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tumbler composters

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tumbler composters

Post  GWN on 3/29/2012, 11:00 pm

I have been reading all the threads on hot composting and am motivated!
I have a few compost piles around, but have focused all my energy on a tumbler I got last year.
Through the winter I have continued to fill it with vegetable waste etc, and it is just a big clump of mush.
In an effort to get the HOT COMPOST, I have found several bags of leaves dried over the winter, and scratched away at the wild grasses to get several buckets of dried grasses.
I have gone back and mushed around in the compost from last winter and tried to mix the mushy stuff with the leaves and grass. It is pretty gross, but not really smelly, so I guess in whatever way MUCH of the stuff is composted.
But to get something I could actually spread in my garden I would dearly love to have a hot compost.
Anyone have any ideas about what to do in this situation.
I have taken the mush and ripped it open, (for lack of better description)
I am leery of dried blood because I have dogs and even the bone meal makes them DIG...
I did add some molasses recently after reading on here about it.

THANKS.... (from "dearly wanting to be a hottie")

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  kittykat on 3/29/2012, 11:08 pm

I'm interested, too... I started my tumbler compost last summer... I just keep adding and adding and adding, and tumbling and tumbling and tumbling... I tumbled it a few times over the winter and right now it's a big, squishy, mushy mess - but not stinky. So I started adding more stuff to it - LOL. And I picked up some of that compost starter stuff from the garden center. I'm hoping that now that I have my worm tubes in I can stop adding stuff to the tumbler and give it time to finish...

When I ran out of dried leaves to add to it, I did start adding peat moss. But then I had the thought that that's going to change the pH... At the garden center today I found a small bale of that coconut coir - I thought I'd use that to add as brown matter when I don't have anything else to add.

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  LeeAnne12 on 3/30/2012, 12:01 am

I would love to know the answer to this. I have read and done everything everyone has suggested and can't get it hot enough. I added rabbit food and one of them got up to 120 degrees, but the others have only made it to 95-100. It's so frustrating!! I know I had some seeds in there, so I REALLY need it to get hot. I'll be anxious to see what everyone says.

Lee Anne

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  littlejo on 3/30/2012, 9:44 am

I'm in no way an expert on compost tumblers and things do go wrong! I can ony give a few hints and see if they may work.

If it's mushy then it's too wet. I'd err on the side of too dry if possible.

If it's mushy and doesn't smell of ammonia, then it's done or more greens/manure/nitrogen product needs to be added.

Add manure(dry if possible) ,dry rabbit or cheap dog food. Dried blood. These are greens, and shoud get it hot, but this won't work well until you work on the wet part.

Add some dry stuff, paper, leaves, cardboard, dry grass, but I've found long grass is hard to decompose. Just remember when you add these, then more green must be added to get it hot. peat can be added, don't worry about the acid til it's done, most acid is gone when it's done.

Add some sticks, hard stems, etc. These may take a long time or never decompose, but they will help to break up the wet clumps, you can take them out before putting on the garden.

Open the lid to let it dry. This may let in critters,tho.

I had this happen to me once, and I dumped it out on the ground, let it dry out, then shoveled it back in. This defeats the purpose of having a tumbler.

Hope this helps some.

Jo

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  GWN on 3/30/2012, 10:21 am

Hi Little jo
Thanks for all of your suggestions.
I will defiantly know next year what to do.
I do not think mine is too wet now, what has happened (I think) is that it WAS too wet, then I added wet cardboard and leaves and then it seems like these additions have wrapped around clumps of mush.
So that basically formed them into large balls of mush with leaves on the outside.
Hardly something you can spread in garden.
So I have taken these large clumps and opened them and remushed them and then tried to mix it in with the grasses. (not for the lighthearted)

I have been a little leery of adding more greens, but thanks for that info, I will also try to add some dog food, I have lots of that. As it is I think my dogs wonder why all that food goes into that bin ...

I have read more last night and am going to leave the whole lot for a few days without turning it, and then turn every 2 days.
thanks

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  kittykat on 3/30/2012, 10:25 am

Thanks for all the words of wisdom, Jo! Much appreciated!


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Re: tumbler composters

Post  GWN on 3/30/2012, 10:35 am

on thing I did to dry mine out, what to tip it so that that door is facing down and leave it open a crack, with a large pot underneath it.
I left it like that until it stopped draining.

GREAT stuff for my plants as well

I am wondering if I need to drill MORE air holes in it as well

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  Roseinarosecity on 3/30/2012, 12:06 pm

I too had trouble with my tumbler, mainly because the instructional dvd was smashed in the box and I assumed I knew how to compost so I didn't bother to request a new dvd. I have learned that a tumbler is a 'batch composter' as oppose to a continuous composter like a pallet bin. This means that you collect materials separately and then fill up the compost tumbler all at once instead of adding small quantities of materials every day, you put everything together at once to make one big batch. You will need to stockpile the correct balance of brown/green materials until you have enough for each batch. Do not add new material until the batch has finished cooking and the finished compost has been removed. Turn every other day 5 to 10 times. Depending on the material (especially size), moisture, and temperature your compost could be ready in one month. This info was taken from my sister's tumbler which came with paper instructions.

BTW, tumblers with two barrels make more sense to me now because of the weight of the material and the amount of composting material we produce in our household. I hope this helps.

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  GWN on 3/30/2012, 12:10 pm

That really explains a lot to me, I am going to do just that... after I get this load to do something.

Last year when my monstrous tomato plants were taken down I put them in a big pile, hoping that they might compost themselves, because they were just too big for the com poster
What do most people do with the plants from last years garden, especially those with really thick stems

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  quiltbea on 3/30/2012, 12:23 pm

GWN.....I sit in front of the composter with a heavy chopping board and a sharp cleaver and chop, chop, chop up the debris before adding it to the bin. Those huge chunks just won't compost.

