If you're a gardener, using a compost tumbler will make great fertilizer for your flowers and vegetable plants. Even if you don't garden, composting is a great idea, as it keeps organic waste out of landfills. Composting food scraps such as vegetable peels, apple cores and nut shells prevents those scraps from being buried in a landfill, where they would produce methane gas as they broke down. Methane gas is much worse for the environment than carbon dioxide.
How It Works
Using a compost tumbler can make turning the compost, which is necessary for it to break down, easier. In an ordinary compost bin, you have to turn or rotate the pile using a shovel or pitchfork, which can be back-breaking work. A tumbler may have a hand crank or you may need to roll the barrel to toss the compost. Before you can use a compost tumbler, you need to collect scraps for composting. Compost happens when there is an even mix of carbon-rich, or brown, materials and nitrogen-rich, or green, materials. Carbon-rich compostable materials are considered dry and include newspaper strips, dry leaves and grass, peanut and pistachio shells and wine corks.
What to Compost
Nitrogen-rich materials include vegetable scraps, fruit peels and egg shells. If you keep chickens or rabbits, you can compost their bedding as nitrogen-rich material. Only compost bedding from vegetarian animals. Wet, fresh grass clipping are also nitrogen-rich. Collect food scraps from your kitchen in a small bin and dry, carbon-rich materials in a bag or other bin. The food scrap bin should have a tight-fitting lid, so that odors do not leak out into your kitchen. About once a week, or whenever the bin is full, bring it out to the compost tumbler.
Layer the carbon-rich, or brown, materials on the bottom of the barrel on the tumbler. Pile an equal amount of green, or nitrogen-rich materials, on top. Continue layering the the materials in even layers until you run out. Close the barrel.
Tumbling Your Composter
The way you rotate the tumbler depends on the type of composter you have. If you have a drum with a hand crank on one side, simply turn the hand crank for about a minute to mix the compost and add air. If you have a tumbler vertically mounted on an axis, spin the tumbler's barrel to mix the compost. Some tumblers are a simply a large barrel that you roll around the ground. Turn the tumbler's barrel on its side and push it around your yard to aerate the compost. Roll-around tumblers can be hard to maneuver, especially when nearly full, so you may need to get a friend to help you push.
Although compost tumblers promise ease of use and may appear to breakdown materials more quickly than an open pile or other bin, you still need to take some precautions when using one. If the green/brown materials ratio gets too out of balance, the materials will not break down properly. Although you can technically compost anything that is organic, you need to avoid composting certain materials at home, as your pile won't get hot enough to break them down quickly.
What Not to Compost
Don't put meat products, bones or dairy products in the bin. These products will attract pests, such as rodents, to the tumbler. They also won't break down quickly enough and will smell terrible. If you have a cat or dog, you shouldn't try to compost their waste, as it will contaminate your pile. Also avoid putting anything synthetic, such as a waxed milk carton, used oil or glossy magazine papers, in your tumbler.
When you have too many greens in your tumbler, then materials in the bin will look slimy. To reduce the slime, add in more browns, such as shredded paper or newspapers. If you have too many browns in the tumbler, it will look like nothing is happening. Boost the compost by adding more vegetable scraps.
Turn the tumbler for about one minute every day to get the right amount of oxygen in to the barrel. Your tumbler should come with a number of pre-drilled holes in the barrel to let oxygen in. A compost pile that doesn't get aeration won't break down well and will have a very strong odor.
Help your compost break down more efficiently by chopping everything into small bits. Large cores and peels will take longer to break down and will slow down the process. Make sure you don't fill the tumbler too full. The materials should have enough space to move about the barrel freely.
Your compost is ready when it is black in color, crumbly and smells like earth.