertical tumblers
Capable of maintaining its relative ease or rotation
Effective in allowing the fresh air inside that aids in composting
Can mix and aerate materials
Lacks height, which may cause it to be more awkward to empty than vertical tumblers
Plastic Compost Tumbler
In terms of materials, one of your options is one made of plastic. It is a cheaper material compared to the others plus it has the advantage of being lightweight. What’s great about plastic is that its insulation is better compared to the others, which can help keep the contents safe even when the weather is cold.
Note, though, that plastic material tends to degrade faster compared to metal, especially when regularly exposed to the sun. This is the reason why its lifespan is shorter than metal.
The metal material often used in this type of compost tumbler is stainless steel. This is a good choice as the material is strong and durable enough that it assures you that the compost tumbler made from it will not disintegrate due to rust.
Note that the tumbler may have a damp and moist environment, which may speed up rust formation on metal. Still, it is more robust than plastic, so it can prevent that from happening. It is also longer-lasting than plastic.
You just have to make sure that this tumbler also has good enough insulation to ensure that heat conduction is prevented in cold situations. Be prepared to pay more for metal compost tumblers as they are more expensive.
Strong and durable
Can prevent the disintegration of rust
Longer-lasting than plastic
Not as lightweight as plastic
Single-Chambered and Dual-Chambered Compost Tumbler
There are also what we call single and dual-chambered compost tumblers. As the name suggests, the single-chambered tumbler features just one big interior space.
You have to monitor the contents of the chamber or container because once full, there is a need to stop putting more stuff and materials into it until you see everything being broken down.
Meanwhile, a dual-chambered compost tumbler, also called the dual batch compost tumbler, means that it features two individual or separate compartments. In other words, you can fill one of its chambers or containers while the other is meant to break down the waste. This also means you should not stop putting in materials.
Note, though, that dual chambers have smaller internal chambers. This is the reason why you will receive multiple but smaller groups or batches of compost instead of a single big batch.
When comparing single and dual chambers, many still prefer the latter because the presence of a second tumbler or chamber makes it more functional. It allows you to deposit garden and kitchen waste in one chamber while waiting for the materials in the first chamber or container to mature.
How to Set Up and Use a Tumbler for Composting?
Now that you know some designs and materials for the different types of compost tumblers, it is time for you to set one up. Here are the things you have to focus on when setting up your compost tumbler:
Choose the best location
The first thing you should do is find the ideal location for the tumbler. Note that similar to the stationary and fixed compost bin, compost tumblers can also be expected to deliver a good performance if you put them in the right spot.
In most cases, you have to put them under the shade or in dappled sun. The reason is too much exposure to the sun may result in the distortion of the plastic parts of the tumbler. If that happens, it may cause problems in making the parts fit.
The materials may also get too dry because of it. It may be a rare case if you use a sealed tumbler, but it is still crucial to put your compost tumbler under the shade, which is the right location for it. This can help prolong its lifespan.
Compost tumblers that have metal parts should also be put in an area that protects them from rain. This is the key to making them last longer. One tip is to store the tumbler beneath a garden shed’s eaves, so you can prevent the formation of rust, thereby increasing its lifespan.
Do you want to put the tumbler inside your garage or within an outbuilding? Then you can rest assured that it is okay provided you put a tray under the drum. The tray can help in catching spills as the compost tends to leak or spill liquid onto your floor.
Assemble the tumbler
You can assemble the compost tumbler once you know the specific materials that you can add inside. In most cases, people advise putting a compost starter material into a newly assembled or set up compost bin or pile, so you can start composting.
You can gain good results if you utilize some old compost, yard dirt, or manure with high levels of organic matter. The main reason is that such materials contain microorganisms capable of inoculating your compost, promoting ease in decomposing the contents efficiently.
It would not be necessary to include things in future loads since natural helpers can be expected to be formed within the tumblers or compost bins. You should then toss the compost or dirt with raked leaves, scraps, or sawdust.
You have to feed the compost tumbler every one to two days. Do this until you notice that the chamber is already around four inches starting from the top.
You also have the option to add grass clippings to the container. However, make sure that you only sprinkle them together with other materials. This should help in preventing the risk of matting. You have to prevent that as it would take longer for the matted mass to break down.
Prepare the composting materials
The next thing you should do once you have already prepared and set up the compost tumbler is to prepare and gather the materials that you intend to put inside. Generally, there are two kinds of ingredients that you can add to the compost, namely:
This type refers to dry garden waste, such as shredded branches and dead leaves. Shredded paper and coffee grounds also fall under this type of composting ingredient or compostable material. Note that brown waste or matter is usually dry, making it capable of absorbing plenty of moisture.
This is necessary because excess liquid and moisture may result in fermentation rather than the more important decomposition process. A few examples of the brown material are the following:
Nut and seed shells
Green waste or matter can be referred to as waste rich in nitrogen. They can be classified as organic materials with plenty of nitrogen as well as other nutrients, like potassium and phosphorous. In most cases, these green materials are moist.
Upon finishing the process, expect all nutrients inside the compost to be mostly derived from green matter or waste. With that, no one can deny the importance of green waste in your compost pile. To give you an idea, here are a few examples of these materials:
Kitchen or food scraps and other types of food waste
Shred the green material or wastes to make them smaller before you put them inside the compost. By doing that, the composting and beneficial microbes will have an easier time breaking down the waste more effectively, especially if you have plenty of kitchen scraps.
What Should You Not Add and Include in your Compost Tumbler?
