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Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

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Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/2/2013, 5:34 pm

I have successfully composted in the past with the standard pile methods. I lived in an area where I had oak leaves falling every day of the year, so gathering them up wasn't difficult, then I just added kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and anything else that was around. I wasn't growing veggies, just flowers so the compost was quite adequate. The oak trees alone produced the most amazing soil. It was 2 feet deep, not a single rock in it - it was impossible NOT to grow something well as long as it could handle shade.

However... I don't live there anymore! I bought a tumbler last summer and no matter what I've done it has not produced any real heat at all. Part of the problem (I think) was I've been adding stuff daily rather than doing a batch.

I read back through a bunch of the older posts and got some answers, but wanted to ask for more information from those who have successfully used a tumbler composter:

1. What % of what ingredients did you use to construct your starter batch?
2. Did you use any additives to get it to heat such as blood meal, manures or?
3. Do you work it in batches or do you add daily? What I'm reading seems to indicate the batch concept.
4. Anything you've learned along the way that can help a newbie?

Thanks in advance for any information you can share!
Audrey

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  treefrog62 on 2/2/2013, 6:03 pm

Thanks for posting this question, as I'm also not sure how to start. I've never done any composting, so you're ahead of me there. But I was limited in my space and resources, living in a townhouse, so a tumbling composter was my best option. I really want to get it started, but not sure how to do it right. I bought some Compost Maker, with instructions for larger piles, so I'll have to do some math to figure out how to scale back. I'm looking forward to hearing answers to your questions.

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Resource Links

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/2/2013, 6:04 pm

I'm searching online and will add links here to any interesting articles I find.

This one had a lot of practical and well-presented information, I've copied and pasted a couple of the things she shared that I haven't read elsewhere.

SPECIFIC INFORMATION IN A POST ABOUT TUMBLERS: http://www.the-compost-gardener.com/composting-tips.html

"Activate your First Batch or Two with a Compost Activator

Your new tumbler is a sterile place. The whole compost process happens because of the living decomposers in nature. They are definitely not present in your new composter.

Your kitchen scraps and yard wastes will naturally be covered in some of the bacteria and fungi you need to get the compost cooking. However, to give your first few loads a boost add a handful or two of compost if you have some available, or healthy soil, or horse manure. If none of the free stuff is readily available buy a compost activator. You'll need it only for the first couple of batches.

Don't clean your compost tumbler between batches. The bits of material left in the composter will activate your next batch. Expect your first few loads to take longer to break down."



Last edited by audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/2/2013, 6:12 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Compost Ingredients

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/2/2013, 6:10 pm

Same Author as the previous link, here's the link to the entire article:
http://www.the-compost-gardener.com/compost-ingredients.html

Very simple yet detailed break down of the Carbon/Nitrogen breakdown of common compost ingredients, broken down further in to: Very High Nitrogen, High Nitrogen, Very High Carbon and High Carbon.

"Putting It All Together - Layers or Mixed

Most of the diagrams you'll find of compost piles show neat little layers of greens, browns and soil. Layers may make sense if you build your entire pile in one day and if you are sure you will turn the pile a few times during its life.

However, most of us add compost ingredients to our piles in dribs and drabs every few days. As well, many of us never get around to turning our piles. We just feel guilty that we have not done so. Given this real state of affairs in the average compost pile consider mixing your browns and greens together as you add them.

I take my coffee grounds and kitchen scraps and mix them with some shredded bills (a very satisfying end to those bills I might add) and dump them in. It works for me.

Don't worry. If things seem wrong fiddle with your mix. Add more greens if things are slow and more browns if things are stinky. Relax. Nature will prevail in the long run."

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/2/2013, 6:31 pm

@treefrog62 wrote:Thanks for posting this question, as I'm also not sure how to start. I've never done any composting, so you're ahead of me there. But I was limited in my space and resources, living in a townhouse, so a tumbling composter was my best option. I really want to get it started, but not sure how to do it right. I bought some Compost Maker, with instructions for larger piles, so I'll have to do some math to figure out how to scale back. I'm looking forward to hearing answers to your questions.
Hi, TreeFrog; hope these articles help, I gleaned a lot from them. Please post anything that you find as you search including any links from within SFG as well. That way we'll have it in one place to track them down!
AJ

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  CapeCoddess on 2/2/2013, 6:32 pm

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:Don't worry. If things seem wrong fiddle with your mix. Add more greens if things are slow and more browns if things are stinky. Relax. Nature will prevail in the long run."

