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Garden Talk: Compost tumblers

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gardenza
Anza, CA
(Zone 8b)

February 7, 2012
11:44 AM

Post #8998057

I am ready to purchase a compost tumbler, but there are so many options! I'm curious if there is an obvious best out there, or if it is more a personal preference thing? It's a lot of money to spend on a 'wish I'd researched that better!' thing!
Thanks,

carrielamont

carrielamont
Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

February 7, 2012
3:44 PM

Post #8998305

I found one used on craigslist--people think it's a great idea for a year then take up tennis or spaniels instead.
EIB
Conneaut Lake, PA

February 18, 2012
1:17 PM

Post #9011228

Hi, Gardenza, I'll tell you of my experiences with a composter. First, I had the barrel composter that the county gave when you attended their class. It was open on the bottom and you put the stuff in a closeable top. It didn;t get stirred and didn't do much except just sit there. Then, I found a tumble composter at a yard sale...one of the big ones similar to those sold be Garden Way. It's on a pipe-type stand and has a crank to turn it. There's a small opening with a lid to put stuff in it. Since I live frozen part of the year Pennsylvania I decided that I would keep it in my slightly heated garage (water system is in there so can't freeze). I put in my garbage and shredded newspaper all winter (couldn't figure out any "brown stuff" ). I turned it every time I put something in...and it's heavy to turn. Come spring, I tried to empty it and just got clumps of "sorta compost"...and not very much at that... maybe a wheelbarrel full. I had it moved outside and cleaned the garage floor and there it sits outside...empty . lol...
gardenza
Anza, CA
(Zone 8b)

February 24, 2012
1:41 PM

Post #9018562

I went ahead and bought the Envirocycle, and although it's 'winter' here in my zone 9, I think it's working well. If nothing else it is very effective at mixing the ingredients. Because of the drainage holes and air vents I'm not having any difficulties with smell. There were a few worms in the pile I put in the composter, and apparently they LOVE the environment, they are doing great!:>) But this summer I'm hoping for much higher temps inside, so I'll be much more careful to avoid adding the worms.
This is supposed to make compost in 6 weeks, but I'm not holding them to their word in winter, so I'll be quite content if I have a finished batch by May.
Thanks for the responses, I guess I can't expect miracles, but if I keep at it I hope for good results.
tlm1
Jacksonville, FL
(Zone 9a)

March 6, 2012
5:13 PM

Post #9032605

Hi! Saw this thread, and I was intrigued and felt like I should add my 2Cents. :-) I have a Compost Tumbler. Purchased it about 10 years ago. I lovingly call it my bottomless garbage can! I have only emptied it completely once. The only way to have a complete "batch" of compost, in the few weeks that they say, is to stop adding, turn religiously for several weeks, and you will attain a fully cooked batch. I found that I can't stop adding, so, I occasionally dig about a 5gal. bucket full out at a time. I like to take some out periodically and make a tea. My garden LOVES that! I'd say that although I've not gotten a fully cooked batch, only because I can't stop adding to it, I do love having a bottomless garbage can!

carrielamont

carrielamont
Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

March 8, 2012
7:40 AM

Post #9034496

Mine gets so full it doesn't tumble well! We need to empty more...
gardenza
Anza, CA
(Zone 8b)

March 8, 2012
4:45 PM

Post #9035081

I was thinking about that time lapse-having to stop and let it 'cook'. I've decided that no matter what, at 6 weeks I'm pulling everything, letting it dry out a bit, then I'll screen it, and put the big stuff back in to act as a starter for the next batch. I've still got 3 weeks to go (an eternity!) on my first batch, but I like the look of things so far. I got the kind of tumbler that collects the 'tea' in a reservoir in the bottom so if I want some quickly I can dump a gallon of water in there, and it will be accessible that way.
tlm1
Jacksonville, FL
(Zone 9a)

March 8, 2012
5:02 PM

Post #9035098

Way to go gardenza! I'm not familiar with the one that collects the 'tea' in a reservoir. Sounds good! I use cheese cloth to make a 'tea' bag, and then let it soak a while…..

carrielamont

carrielamont
Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

March 9, 2012
3:34 PM

Post #9036176

Oh, you guys live in warm places. In New England it's tougher to get it hot.
tlm1
Jacksonville, FL
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2012
4:55 PM

Post #9036254

In the colder climates I think you probably need to keep it moving a little bit more….Keep the oxygen going to it.
gardenza
Anza, CA
(Zone 8b)

March 9, 2012
9:17 PM

Post #9036480

I bet where you are in New England the compost freezes solid! We had snow here Wednesday morning, and it took us by surprise-expected low temps, but thought the chance of rain had passed. This is off topic but I just recently realized I could use my clay pots as 'cloches' I think is the word. That worked great, I'm going to have to get more of them! I had little round holes of bare soil around my cucumbers, and two inches of snow everywhere else. Thank goodness out here it melts by noon most of the time. Pretty, not a pain :>)

carrielamont

carrielamont
Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

March 10, 2012
9:55 AM

Post #9036967

Yeah, we "should" but we don't.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 17, 2012
1:42 PM

