I don't have one of these but a guy who use to get rabbit manure from me had one. He was really into his compost maker. Some of his comments were that he bought different types of bacteria to use in the compost maker to break down the compost/manure, he only could use a recipe of things to add-in certain quantities, and he could only put in small compost items ground, and he'd have to turn the bin on a schedule. According to him, it worked..but to me, it seemed like a lot of trouble he was going through. (ps..he would only take rabbit manure droppings and not one blade of straw in it. He said the straw packed things up too much..go figure).
I am a suburban compost maker and thought I would need one of them also. I asked many people about them and never received any "good" about them. I would just make a couple of wooden stalls of wood and wrap chicken wire around it, then start piling up your stuff. With all the farmland you have, one of those tumblers would be filled and sitting in a couple of days. Your handy with a hammer and nail, make a cheap one and I think you'll be more than happy with it.
Donna - do you mean regular square bins? I made one, 6x3x3', with a divider between the two area. this will make 2 cubic yards. One side is filled and composting fairly well right now. I need to build another one for when spring starts and the grass clippings start piling up. Trish is hitting me up for lots of compost for her flowers, and I need lots for my veggies!
I built a double bin out of 2 x 4s that's 8 feet long, 5 feet high, and 4 feet deep. This gives me two 4 x 4 x 5 compartments.
What I do is use one compartment at a time. That is, I use one side all summer, until about November. Then I let that sit, using the other side for kitchen scraps etc. When the weather warms, as it's starting to, the first side fininishes composting in a short time, and I continue using the second side.
I am not a compost-making freak, so my piles take longer than they have to. Basically, I just let them sit, occasionally turning the pile when I think about it.
Most of my organic waste goes right into the garden, in various ways, which is why a two-bin composter works for me. If you are using your wastes completely in piles, you might need several of these double-bins to produce a continuous supply.
We have compost "bins" that eventually become our raised beds. We just made our own tumbler out of a big bucket. We found out quite quickly that the compost froze, so we got some stuff with micro-orginisms in it and put it in and put the "tumbler" in the cold frame. It seems to be working fine. We went from frozen to 115 degrees in less than a day. And by the way it was free, all the pieces were found in the garage, just about $10 for the micro-orginism stuff.
Meghan, where did you get your micro-organisms? Was it mail-order or someplace local?
I've layered about 500 pounds of fresh cow manure in with my leaves over the past couple weeks, and I'm still not seeing (feeling?) any appreciable warming in the middle of the pile. I don't enjoy sticking my hand in the cow poo mixture anyway, but when I take the plunge only to find out it's still cold...well, my patience level goes down real fast. I wanna get these piles cooking pronto!
Yeah, the meat thermometer is on this week's "WalMart list" ...it didn't take long for me to realize this isn't something I want to routinely stick my hand in, at least not until it's a little more "done" than it is right now! Plus having a more accurate reading than "warm" or "cold" would be nice ;0)
I'll check our Co-op to see if they have any compost helpers/micro-organisms. Thanks!!!!
Go_vols it sounds like you may have to much manure added to the pile and an activator probably isn't what you need. I had an instruction sheet on how to make compost in 4 weeks - & I've looked all over for it and just can't find it - I think I may have given it to someone.
I learned from those instructions how to really get a heap cooking - the pile would hit 140* in 3 days. I just use chicken wire for a compost bin - it may not be attractive but this is what I prefer because the chicken wire can be removed after the pile is built. To turn it the chicken wire bin is set up right next to the pile and the pile is easily turned right back into the bin which completely turns the whole pile upside down. I have about four of these going in one season.
The trick to getting it to really heat up is layering your carbon ingredients (leaves, hay, sawdust, newspaper) and a thin layer of your nitrogen ingredients (manure, grass clippings, food waste). The ideal ratio is 25:1 ~ which means 25 parts carbon (in your case leaves) to 1 part nitrogen (manure). By layering them you're initially getting a good mix to start with and the micro organisms will have a good start. A little bit of moisture added as you build the pile is helpful too. An activator that you would purchase would most likely be adding nitrogen. You can also use blood meal, cottonseed meal, or even a high nitrogen fertilizer to activate a pile that's high in carbon ingredients.