I also toss all my garden waste in a separate pile along with fall leaves and kitchen waste. When I empty my compost tumbler I refill it with from the pile so its full and just needs to be tumbled and wet occasionally til its done. In my case that takes some time because I've been lazy. Those tumblers can get quite heavy and I don't tumble it as often as I should. And in the winter, it just sits alone, unloved because I can't wade thru the snow drifts. But in the spring, I've still got rich compost to fill my wheelbarrow.

If you can find a downed tree trunk to saw down to size and place on its end, that would make the best chopping block. Then with machete (if I could find one at a garage sale, I'd swoop it up fast), or meat cleaver, chop up the big roots and plants and stalks. The smaller the bits, the faster it composts.

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  GWN on 3/30/2012, 12:33 pm

Quilt bea
I can do that.
I have my tumbler right off of my front porch, it looks pretty weird, but is handy ....
I think what I should do over the winter is perhaps put all my kitchen stuff in a large garbage bin outside and then when spring comes mix up all the stuff as instructed here.
I had never thought of the tumbler as a batch composter, I had thought of it as an ongoing composter.
This makes more sense. I am quite excited to try this new method.
Plus the chopping block that makes GREAT sense, I do not have a lawn mower and cutting up everything seems too hard on the hands....
I have lots of places I can get a chopping block as well
Thanks a million

Janet

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  littlejo on 3/30/2012, 5:27 pm

I add to mine almost daily if it's winter and don't expect to need it for a couple months. Mine has some drain holes opposite of the door, and holes for air on the end. These seem to help.

I woud love to have 1 that has the double bin, but have ya seen the price?

I have some corn roots, stalk with a bit of roots about 6 in. long, that I've put in the composter, they do not decompose, but they help to stir the stuff in the tumbler. I just put them back in when I dump the composter!

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  plantoid on 3/31/2012, 1:26 am

@GWN wrote:on thing I did to dry mine out, what to tip it so that that door is facing down and leave it open a crack, with a large pot underneath it.
I left it like that until it stopped draining.

GREAT stuff for my plants as well

I am wondering if I need to drill MORE air holes in it as well



Can you stick up a picture or three of your composter/

It does indeed seem that it has sweated over winter & frozen as the moist air released by the heat of decomposition has condensed & run back into the contents. Adding any dry compost or dry material as you have done in the same manner ( decant mix and refil ) will sort it .

Perhaps for the next winter as well as adding more air holes you may like to think of every time you feed the composter adding a decent sprinkling dry spent compost or even some unused dry MM as the material to wick out the moisture ..

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  GWN on 3/31/2012, 10:12 am

I will do this after it warms up outside.It is cold....frozen out now.
I think I have always oversimplified composting, just dump stuff in and wait.......
Now I want more out of my compost and so need to put more work into it, well at least more thought.

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 3/31/2012, 10:15 am

@GWN wrote:I think I have always oversimplified composting, just dump stuff in and wait.......

Whatever you do don't over-think or over-analyze composting either or you'll drive yourself nuts like I did.

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  Lavender Debs on 3/31/2012, 11:24 am

Can I ask a really dumb question. Do the tumblers with wet compost have drainage? You do not need much. Mine have narrow slits on the bottom and in the lid on the opposite side. The slits keep the compost moist but not wet. I think I would drill holes in the bins if they did not have these slits. When the drain-off is fresh is can be used as compost tea. (So says the company that makes mine, I have a bulb-baster, sometimes called a turkey baster, to draw the runoff out of the tank on the bottom).

I thought I was doing a good job organizing my pictures, but after 4 years of a growing urban garden, I am not sure where the pictures are, so I am giving a link to my original blog where the picture of the tumblers is easy to find (sorry in advance and btw, we have a dog)

Pic of compost tumblers

I made pretty compost that gave me a terrific 4x4 SFG. That garden was one of the most productive I have ever made right from the 1st planting. The 2nd garden, made with 5 kinds of commercial compost convinced me that if I have enough home-grow compost (a rare event) then I do not need to buy 5 kinds of compost for a new garden. The 5-kinds have NEVER been as healthy and productive as the home-grown. However it really is rare to have enough home-grown in the city.

Note: in addition to having drainage, I add any earthworms I happen to come across while weeding. They multiply quickly and give me a good indication of the health of my compost (it is as alive as a yeast dough). Happy worms, happy plants. I still try to keep my compost vegan even though I am no longer one. My exception is the abundant amounts of straw from my urban chickens. These days, if something is too big for the compost, I no longer chop it up, I give it to the chickens and they mostly chop (and pre-digest) for me. Before I had chickens, I ran over things like big broccoli stems with the lawn mower or ran it through the food processor. Bea’s idea sounds good for pea vines and corn stalks which tangle in the mower.

2nd note: For as long as I have grown veggies, I do not put potato or tomato vines into compost. My city hauls off yard waste, what they get from me are those vines. If they have disease I do not want to chance adding that to my tumblers.

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Re: tumbler composters

Post  GWN on 3/31/2012, 11:39 am

e
that if I have enough home-grow compost (a rare event) then I do not need to buy 5 kinds of compost for a new garden. The 5-kinds have NEVER been as healthy and productive as the home-grown. However it really is rare to have enough home-grown in the city.

Thanks for this info, I have been wondering about this.

I have LOTS of potential stuff for composting.

My tumbler, if I tip it upside down and leave the door open a crack I have managed to drain off any excess fluid.
For now I think that the moisture is just right.

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