Yes, I like that very much! I have the oak leaf piles that you had previously, Audrey. I add in dribs and drabs until it's time to stop...usually around end of summer. Then I start a new pile, adding some of the old pile to it. I try to turn them but whether I do or not, they still decomposes eventually.

I had a homemade tumbler back in another life. I was ignorant back then and it was pretty gross/slimy and I remember there were maggots. I'm sure it would have been great if I had been more interested. Ahhh...the things we let slip through our fingers... Rolling Eyes All I can suggest for a tumbler is that if you have no leaves/browns, start shredding and adding paper, junk mail, boxes, etc. Don't let it get slimy.


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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  bnoles on 2/2/2013, 6:44 pm

I built my compost tumbler at the beginning of fall and have been quite happy with the progress. I did start with a pile on the ground for a few weeks and then transferred it into the tumbler. My pile was mostly made up of oak leaves, grass clippings, a little manure and kitchen scraps. I continued to add to the tumbler for about 45 days before deciding it was time to call it finished and I am now letting it cure. I will most likely transfer the contents to storage and refill the tumbler from another pile I have on the ground at this time. I never used a starter or any other means, just started the compost on the ground first. I add to my compost as my bowl in the kitchen requires emptying about every couple of days. Keep the tumbler contents moist and do a tumble about onece per week. I will be honest and say that I never have checked for heat ups and go strictly by what I see and smell and my end product looks and smells pretty good.

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  GWN on 2/2/2013, 9:06 pm

I have had a tumbler for a few years now and use it kind of differently. I put all of my kitchen waste on a daily basis in the tumbler to basically get it ready for my other pile.
I have a dog and wild animals around and so I would rather the food be partially broken down before using the open pile.
Like CC I have had an overly stinky wet tumbler, but this year it is great, I got some sawdust and it seems to balance the food waster both in Carbon nitrogen ratio AND it keeps the tumbler from getting too wet.
Keep in mind that no matter what you do it will work, STUFF always rots one way or another. even when it gets stinky, it is still breaking down.
Not sure how cold it is there, but I have learned here that the cold weather helps to break down the food waste.
WELCOME to COMPOSTING....such an important part of life. Wink

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/3/2013, 11:38 am

Thanks for the input! I have a friend that is a wood worker for a hobby, I think I'll ask what he does with his sawdust - that's a great idea.

My compost has never been slimy, or dry but it just wasn't breaking down fully. However, I kept adding things, so now that I have several compost piles I can stop doing that.

We have a family that runs cattle on our property and I can grab manure any time I want along with the dirty straw. I want to experiment with what mix works best with that.

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  camprn on 2/3/2013, 11:53 am

If the compost tumbler came to you brand new there should have been instructions with it. I would think that you would need to have it at least 3/4 full and have the first compost batch have an activator added to get the whole thing cooking.

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/3/2013, 11:58 am

@camprn wrote:If the compost tumbler came to you brand new there should have been instructions with it. I would think that you would need to have it at least 3/4 full and have the first compost batch have an activator added to get the whole thing cooking.
I don't recall seeing any instructions with it - which doesn't mean they weren't there. I'll ask hubby. We have a role-reversal going on - he reads every instruction meticulously. Me on the other hand usually think that they're just sort of suggestions for those that aren't any good at winging it, LOL!!!! Very Happy

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  quiltbea on 2/3/2013, 12:35 pm

My personal saga with composting:
I started with a black tumbler that was stationery on the ground. I added stuff as I had it, kitchen scraps, gleanings from the garden, and leaves. Added all thru the spring and summer and in the fall added lots more fallen leaves. With winter, it was isolated and alone. Not available due to snow cover. No new stuff added. Never touched again, much less tumbled. By spring I had lovely compost inside that tumbler. Mother Nature will do that, yah she does.

Went to a seminar. Was told that 1 part green and 15-20 parts brown was the way to go. It works for me.
Now I rake up leaves into big bags in the fall and pile them behind the compost area. I keep an open compost pile where I add everything as I get it. Each time I add kitchen scraps, I cover them with dried leaves from my bags. It also keeps critters away. I also have a different composter, the green monster on legs, that I can tumble easily.