Anyway ... this instruction sheet basically said to build the pile in layers like I've described, and allow it to sit 3-4 days. It will heat up during this time and believe me it gets hot! - The steam pours right off - (I read a book about a gardener that cooked a Turkey in the center of his pile ... but that's another story :-)). Then you would turn the pile every 3-4 days for the next 4 weeks increasing it to every other day during the last week. Every time you turn it there's a burst of micro organism growth and this what causes the heating. The micro -orgs need food, air, and moisture - just like any other living organism. Turning a pile gives them air and causes a bloom in micro-org growth.
I was very into composting for a few years. I'd drag DH around with the pick-up truck to help me find composting treasures - especially sea weed. All my other gal friends were hitting the shopping malls while I was getting a load of manure, some leaves from the dump and a few bushels off sea weed. You can't buy them at the mall!
Hi, PoppySue! Oh, good - an experienced composter! You're right, I may have my nitrogen ratio too high, but probably not by much. This pile is 3 feet wide, 30" high (it was a little higher before the rains hit) and a good 20 feet long. (It's an understatement to say that we have a LOT of trees that produced a LOT of leaves...)
Here's what I did:
bottom layer - loosely scattered some large twigs and branches (to provide some aeration underneath - I'm not counting on them to decompose anytime soon.)
first layer - 8-10" of leaves
second layer - 1" of cow manure (we chopped it up and tried to fairly evenly sprinkle it on; I'd guess this is a good average)
third layer - 8-10" of leaves
fourth layer - 1" of cow manure
fifth layer - 8-10" of leaves
That gives me a ratio somewhere between 24:2 and 30:2 (if my math skills haven't completely left me...) So here's my question: is this within the "legal limits" or do I need to pull it back apart and add more browns (shredded newspaper, etc.) to get the ratio back in line...of course, as luck would have it I just took all my old newspapers to the recycling center LOL) Anyway, please continue to provide input; hopefully I'll get this pile cooking soon.
Well gol_vols... I would think it would be Ok the way it is. I never measure out an exact ratio! As long as there is obviously more carbon ingredients than nitrogen. Maybe with the rain the pile has compressed too much so it isn't getting enough air. If that was the case ... turning it would do the trick. When leaves get wet they tend to pack right down. Another thought is maybe the pile is too big or long. If you separate it into 4 or 5 smaller piles rather than one great, big, long pile it will be getting more air through it. A big advantage I have is a shredder. It really makes a big difference in how fast the compost starts cooking. It also helps when turning a pile because everything is in small pieces and it's just like shoveling mulch. If you turn your pile you may be surprised and find it is getting hot in the center. I've gotten lazy with my piles the last couple seasons and don't turn them as often as I should but I do turn them now & then. Mainly because I want to use the stuff & also because I need to make room to put more garden waste. It really is amazing how quickly you can get it to heat up and break down if you put you're mind to it.
PoppySue, I wish I could say otherwise, but I didn't set out to scientifically measure the compost heap ingredients; it was intuition and luck, I guess!
In retrospect I wish I had shredded the leaves before I put them in the pile, but I have resigned myself to a slower composting schedule than I would have preferred.
I'm hoping Santa will bring a shredder for me next year (as an early Christmas present, perhaps???) since the "compost- and-manure" routine will become an annual ritual out of necessity (I just can't bring myself to bag all those leaves when they can do so much for the soil! And with the manure so readily available...)
I think I might follow through on your suggestion to divide the heap into several smaller piles - it's in one long row right now, but it wouldn't take much to spread it out further, with spaces in between the "heaps." And moving it around will allow me to "fluff" the leaves again. Keep your fingers crossed, and maybe it'll start to heat up here soon!