Post #9127422

Well Carrie, you can say I told you so! :>) That thing just doesn't work like the advertisements promised! Go figure! BUT, since I'm a vermiculturist at heart and by preference, I think I've found the perfect 'bin'! I found so many big fat happy worms in that thing that I'm going to use it for a worm bin, and when I need some 'tea' I'll just pour water through it. Since worms break everything down into dissolvable stuff, I should be able to just keep putting in kitchen scraps and weeds, and let them do the rest. Since they obviously survive being rotated just fine, I can keep it from getting anaerobic (sp) too!
Well, here goes!

carrielamont

carrielamont
Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

May 17, 2012
2:11 PM

Post #9127459

I knew we weren't doing it right. It doesn't smell good. Good luck with your worms!
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 17, 2012
2:21 PM

Post #9127469

Thanks :)
birder17
Jackson, MO
(Zone 6b)

June 4, 2012
8:32 PM

Post #9152697

gardenza, what's the name of your composter?
I am thinking I want a "small" one that I can put on my deck where it is "handy". I have a walkout basement, and I don't want to take steps every day. Plus, I tried to "crank" one of those barrel composters-almost empty ugh! I could hardly move it. In fact, I could not move it.
We carry our kitchen scraps out and "dump" them in a pile along with grass clippings. I can't seem to get my husband to stop putting grass clippings on it and put some browns. Oh well, it's better than nothing.
If I had a small one on my deck, I could control the greens, browns and turning. I know it wouldn't make much--but it would be more than I have now.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

June 4, 2012
9:04 PM

Post #9152741

It's called the Envirocycle, and they have a mini version, too. Envirocycle.com, or just Google for a pic.
The problem I had was getting it to actually heat up, which turned out to be a good thing since it does make an awesome worm bin. But if you are looking for something conveniently close on your porch this would work well. I don't know how fast you will fill it...I suggest starting slow, until you know how much weight you can turn. It does make compost, given time. Like Tim1 says, it's nice to just get in there and pull out a bucket full for compost tea or another garden need. I really like the reservoir at the bottom, which keeps the liquids from making a mess, and makes it easy to collect for the garden. I also suggest putting it up on some kind of blocks or stand, so that you can put a bucket under the spout.
Julia
birder17
Jackson, MO
(Zone 6b)

June 5, 2012
12:10 PM

Post #9153353

Thanks, Julia, I will check this out.
birder17
Jackson, MO
(Zone 6b)

June 5, 2012
3:22 PM

Post #9153577

Okay, I read some reviews about this composter. It sounds more challenging than I can manage. I guess I want something "easy", and I don't think it exists. It seems not enough "browns" are what get people in trouble.
I watched a video about this. They used shredded leaves and shredded paper. How does one get these to shred? My hands wouldn't be able to shred leaves, and it sounds like you would have to shred a LOT of paper.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

June 5, 2012
7:43 PM

Post #9153945

We have a small office shredder at home just for junk mail and bank statements, and that adds up in a month. Just don't do the envelopes with the cellophane windows! I keep a trash can in the garden next to the bed I dumped THAT load in! Live and learn!

Just remember 'compost happens'. It happens in the woods, it happens at the dump, it happens anywhere anything sits long enough. It happens to a bunch of leaves just sitting in a trash bag. If you didn't turn the tumbler at all, that stuff would still break down eventually. So there isn't anything scientific about it. Turning the tumbler simply works air into everything, and gets any excess moisture mixed in too. Too much browns, too many greens, it's still going to rot, just not in 6 weeks.

It sounds like a simple Rubbermaid tub with a lid might be just right for you. Sit it on the porch, ball up some newspapers and half fill the tub, then bury your foodscraps/lawn clippings. Everytime you add something, move stuff around with a small shovel, stick, or hoe?
birder17
Jackson, MO
(Zone 6b)

June 6, 2012
3:24 PM

Post #9154939

Well, thanks, Md. I hadn't even thought of a Rubbermaid container. Actually, I have several on my deck now. My deck is pretty big--especially when it has to be cleaned and re-stained!! The Rubbermaid wouldn't get air. I have read enough horror stories of "goop", "sledge", and STINK that I am quite leery.
We have a shredder also. I would like to try this--but I would "like" to get the ratio correct so one doesn't end up with a wet mess. One site that I read said 3/4 browns to 1/4 greens. In most cases (so I have read) people get too many kitchen scraps vs. the browns.
orchid923
Indian Harbour Beach, FL
(Zone 10a)

July 21, 2012
7:22 PM

Post #9213864

I have the Envirocycle compost bin also; two in fact, so I always have one ready to go and one to fill. I particularly like the unit it sits in, to collect the compost "tea". I can drain a lot out, which I dilute and feed my plants with.
gardenza
Anza, CA
(Zone 8b)

July 21, 2012
8:31 PM

Post #9213947

That's what makes it so cool for me too.
HopeSue
Laingsburg, MI

June 6, 2013
5:48 PM

Post #9549106

My hubby bought me the Envirocycle for my birthday this May. I believe I have added equal parts of brown and green, some soil, and water. I have rotated it every couple of days and stopped adding to it once three-quarters full.

The problem is, the mixture seems to have stagnated. It is moist and has no foul odor. It receives a half day of sun and is not hot inside. I added some liquid fertilizer recently too. Any ideas?

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