Tumbler Composting

It may seem a little impossible, but you can keep compost going year round.  Successful composting depends on the right ratio of green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) materials, moisture content, availability of oxygen, and in winter, keeping the microbes alive.


Tumblers have many advantages:  they are completely enclosed so animals won’t be able to access food scraps, they make turning the compost very easy, the compost is protected from rain and snow, the tumbler can be placed in a garage or on a protected side of a building, and are fairly inexpensive.  Making compost in a tumbler is also quicker than other methods.


The compost tumbler can go anywhere, but locating it in a sunny area will help keep it warm.  Against a building that provides wind protection, in a garage or outbuilding, are also a good choices.

Filling the Tumbler

Generally, a ratio of 3 to 4 parts brown material to one part green material is ideal, but anything close will work.  This ratio helps heat up the compost.  You will be layering materials into the tumbler so using a bucket or shovel will help you reach the right ratio.

Brown Material

Begin loading a layer of brown material such as shredded leaves, straw, or hay which are high in carbon and provide energy for the microbes, shredded paper, and torn cardboard pieces. Next add a thin layer of soil, compost (bagged if you don’t have any), or manure.  Sprinkle these with water.

Green Material

Next add some green material, soil, etc. and water. Keep adding layers until the tumbler is full.  Green materials provide nitrogen.  Grass clippings, black and herbal tea bags, used coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit scraps, trimmings from plants, crushed eggshells, and well-aged animal (no cat or dog) manures work well.

Build Layers

Compost can be ready in only a few weeks in a tumbler, so build the layers to the top, close it up, and, turn the tumbler 2 or 3 times a week until it’s done.  Check the temperature and moisture content.  If your compost smells like ammonia it may have developed too much nitrogen.  You can add more brown material to neutralize the nitrogen. A commercial activator can also be added to speed up the process.






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