As any regular readers know we have a very basic, but effective form of composting. We use three compost bins that are rotated every few months. Made frorm pallets, they are cheap and effective. I previously wrote about how to build a compost bin and what I thought was the best composter system.
Lately I have been hearing about the rotating composter and how you can supposedly make compost in 14-21 days. Well, I just had to investigate. It seems unbelievable to me that these compost bin tumbler machines can be that effective. I have always said I didn’t believe it is worth turning the compost heap. The work involved in manually turning them is just too much, just to get compost a few weeks sooner. This is exactly the principle these rotating compost bins work on. Lets have a little look at exactly what they are and how they work. Oh, and I will be telling you if you really can make compost in 2 weeks. If you want more information you can read these compost tumbler reviews. Lets just say I had serious doubts about this. Hmmm.
What Is a Compost Bin Tumbler?
At its most simplest the rotating compost bin is a barrel or container that can be manually turned by a handle or other means. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be single or dual chamber.
Nearly all the ones I could find were made from recycled plastic which seems a very good start.
They are all available HERE.
How Does The Compost Bin Tumbler Work?
According to everything I have read they work by quickly making compost because of the tumbling. This tumbling which is an integral part of the whole philosophy of the composting tumbler chops up the organic matter in to nice small pieces and helps the aeration of the contents, thus speeding up the decomposition process.
The fact that the contents are mixed at least twice a week means the contents stay uniformly hot, which is the drawback of a conventional heap, unless you turn it regularly. This simply is too much hard work on a large outdoor compost pile.
One addition that all those who use the urban compost tumbler recommend is compost activator that helps to vastly increase the process. Many owners simply add a shovel of soil to get all those microbes and bacteria to start on the decomposition, but from what I read, if you really want super quick compost, you have to fork out for the activator. Now, this compost activator is not that cheap, and kind of goes against my principles, i.e that of spending money! But, and there is a but, if it only cost the price of a bag of potting soil, and it does the job, I can see it being a worthwhile spend. That is IF it really does work. We shall see what I found about whether these compost bin tumblers really do work in two weeks in a little while.
What Do You Put In A Rotating Compost Bin?
If you want to make compost fast, which is part of what the rotating compost bin is all about, then you MUST be selective about what you put in it. Anything woody should NEVER be added as this will never decompose quickly. What you can add are any organic materials that are soft and green, or things like tea bags and coffeee grains. So, things like grass, leaves, weeds, kitchen scraps, coffee, etc are all good as they break down quickly.
What Are The Best Compost Bin Tumblers?
As with so many things in life, especially if you want to be more self sufficient, there is always a compromise. You need to weigh up what is the best against what you want to spend. Over the years I have learnt that for some things you are better off waiting and spending more for a beter and longer lasting product. That being said I was surprised about the prices of compost bin tumblers. The most popular are actually some of the cheapest (not surprisingly). They are the Tumbleweed Composter in the US and the 200 litre COMPOST TUMBLER from the UK. Actually not too bad a price at all. A simple water butt can set you back nearly half the price of one of these compost bin tumblers so they are actually fairly cheap in comparison.
However, if you are serious about your compost (who isnt?) then I would have to go for the Mantis 4000-00-02 ComposT-Twin Composting Bin which has two chambers. This has the advantage that when you fill up one chamber you can then simply start filling up the other one while you wait for the first to turn in to compost. It is not cheap however. If you buy lots of bags of soil or potting compost though, it would probably pay for itself in a few years, or maybe less.
The Disadvantages Of The Tumbler Compost Bin
For a start they cost money! I like free stuff, and our compost bins cost nada. I don’t mind waiting a few months for my compost however, and we also have the luxury of unlimited space. There is also the fact that some of them may be difficult to actually tumble as they get full. That is a lot of weight to shift.
I came across the best compost bin tumbler I believe would be suitable for those that are smaller or not full of superhuman strenth. It is a horizontal composting tumbler. The Achla CMP-05 Spinning Horizontal Composter would be my choice after the horizontal dual chamber bin mentioned earlier. It would certainly make the turning very easy.
I can’t really think of any other disadvantages other than the fact that you would have to buy one and some designs may be difficult to turn.
I think things like these compost bin tumblers are ideal for those with limited space. They are also great for those who have a limited amount of things they actually compost and don’t want or need vast piles of compost.
They don’t look too bad and can be easily put in a corner somewhere.
The main advantage is, however, the speed that they make compost. Yes I am coming to that.
Can A Composting Tumbler Make Compost in 14 Days?
You won’t believe it…..wait for it…….
Well, almost. Let me explain. You have to obviously keep adding to the composting tumbler, so the 14 days won’t start from the first time you add organic matter to the tumbler. It starts really, once you have finished adding the organic matter. All along you will have been turning it every few days or so to keep everything mixed and hot.
So, once you have filled it, you carry on tumbling for a few weeks and what will you find?
From everything I have read to find out about the compost bin tumbler it seems that 14 days may be pushing it a bit, but not by much. Those that added the compost activator, or at least a shovel of very good quality compost or soil reported that in 3 weeks they had very good quality compost.
I must say I was surprised. To me this sounds great. You could fill one up fairly quickly and then three weeks later the composting tumbler will produce good compost. This will only happen as long as you only put in it what we talked about earlier.
In conclusion, after being very dubious about the claims I am more than happy to report that it seems like they are a very effective means of producing compost rapidly.
If you have a compost bin tumbler, let us know what the results were. Are you happy with them or not?
For a more self sufficient future
Very useful and informative post. Sounds like you will still need a secondary composting system for all the stuff you can’t put in. I’m used to mixing brown and green waste as evenly as possible for our compost bin (homemade with pallets of course!), sounds like the tumblers need mostly green, am I right? Would you put your sawdust in, we have a lot of this. Nevertheless I am very attracted to the idea of getting compost quick, as buying the stuff is a real grind for us.
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A cheaper/homemade/freecompost tumbler can be manufactured from a recycled 200 litre drum.
Pick a cleanish drum, poke holes at the top and bottom centres and insert a piece of one inch water pipe. THe posts can be forked poles which the pipe rests on.
I had one like this, with fast compost etc, for several years.
Goo, If you want really fast results then it would be mostly greens ot stuff that will decompose quickly. From my experience with our compost heaps I would say that sawdust would be a no. It takes quite some time to break down. I think you are right that you would still need a secondary bin for tougher stuff. It is tempting though, these compost bin tumblers really can give rich compost in a matter of weeks.
Terry, thanks for that. A homemade compost tumbler may well be worth a try. Did you get compost in a few weeks when you used it?
I made a rotating compost drum that has just finished making my first batch of compost from start to finish in 16 days. Do they work? YES ! ! !