Maybe it's just because I spent most of my early childhood years on a farm, but what smell? Cow manure (a few days old) has an aroma, but it's not necessarily unpleasant or strong. To me, it isn't nearly as offensive as wet leaves, or grass clippings that have gotten wet and allowed to sit too long But like I said, maybe it's the years on the farm that conditioned my nose...in fact, I have to look carefully at my boots before I come in the house - I can't necessarily smell what's on them, but I don't like finding the tell-tale tracks on the carpet!
I know the realtor thought I was nuts when I told her I wanted this house...we looked at a LOT of homes and this one was by far the most dated and just plain ugly. But I could see where updating the kitchen and baths, and some good ole paint would change the inside in a hurry. And the deal-clincher for me was that pile of decomposing leaves in the back of the yard, plus the cows just across the fence...it was truly love at first site!
The neighbor doesn't mind (of course) that we go scoop up the manure...he's a gardener, too.
Hey, Dave - I saw an ad for the ComposTumbler this morning on HGTV...I can see where you'd want one. Cool tool!
BTW, I just went out and dug around in my compost pile. It's finally getting toasty! And the cooler parts are chock full of wiggly red worms, hooray! Thanks to PoppySue and others for their advice and reassurance during this fretful waiting period. Now if I can just keep it turned every couple weeks...
go_vols: Must be compost time in Tennessee, because today while mixing in the fresh grass clippings I noticed it was fairly warm in the middle of my pile - felt like around 120 degrees. Composting is fun!
This is a very old thread, but I was thinking that Dave actually got one of these and tried it out. Seems like I read the day to day progress reports, or am I dreaming? I have one of these things on loan for a while, so I wanted to read about it before I start feeding it stuff.
We have 2! Have had them for about 3 years, and they've been just maily sitting. But, thanks to DG, my interest has been revived. So now we have the tall one sitting by the garden for yard & garden waste; and the short one is sitting by the back steps for all the kitchen waste. We have gotten some very decent soil from them this summer; and thanks to DG, we now know about compost tea, and have set up 5 gallon buckets undr the tummbler drains! Thanks, once again, DG!!!
Ha! I posted before I read the thread! The tumblers can be a lot of work. It takes a LOT of stuff to fill those big things up! If you get one, DON"T add a lot of grass clippings. They ball up eventually and it's murder to break them apart. When we first got ours, we stayed right on top of them, and it was truly a lot more work than we envisioned at first. That's why they sat for so long. We've taken a new approach to them, now, however; and the decision seems like a decent one. Instead of starting a whole batch and cranking it out, we put stuff in them as we have it, turn them whem we think about it; and in just about 6 wks of doing this, we have 2 decent sized batches of useable compost. And with a lot less work & worry! These tumblers, if you're really wanting to get into composting, are not for the faint of heart. If you use them like you're supposed to, they'll work you to death. If I had it to do over again, I'd get a much smaller composter! Btw-ours came with thermometers and compost starter, neither of which we have used!
I have had a Compost Tumbler for several years. I do it the easy!!!!way, turn it when I go by it and think about it. The fastest I've ever gotten finished compost is in the summer in about 3 weeks. Of course the smaller or softer green stuff one puts in it the faster it will decompose. I do really like it. However I do have 5 or 6 other piles going all summer, but they are the kind in wire cages, etc. My back does not allow me to turn the material so I just make the piles 3 or 4 feet high then start a new one. Takes most of the summer for completion which is why I can use compost faster than I can make it! Donna
Hi everyone: I bought the large size ComposTumbler about 2 summers ago. One of the best things I ever had for my garden. I use it to convert ALL of my garden wastes, lawn clippings and chicken manure. Since I live on a large size lot for an urban neighborhood, it is perfect for me. No hassle at all spinning the crank and occasionally use the thermometer to check the heat. (got it up to 150 once). There are so many recipes for mixing ratios that I found it best to use 5:1 , that is 5 dead material to 1 green material and use a garbage can for my measuring cup. Of course chicken manure and coffee grounds, filter and all, go in whenever available. In 2 to 3 weeks, I have some fine black compost and till that right in the soil. I now have earthworms in what was once hard clay, alkaline soil. I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but it really works for me and is quite suitable for my size of yard.
