compost tumbler questions

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Ann Mary, Aug 1, 2006.

  1. Ann Mary

    Ann Mary Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Do any of you have a compost tumbler and you can pass on some tips to me on how to use it ? I just bought one at a yard sale for $20----YES!!! It WAS a good deal! :) I just priced a new one at $381 But all I know is to put ''stuff' in it and a bit of water and turn it every day for a couple of weeks. But, I was wondering if you all had some great ideas to add to that. Do it benefit from a shot of compost activators such as molasses or coke or ammonia like a piled compost does? And since I live in a zone 5 I'm assuming that as the temps go down the composting process slows/stops too?? Any help/tips would be appreciated! Thanks!
     
  2. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Why don't I find those deals? I know that size because I've been using one for almost 10 years and learned to love it. The reason you got it so cheap is because the previous owner missed on word from the previous sentence, "learned".

    First off, don't expect to have finished compost in 14 days. That would be a full batch of just the right materials and it won't happen to the ordinary person. Even with careful planning, best that I can do is have finished but un-cured compost in 21 days. A normal heat cycle is indeed about 14 days and the compost is technically finished at that point. Actual curing time after that can be a lot longer. Regardless, it will never totally break down without the presence of a lot of soil bacteria.

    Start with a lot of dry stuff but forget the water. Consider every bit of live green material to be an average of 90% water. If adding 10 pounds of greens, that's over a gallon of water. Unlike a pile, most of that water isn't going to quickly leach into the soil right away but be soaked up by the dry or brown material. Were that to become saturated, everything ends up in big wet blobs and the gardener decides to sell the tumbler for $20 at a yard sale!

    That big one is best when used as a batch composter. I'll start with at least 60 gallons of fine-shredded leaves. Then add 30 gallons of grass clippings. Don't worry about that appearing to be way off from the desired 20:1 ratio. When one discounts the water that is in the grass clippings, it's almost perfect. Just with what I start with, I'd end up with about 70 gallons of coarse compost. However, no need to stop adding material as you go after the basic starting material is used. Kitchen scraps, weeds, garden trimmings, more grass, small rodents and birds, and anything else which is organic. Continual adding of certain quantities of green material will keep a heat cycle going for weeks rather than days.

    When you are to the point where that tumbler begins getting a little hard to turn, and three-quarters full or more, you've got about 120 gallons of wet un-cured compost. Dump it and use the stuff as mulch right away or let it remain in a pile under the tumbler to dry and cure for a month.

    There is no need to add any activators if one has both green and brown material. Very little which applies to a pile will also be for a tumbler. There is normally ample natural bacteria already in and on the material that is placed into the tumbler. There is no need for any other types.

    Before starting the winter batch, empty the tumbler completely. Do not attempt to store wet compost in it over the winter. Fill it at least half full of nothing but shredded dry leaves. Then only add normal kitchen scraps during the time when everything would otherwise be frozen solid. Turn as long as the material is loose and discontinue once it begins to freeze. Then position the tumbler with the door on top and keep adding material without turning. When things begin to thaw in the spring, resume turning to produce what would probably be your richest batch of the year.

    Martin
     

  3. Ann Mary

    Ann Mary Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thank you sooo much for your help! I will do all of that. RIght now I have compost that was in a bin and almost 'finished' in it plus some dry leaves. Since what was in the bin had red worms in it (I'm sure they are 'cooked' already in the tumbler!) I'm hoping I can get the first batch out soon.
    The reason I got it for only $20 was that it was at a small greenhouse going out of business and they were selling off everthing. It has been well used and the center pipe is almost rusted through. We will just replace it when it breaks someday. I also got one of those green pull garden carts for $35. A greenhouse is a great place to be when they want to sell off stuff like that! :)
    Thanks again! You helped ALOT!