The BEST compost tumblers?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Judy in IN, Jan 9, 2005.

  1. Judy in IN

    Judy in IN Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'm looking to turn all the "black gold" in the tramp shed of my new barn into usable compost. I lived at my old place for 18 years, and by the time I left, the flower garden had premo soil. However, I don't want to spend years at establishing good garden soil again.

    Does anyone here have/use a compost tumbler? Are they all they're cracked up to be?
     
  2. Bruce in NE

    Bruce in NE Well-Known Member

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    I read a report that concluded that turning compost piles really did not help much in the decomposition process. Purpose of turning is to get oxygen to all parts of compost, but in the study they found that just an hour or so after a pile was turned, the oxygen level underneath was almost as low as before. I would think that using earthworms in a home-made compost bin would accomplish the same thing at a lot less cost.
     

  3. JennDBass

    JennDBass Wannab crunchy mama

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    I use my chickens. I sweep out their coop out into their yard where they peck and scratch the hay and yard clippings until it is brown mush and filled with chicken poo. It takes only 2 weeks.

    My compost bin has been at work for a year and doesn't have the yard clippings from Fall 2003 fully composted yet!
     
  4. Judy in IN

    Judy in IN Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for the input....I had originally thought about windrowing the old hay and "stuff" from the tramp shed. I just fell prey to one of those ads that promise it would only take 14 days to have perfect compost. Ah well, back to square one.
     
  5. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    I use my chickens, too...in the compost bin! The compost bin is composed of pallets that the chickens can get through (so can lots of air) and they continuously turn it for me, but can't spread it any further than the bin allows. I never turn compost.

    Meg
     
  6. Timedess

    Timedess Guest

    Meg,

    Can you describe more fully how you have this set up, please? I'm nowhere near getting to move yet, but I'm already considering ideas for compost bins for when we do move. Also- does a compost bin *have* to be in the sun? I have a corner of my yard that nothing grows in, it's in pretty full shade, and I'd love to put it to use somehow.... We have nowhere else here to put a decent sized compost bin. Thanks!
     
  7. sylvar

    sylvar Well-Known Member

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    Nope....But it will take longer to break down fully.

    The tumblers seem like too much work for too little product. I start a big wire bin each fall with the raked leaves and garden leftovers. early summer I rake it up into a smaller bin. In the fall I will turn it into a another bin. The next sping it goes on the garden. The whole time I am throwing green stuff in - kitchen leftovers,grass clippings, etc. I just let everything simmer the whole year rather than trying to boil a little at a time.
     
  8. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Too much work for too little product? Not if you get the big ComposTumbler. That holds 18 bushels of material. I run the equivalent of about 100 normal bags of leaves through mine every year. Also handle all the grass clippings from 2 good-sized lawns. And all of the kitchen scraps year around plus cull pigeons, squirrel and rabbit offal, and any weeds, etc. from the lawn and gardens. Turn out a batch every 21 days. Leaves are shredded first since the smaller the material, the quicker and finer the results. Peak core temperature is over 160F during the heat cycle. I've had mine since early 1997 and don't know how I managed without it.

    The 14 day claims are not right. One could do that only if the entire material were reduced to oatmeal consistency first. The normal gardener can not do that without having a chipper-shredder also set up all summer long. I store leaves over the winter in heavy 42-gallon construction cleanup bags and have them stacked around the cement foundation of my house. Free insulation! 50-55 bags complete the project. In the spring, they are run twice through a chipper-shredder and I can then put the resulting fine material back into about 15 or so bags. That's my brown material for the season. I manage to run out just when leaves are falling again. It's easier that way than starting out the season with a monster pile of just leaves and then try to work green material into it all summer.

    The big ComposTumbler is only for the serious gardener. If the instructions tell you to give it 6 turns a day, that means 6 turns every day, not one turn every 6 days! That's to keep the moisture distributed throughout and is usually the source of most complaints. It does take some trial and error to get the right carbon and nitrogen ratio of each mix but I've found that it's quite flexible in that aspect.

