Compost Tumblers 101

compost tumbler

compost tumbler (sorry for the poor image quality)

Yesterday I visited my good friends Riva and Jake to help them with their compost and I thought I could use the visit to talk about some common occurrences with composting.

Riva and Jake use a large compost tumbler[pictured above] to discard all of their food scraps. Tumblers can be really useful for this, and it’s also kind of fun cranking the gear and watching the scraps break down over time. Compost tumblers use heat and bacteria build up in order break down food. This tumbler is about 3 feet long and two feet in diameter. As food collects, the bin is designed to trap in heat, and along with some naturally occurring bacteria the food eventually turns into compost. By adding some leaves and grass, and rotating the bin from time to time, Riva and Jake were adding necessary carbon material to their compost to avoid having the more foul smelling anaerobic bacteria build up.

Unfortunately what happens with compost bins that utilize heat as the primary source of decomposition is that there is often times not enough heat and bacteria generated to break down the compost in the time you need. In this tumbler, there is around a year’s worth of compost collected, but it is only decomposed about 70% of the way. It hasn’t quite reached the earthy smelling compost that you can use as fertilizer, but the available space for more scraps is running out.There is also a bigger environment for unwanted bugs at this point. Using worms in this type of bin would not be possible because worms don’t enjoy the heat. This bin would roast them before they could eat any of the scraps. For a compost bin with this design, one option is to start a new bin, and let the collected compost sit for a nice hot summer. By the following season it should be just about ready. This isn’t always an option though, as this bin already takes up a lot of space on their back porch.

If you are in need of some composting space, or would like to try a worm bin, please let us know and we can come to your home and help haul away your old food scraps and perhaps help design a new system for you. Depending on what stage your compost is in, and how much you have, we will try to swap it out for some of our fresh useable compost!

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