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If anything that came from 2020 taught us something, it’s that growing your own food is a good thing to learn.
But when it comes to growing your own food, you need compost for your garden.
Compost is considered very a valuable addition to your garden. It helps add nutrients and microbes to your garden soil.
You can make compost on your own or you can buy compost from just about anywhere that sells garden supplies. In this post we go over how to start making your own compost in a tumbler.
What is Compost?
If you are new to gardening and are wondering what compost is, here’s a quick rundown. Compost is organic matter that is decomposed down to a dirt like substance. This substance is very rich in nutrients that plants love. In fact plants love compost so much some people call it the gardener’s black gold.
Compost is made up of two essential types of material. Green material and brown material. (You can find what materials you can add for these categories below).
In order to have an efficient compost making process you want to have a good ratio between the green and brown materials. You want to have about 1/3 green material to 2/3 brown materials. And then you need some heat from the sun and some oxygen from the air, and with that you get compost.
Making compost in a pile is called cold composting and can take a very long time. Using a tumbler to make your compost is called hot composting and it is much faster than making it in a compost pile.
Are Compost Tumblers Worth It?
Turning compost, even a compost pile, helps aerate the compost. This helps microbes decompose the organic matter. Remember that oxygen that’s needed for making compost? This is how you get it into your materials in your compost tumbler.
This is one of the benefits of a compost tumbler. Turning the tumbler allows you to aerate your compost even better, and much easier than having to turn a compost pile. Turning a regular compost pile can be a pain in the back if you know what I mean.
Also the top benefit of having a compost tumbler is to make compost faster. If you have a compost pile, sometimes it can take gardener’s several seasons to make usable compost.
With a compost tumbler the process is sped up, and so you won’t have to wait as long to get compost. With the right combo of green vs brown compost material, you can get finished compost in about 6 weeks.
The Top Compost Tumblers
When choosing a compost tumbler I highly recommend getting one that has dual chambers. This way you can have an active side that you are putting your kitchen scraps in, and a what I like to call a “baking” side that you are letting decompose into some great compost.
Miracle-Gro Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler
Maze Compost Tumbler With Hand Crank
FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter
How Do You Start Composting With A Compost Tumbler?
The first thing you need to do when starting to make compost with a compost tumbler is to pick a good spot. I like to put mine where it can get some sunlight throughout the day to help provide some heat which helps the decomposition be more efficient.
You also want to pick a place where any drips from the tumbler won’t mess anything up. I keep mine in a nice sunny spot near where I do most of my gardening that way I don’t have to try to move the compost too far. I use a small kitchen composter to hold kitchen scraps and other compost materials from inside until I can get it out to the outside tumbler.
The materials you can use for making your compost are listed below.
The other thing you want to have is a compost starter or some manure. This will help get the needed microbes in your compost tumbler that are there to help everything decompose so your garden plants can use the nutrients.
Jobe’s Organics Compost Starter
What To Put In Your Compost Tumbler:
Brown Compost Material:
- Dead plants and flowers
- Shredded paper (no glossy paper)
- Cardboard Paper Towel Rolls and Toilet Paper Rolls
- Napkins Paper towels that are “clean” (i.e. no chemicals or grease)
- Paper bags
- Wood Ash
- Post-it Notes
- Sawdust from Untreated Woods
Green Compost Material:
- Coffee Grounds
- Fruit and Vegetable Scraps
- Loose Leaf Tea
- Fresh Flowers
- Garden Clippings
- Animal Hair
- Manure from Herbivores
- Fresh Grass Clippings
- Disease Free Yard Waste
Can You Put Moldy Fruit and Moldy Vegetables In Your Compost?
Yes. You can put moldy fruit and moldy vegetables into your compost tumbler.
All in all, moldy fruits and vegetables have just already started the process of breaking down.
Should You Add Water To Your Compost?
IF and only IF it looks way too dry. Too much moisture in compost can leave you with a mucky smelly gunk that isn’t good for much but making you crinkle your nose in disgust.
The ideal moisture level of compost is to be about that of a squeezed out sponge.
Too much moisture in your compost tumbler:
- Water is coming out of the bottom or sides of your compost tumbler.
- The compost has an ammonia smell.
- You can see liquid in your compost.
If you find that you have too much moisture in your compost tumbler, you can open up the doors and let it air out some. Also you can tumble it every day or even several times a day to help move air through the materials.
Signs your compost is too dry:
- Compost is not decomposing, or the process has slowed down substancially.
- The compost looks more like a dusty material than soil.
Having these signs of not enough moisture, you can add a bit of water. My personal preference when this happens is to add some more kitchen vegetable scraps. Too much dryness can usually be a sign of not enough green material in your compost mix.
What You Should Not Put In A Compost Tumbler:
- Diseased Plants and Yard Wast
Any plant or yard waste that is diseased. If you add things to your compost such as tomato plats that have a fungus, then you will be spreading the disease to any plants that the compost goes in the soil for. So always pay attention to any plants or yard waste that you are about to put into your compost. If you have the slightest doubt about it not being diseased then it’s best to play it safe and throw it away.
Fats, Dairy, Bones and Meat. Avoid putting any oils, fatty foods, dairy foods, or meat into your compost tumbler or compost pile for that matter. Not only will these cause your tumbler to start to smell bad, it will also attract unwanted wildlife to your tumbler. And a bear vs a compost tumbler doesn’t have very good odds for the tumbler coming out in one piece.
Grains. This one is a more iffy one. Some people say it’s fine to add grains into you compost. And others say it’s a no-no. I personally choose to be safe and avoid grains because once again they can attract wildlife and cause some smelly issues.
Chemicals. You might be thinking “well duh” but it can be tricky at times. Maybe you forgot you used that paper towel to clean something up and it has a bit of bleach on it. If you put that in your compost you killing the good microbes that are working for you to help make the compost. So just make sure to think about things as you put them in there and make sure that you didn’t use chemicals on it.
How Long Does It Take to Compost In A Tumbler?
Usually 4 to 6 weeks as long as you have the right ratio of green to brown materials ( 1/3 green to 2/3 brown), some compost starter (or manure), and turn the tumbler at least a couple times a week.
A trick you can do to help make sure the process is fast is to chop your kitchen scraps in a food processor.
How Often Should You Turn Your Compost Tumbler?
The recommended time to turn your compost tumbler is every three to four days.
But as with most things this can vary depending on factors such as the amount of green to brown organic matter in your compost.
How Do You Know When Compost Is Ready?
When your compost is ready it usually has shrunk down, it has a texture to it that is like crumbly dirt mixed with fine mulch, and it will have an earthy smell.
What Will Happen If You Leave The Compost Too Long?
Compost that has been left in a compost tumbler can still be used as long as the moisture levels didn’t get out of control.
However it can gradually break down and start to rot. This can cause it to get contaminated with fungus, which isn’t good for your garden plants.