    So, if you think that you generate enough material to keep it happy, get the biggest you can get and do batches. If you've only got a little available material, get a smaller one. Those also work but it's more like accelerated natural decomposition.

    Martin
     
  9. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

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    I was wondering if anyone added Rid-X or anything else like that to help them along?
     
  10. Ed K

    Ed K Well-Known Member

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    What's a tramp shed?

    I had a large sized Kemp Compost tumbler. As Paq mentions you need to run it in batches. I used mine for leaves, grass clippings and household food scraps.

    I found it disappointing that while I was waiting for a batch to process I had to pile up my compost scraps for the next batch. Since the supply of leaves grass and kitchen scraps are erratic it was hard for me to wait for a batch to process. two 3'x3'x3' wire mesh cages worked better for me. I sold the kemp at a big loss. They're very expensive I think.

    Maybe having more than one would have increased my enjoyment of it but I prefer the low input solution of a bin
     
  11. sylvar

    sylvar Well-Known Member

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    Thats the other side of the equation isn't it. Those big ones are pricey! When I can BUY compost for $15 a pickup truck load it hardly makes sense to shell out hundreds of dollars for one of those big fellas. I will stick with my cheap low labor slow cooked piles.
     
  12. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I once saw an idea for a home-made tumbler I've always wanted to try:
    a 55 gallon drum, properly doored and pierced, set horizontally on a wooden frame, with each half of an old fashiond pair of over-the-shoe roller skates acting as the units to turn the drum against. One imporvement I'd add are vanes inside the drum to help turn and mix the material inside -- like the ones inside a clothes dryer.

    I have the plastic barrel and the skates . . . now I just need the time!
     
  13. Judy in IN

    Judy in IN Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A tramp shed is an area on the barn, usually 3 sided, where the livestock can come and go at will. They often use that area to escape the heat of the day in summer, or avoid rain and snow. It protects them from the wind also. It accumulates quite a bit of manure! :) I had thought of using that, the layer of old hay in the big loft, and adding some dirt in a tumbler to process it all.

    I have the material--just wanted to get it broken down faster than normal. That chipper/shredder idea is great!
     
  14. kathrynlmv

    kathrynlmv Well-Known Member

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    Judy, Everybody I ever knew who got a tumbler thought it was a waste. Have you considered purchasing earthworms? Earthworms can make composting such a short and easy job in just a few weeks. Check out sights under: vermiculture Kathy inpa
     
  15. Judy in IN

    Judy in IN Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Kathrynlmv, I was just reading an article about the different breeds of earthworms. The one that does the most for the composting, unfortunately dies when the first foot of soil freezes. Of course, it's frozen tundra here. I would like to use earthworms. I'll have to do more research. THANKS!
     
  16. kathrynlmv

    kathrynlmv Well-Known Member

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    Judy...It couldn't be any worse in Indiana than in Pa....and all I've learned about the worms is that when the temperatures dip low, so do the worms...meaning they just go deeper in the soil. I'm not sure about how well composting can work in hard-core winter...I keep a storage container of worms inside the house for winter composting...they take care of everything, and never smell. Check out wormpoop.com or other vermiculture sights. Also a book called Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof. The worms are the only solution for me...in the winter, and keeping a box in the house saves me the hassle of struggling over the icy stumbling experiences on the way to the compost pile. Kathy
     
  17. Judy in IN

    Judy in IN Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks, Kathy, I will check it out!
     
  18. mikeg

    mikeg Active Member

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    My farm compost pile is two parallel walls about eight feet long. I keep both ends open so my tiller can run thru any time I want to mix things up. You don't have to worry about corners that way. The walls are seven feet apart so I can drive thru with the six foot tiller on the tractor and the front end loader to clean it out. I keep most of it covered with some old tin that drains into a barrel, it's nott secured so I can take it off to work it.