I just found the price from Yahoo! Shopping. Here is the breakdown in pricing:
Holds 18 bushels, that's six 30 gallon trash bags of material! Drum sits 27" off the ground for easy loading and unloading right into your garden
$389.00 at Compostore
Holds 9.5 bushels, that's three 30 gallon bags of material! Drum sits 12" off the ground so the handle is at the perfect position for easy turning
$299.00 at Compostore
Holds 1-1/2 30 gallon trash bags of material! Made of double-wall, high density polyethylene with a steel frame on 6" wheels. DIMENSIONS: 37" High
$199.00 at Compostore
I read about DGer's experience with the two larger sized ones. Anyone has experience with the Back Porch version? I am a city-dweller so the more compact the size the better. But from the photo, it looks like all three version take about the similar amount of space. And I am not sure if I could fill the bigger size tumbler up on the scrap of a 2-person household. :-)
The handle on the big one is also at the right height and very easy to turn. A friend of mine has the medium size and is diffiuclut to dump because he can't get the wheelbarrow under it. Besides, you don't have to fill it up all at the same time. You can continually add to it. By the time you mow your yard and rake up some leaves, it will be full. The manual says to only load it up 3/4 full anyway to allow for air circulation. If you can afford it, I would recommed the larger one. You might find out later that you have more raw material than you thought. I'm sure that your neighbor would be more than happy for you to take their grass clippings also. If you use leaves, make sure you run over them a few times with the lawn mower to grind them up. They will decompose faster.
Thank you for the advice, nadabigfarm, that makes perfect sense.
I noticed the largest size is the only one I could get the wheelbarrow under it to catch the compost from the brochure. With the other models I would need to scoop the compost out. I was wondering how important is this. Your post came just in time.
I also bought the big 2 wheeled wheelbarrow that had the bicycle tires. It fits perfect and is much easier to handle. I can also disconnect the tub and use that for washing my dogs among other things. They also sell a screen to get the finer compost out but found that to be a waste of money. I bought it but never used it. A full tub of compost after it has decomposed to about 1/2 to 2/3 the original size will fill 3 heaping wheelbarrows with a little left over. It really works well and their is no smell and no flys or bugs. If you have any rabbit or chicken manure, it works even better. I have spent a little time at the Hort. Department at a local college. We have a nice program and a newly built top of the line greenhouse. Included in the dept. are a few other types of composters. The barrel thing that you spin manually, another that you roll around and of course the old fashioned wire cage pit. None of them are ever used because of the extra effort it takes to turn it over. with the tumbler, seems like everyone wants to crank it a few turns. Ha.
The composter I have is different from what most of you describe. It is a black plastic barrel of about 40-45 gallon capacity with a screened hole in the bottom and a pipe running up through the center with holes in it. The whole thing is mounted on a frame with a pole that goes horizontally through the center of the barrel. The lid screws on. To stir the contents the barrel is rotated end over end a few times every day or so. My first batch of compost came out looking like elephant dung or something out of the Trojan Horse. I put it in my regular compost pile to finish it up, and started another batch with leaves, grass clippings, a few kitchen scraps and a few piles of manure from regular sized horses. It seems that the ingredients do not mix too readily, I find myself wishing I could roll that barrel on it's side. So far, I think my old open compost pile that gets turned with a fork works at least as well.
I don't like it that they make you fill out the form BEFORE they'll give you a price. I don't want to give out all that information not knowing whether I'm going to do business with them or not. The way names, addresses and phone numbers are sold or hacked into these days is downright scary. They can put the price on the product, or know I'll go elsewhere to spend my money.
Sounds like, MaryE, you and I have the same one. And I agree with everything you've said. It gets very heavy and difficult to turn. I don't believe that mine has ever really heated up. I put kitchen scraps in it to let them decay a bit to keep the animals away. then I dump it into my compost pile where it heats up and really gets going. I would not go with a tumbler if I had to do it again. save your money!