Composting with a compost tumbler

Composting is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. While traditional composting can be a bit of a hassle, using a compost tumbler can make it much easier. In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of composting with a compost tumbler, how to use one, and some tips for getting the most out of your tumbler.

What is a Compost Tumbler?

A compost tumbler is a drum-like container that rotates on a stand. The container has a door that can be opened to add organic materials, such as kitchen scraps and yard waste. The tumbler is designed to be turned regularly, which helps mix the materials and provide oxygen to the microbes that break down the organic matter. As the materials break down, they become compost, which can be used as a soil amendment.

Benefits of Composting with a Compost Tumbler

  • Faster Composting

    One of the main benefits of using a compost tumbler is that it can speed up the composting process. Because the materials are constantly mixed and aerated, they break down faster than they would in a stationary pile. This means you can have finished compost in as little as four to six weeks, depending on the materials you use.

  • Less Messy

    Composting can be a messy process, especially if you have a large pile of materials. A compost tumbler keeps the materials contained, so you don’t have to worry about them spilling out or attracting pests. It also eliminates the need to turn the pile with a pitchfork or shovel, which can be a messy and time-consuming task.

  • Easier to Use

    Composting with a compost tumbler is much easier than traditional composting. You don’t have to worry about manually turning the pile or adding water to keep it moist. All you have to do is turn the tumbler a few times a week to mix the materials and add air. This makes composting more accessible to people who may not have the time or physical ability to maintain a traditional compost pile.

  • Space-Saving

    Compost tumblers are compact and can be placed in a small space, such as a balcony or patio. This is great for people who live in apartments or have limited outdoor space. It also makes it easy to compost year-round, even in colder climates.

How to Use a Compost Tumbler

Using a compost tumbler is easy, but there are a few steps you need to follow to get the best results.

  1. Add Organic Materials

    The first step in using a compost tumbler is to add organic materials. This can include kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic matter. It’s important to have a good mix of “green” materials, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, and “brown” materials, such as leaves and straw. The green materials provide nitrogen, while the brown materials provide carbon. This balance is important for creating high-quality compost.

  2. Turn the Tumbler

    Once you’ve added your organic materials, close the tumbler and start turning it. You should turn the tumbler at least once a week, but ideally, you’ll want to turn it two to three times a week. This helps mix the materials and provides oxygen to the microbes that break down the organic matter. If the materials are dry, you can add a little water to help them break down more quickly.

  3. Wait for the Compost to Mature

    Depending on the materials you use and how often you turn the tumbler, your compost should be ready in four to six weeks. When it’s ready, the compost should be dark, crumbly, and have an earthy smell.

  4. Harvest the Compost

    Once your compost is ready, it’s time to harvest it. Most compost tumblers have a door or hatch at the bottom that allows you to easily remove the finished compost. Simply open the door and scoop out the compost with a shovel or trowel. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands.

  5. Use the Compost

    Now that you have harvested your compost, you can use it to enrich your soil. Spread a layer of compost over your garden beds or mix it into potting soil for container gardening. Compost adds valuable nutrients to the soil, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential for plant growth. It also helps improve soil structure, which can increase water retention and reduce erosion.

Tips for Composting with a Compost Tumbler

  • Keep a Balance of Green and Brown Materials

    To get the best results from your compost tumbler, it’s important to maintain a balance of green and brown materials. Green materials, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, provide nitrogen, while brown materials, such as leaves and straw, provide carbon. A good rule of thumb is to use two parts brown materials to one part green materials.

  • Chop Up Large Materials

    Large materials, such as branches and stalks, can take longer to break down in a compost tumbler. To speed up the process, it’s a good idea to chop them up into smaller pieces before adding them to the tumbler. You can use a pruning saw or a pair of loppers to do this.

  • Avoid Adding Meat and Dairy

    While most organic materials can be composted, it’s best to avoid adding meat and dairy products to your compost tumbler. These materials can attract pests and can also create a foul odor as they break down. Stick to vegetable and fruit scraps, leaves, and grass clippings.

  • Add Compost Starter

    To help jumpstart the composting process, you can add a compost starter to your tumbler. This is a mixture of beneficial microbes that can help break down the organic matter more quickly. You can buy compost starter at most garden centers or online.

  • Keep the Tumbler Moist

    Compost needs moisture to break down properly. If your materials are too dry, they will break down more slowly. If they are too wet, they can become compacted and anaerobic, which can create a foul odor. Aim for a moisture level similar to a wrung-out sponge.


Composting with a compost tumbler is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. By following these tips, you can ensure that you get the best results from your compost tumbler. Happy composting!