You also have to be familiar with what you should not compost. You can identify whether a particular material is safe for composting by learning about where it exactly originated. In most cases, foods and any other products that came from the ground, like fruits, grains, vegetables, and their seeds and food scraps, are often ideal for composting.
If the materials are not derived from the ground, then they are not often recommended for the compost bins. Among them are animal products, oily foods, and items made or taken from unnatural sources.
You should also avoid composting the following as they may interrupt the process. Most of them also tend to introduce diseases:
Fat, skin, meat, and bones of animals
Butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, and any other dairy product
Egg whites and yolks
Oils or greasy foods
Manure from meat-eating animals and pets, like cats and dogs
Treated wood pieces or sawdust
Ashes coming from charcoal briquettes and commercial fire logs
Diseased branches or plants
Also, garlic and onions have the tendency to repel earthworms. This is the reason why a lot of people are not fond of adding such materials to their compost.
How to Monitor and Harvest the Finished Compost?
Now, it is time to learn how you can monitor and harvest the compost that you have already finished making. The first thing to do, though, is to pour all the gathered waste inside your compost tumbler. Ensure that you gathered enough before pouring them in.
When it comes to adding waste, take note that one of the most useful composting tips is to stick to the recommended proper ratio, which is one part green to two to three parts brown material. This should also depend on your area’s humidity. You have to increase the brown waste in case your place has low humidity or when it is inside in a dry area or zone.
Tumbling and Mixing (turning the compost bins/piles)
This involves turning the tumbler regularly, preferably once every day or every two days. Check the guide given to you by your manufacturer regarding this matter. It is crucial to turn the compost pile to allow the quick decomposition of waste. You can lessen the frequency of turning compost once it begins to reach maturity.
In this case, ensure that the tumbler comes with ventilation holes where carbon dioxide, oxygen, and any other gases can penetrate. Avoid overdoing the process, though, as excessive or too much turning may cause the contents of your compost to dry out. It may also cause the heat to dissipate in the middle of compost materials.
Aside from the recommended frequency of turning compost, it is also a good idea to turn your compost tumbler every time you put in fresh waste materials. After that, spin the drum twice or thrice after filling it. By doing that, the compost material will break up, thereby resulting in the even distribution of feedstocks within the unit.
Make it a point to water the pile regularly, too. Never let it dry out, but it should not also be too wet. As a guide, water it one to two times weekly based on your environment’s humidity.
Monitoring your Compost Pile
Now, you have to start composting and keeping track of the entire composting process. After pouring the compost pile or compost bin into your tumbling composter and turning it regularly, begin monitoring it and check for the following areas:
Check whether the compost pile has a normal smell. To know whether the compost pile is normal based on the smell, you have to check whether it smells earthy or similar to the waste added to it. In case of a pungent smell, such as ammonia, or a scent that is similar to a rotten egg, you have to put in more brown waste.
There is no need to use a thermometer as a means of measuring how the temperature is doing in your composter. Once you open the compost bin, there should be a sort of heat that comes out of the pile. Note that you are not doing the process correctly if you can’t sense even just a bit of heat upon opening.
Monitor the pile for pests, too. You have to specifically monitor it for centipedes, millipedes, lizards, and other insects and pests that may invade via the barrel’s holes. Make sure to get rid of the pests as soon as you detect them as they may spoil the pile once they excrete on it. This is by changing the ratio of green to brown waste.
If there is no problem in those areas, expect the waste inside to finish the composting process as soon as possible.
Harvesting the Finished Compost
You should continue filling your composter until it reaches around 80% capacity. There should be an air gap of around three to four inches. Once you achieve that, stop adding new materials to let the composting process proceed to the curing stage, which will help you end up with a finished compost.
Stop putting a new material around three to four weeks before the actual harvest. You may be able to decompose the compost completely within four to eight weeks. A sign that the homemade compost is already complete and ready for harvest is when it, of course, starts looking like actual compost.
The materials and compost ingredients you have added should no longer be distinguishable. There should also be a nice and earthy smell. If that happens, you can empty the tumbler to start harvesting what’s inside.
You can empty it based on the specific type or model of tumbler you have. If you have one that is elevated from the ground, you can use a wheelbarrow or any other similar container and put it beneath the unit.
You should then open the door so you can rotate the tumbler. This will allow the compost to fall into the container. Some tumblers allow you to remove them from the stand then roll them to the specific container or area where you intend to deposit the harvested compost.
Cleaning, Maintenance, and Upkeep of the Compost Tumbler
Once your compost tumbler is already up and running, you have to look after it. Once you have added the browns and greens, the most important thing related to its maintenance and upkeep would be monitoring the moisture content. The goal here is to make sure that the compost does not get too dry or too moist.
The recommended moisture level should be around 40 to 60 percent. If you feel like the compost is too dry, you can make some adjustments by pouring a bit more water. However, if the compost feels overly wet, you can fix it with the help of carbon materials, such as shredded paper.
You can add these materials then turn the compost so you can introduce air. This can help lessen the moisture. There are also certain issues that you may have to fix when trying to compost with a tumbler.
One is when the compost pile produces a foul or bad smell. If that is the case, the problem is that it requires more air circulation or it is too wet. You can fix that by adding more dry materials or browns then turning the pile.
Another problem is when the pile does not seem to heat up. What you should do when that happens is to combine the greens then turn the compost pile.
Using a compost tumbler is definitely one of the most effective methods if you are thinking of making compost on your own. It is a good method as it makes the composting process easy and convenient to do.
Moreover, this composting process has a lot of benefits – one of which is that it tends to compost faster compared to traditional compost piles. The reason is that it quickly breaks down organic matter. It is also easy to use and requires minimal maintenance.