How To Build a Compost Tumbler

Chances are, you’ve heard (or even have) a garden compost, a mushroom compost, a worm compost or a compost pit. Compost pits, where biodegradable waste (such as fruit peelings and leftover food) are mixed with soil, is definitely one way to go if you want to contribute in your own way to the preservation of the environment. As it is estimated that the United States produces 230 million tons of garbage every year, composting would definitely cut down that number down significantly, since about 55% of garbage produced by households is food waste.  

Apart from being very advantageous to the environment, having your own kitchen compost would be great if you want to start your own flower or vegetable garden. During these hard times, many people have wisely started planting their own vegetables to reduce grocery expenses. Mixing biodegradable waste with soil would make this soil very viable for the growth of plants. 

However, compost pits are very hard to maintain. There are two main requirements a compost has in order for it to work: just enough water and oxygen. Most compost pits are either on the ground (garden compost) or on bins or pails (compost pails), and the soil would have to be constantly turned and mixed in order for the soil to be well-ventilated. This would entail a whole lot of time plus backbreaking work. Also, imagine how the compost pail would smell if it accumulates too much rainwater: nobody would want to dump that extra water out, and nobody would want to get near it either, except garden pests (which is another problem altogether).

For the above disadvantages, more and more people (specially those living in urban areas) are looking for viable alternatives. That’s where the compost tumbler comes in. A compost tumbler is a closed compost bin elevated vertically (held up by frames) and which can be easily turned from the outside in order to mix the soil (you’d never have to come into contact with the contents). If you want to take out soil from inside this bin, all you’d have to do would be to flip open the notch on one side of the bin and the soil would drop out from the bin into your container.

There are many types of compost tumblers for sale, but if you’d like to build your own compost tumbler, these are some instructions:

  1. Prepare your materials. You’d need a plastic drum (between 20 to about 50 gallons); a waterproof steel tube (about 25 inches longer than your plastic drum); 2 wood pieces (2x4s, about 1.5” height and 3.5” width each); cement, screws, two metal clamps, and a power screw driver.
  2. Prepare your drum. Drill small (3/8” holes) all over the bin, to ensure that the contents will be well aerated. Then, run the steel tube through the width of the plastic drum (make sure this is very straight); this would serve to turn the compost bin.
  3. Prepare your frames. Choose the area in your garden where you’d want to position your compost. There, dig up enough soil to secure the wooden frames (about 2 feet deep is enough). Make sure that you measure the two frames’ distance so that they can support the compost bin along with the aluminum pole run through it (in other words, the frames should support the aluminum pole on either side). Also, the height of the frames must be enough to elevate the drum. To ensure that the frames are truly secure, pour down cement down the holes. Wait until it hardens (about one whole day) before putting the bin on the frames.
  4. Secure the bin on the frames. Once the wooden frames are secure, put the bin with the pole over it. Secure both sides of the aluminum pole to the frame by setting it down with metal clamps and screwing it on to the wood.
  5. Use your compost tumbler. Your compost tumbler should easily turn around on the pole on top of the wooden frames. Also, the frames should be cemented very securely on the ground. To get soil from inside, you could just open the barrel’s cover and take out the contents.

There you have it! There’s nothing more enjoyable than accomplishing a project, especially one that have admirable advantages such as saving the environment.


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