When I have enough in the pile, I shovel it into the tumbler, add water, and close it up. Then I just tumble that whenever I'm out in the garden. It works much faster than the other. I check it by look and smell. If its too dry, I add more water. I've never taken its temperature.

When it looks and smells right, I sift it into a wheelbarrow for the garden. I toss back anything that is still big or hasn't composted. Refill it and start again.

If you have a composter, just keep adding more stuff daily til its full. Its slower than filling all at once, but it still works. A little of this, a little of that, toss in a handful of garden soil for microbes, a little water, and tumble. Keep your browns a higher percentage. If you lack leaves, tear up newspapers. Keep adding slowly til its full, then stop adding. Turn it now and then and add water when its dry. It will eventually compost even if it takes months of stillness thru the winter. In spring you'll be able to add fresh compost to your garden.
Good luck and enjoy the great food you'll get for your garden soil.

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  treefrog62 on 2/3/2013, 12:53 pm

Well, I took the plunge, and started throwing what I have into the composter. I took some of my shredded junk mail, and also cut up some cardboard to add. It's still not very full, but I figure what the heck.

My composter had very limited instructions, they were very general, and not at all helpful, especially for someone who hasn't composted before.

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  CapeCoddess on 2/3/2013, 1:05 pm

Nice post, QB!

Treefrog, is there any garden soil around your townhouse where you can dig up a little pot full and throw it into your tumbler?

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  Lemonie on 2/3/2013, 2:18 pm

Didn't we just conclude somewhere recently that urine/liquid nitrogen might work as a great compost starter? blush I'm just sayin'....might be time to get a little up close and personal w/ the pile.
:fall: who?me?

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  littlejo on 2/3/2013, 2:26 pm

Sometimes the compost just doesn't seem fast enough even if you have the green/brown ratio right. Cannot remember where I found this but, I add 1tbs. molasses to a gal. of water. Sprinkle in composter. This feeds the microbes, supposedly gives them energy to work/grow. You can also add to compost or worm tea.
Only thing about tumblers, don't get overly wet. They are very hard to dry out, and the excess moisture makes them hard to turn.
Jo

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  JackieB999 on 2/3/2013, 5:32 pm

I saw a 54 gallon compost tumbler yesterday for $104. Does that seem like a great price? Ill have to wait a little until getting it, but it seems I could easily spend close to that trying to build one of my own. This one comes ready to use out of the box and can even roll around the yard.

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  littlejo on 2/3/2013, 5:54 pm

Jackieb999,
Just think of the energy required, do you have to push it around the yard? Are you going to be willing to do that when it gets hot?
I think I'd look for a sale or maybe on craigs list for 1 with a handle to turn.
Just my opinion and age showing.
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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  bnoles on 2/3/2013, 7:07 pm

Here is a link to the one I built early last fall, I spent less than $45 and 2 hours time. It works really well.


Tumbler

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  JackieB999 on 2/3/2013, 7:17 pm

That looks awesome, Bob! But I dont have the tools or the saw skill set to do that. Saws scare me, lol. So then I would have to pay someone to do it, so the prices goes up!

Jo... the one I saw spun on its own stand. In my other post meant that I could push it off the stand and roll it to where I needed the compost. But I hear ya on being easy on the back... every little bit helps!

Here it is...

http://www.hayneedle.com/sale/rotocomposterjr7cubicfeetcomposttumbler.cfm?source=pla&adtype=pla&kw=&ci_src=17588969&ci_sku=GID018&gclid=CL3wpbzQlrUCFQU5nAod-2IALQ

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  camprn on 2/3/2013, 7:48 pm

Have you thought about going back to the bin method?

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  littlejo on 2/3/2013, 9:09 pm

Sorry I didn't understand before. I have seen them where you had to push it around the yard, too much work.
That 1 seems to work well, spins on it's own base. Looks like a winner to me!
Jo

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/4/2013, 5:33 pm

You did a great job building that one BNoles! It's very similar to mine.

Mine has lids on either end and air holes as well as a churning mechanism in the center that stirs the compost as you turn it. It can get quite heavy when full, but because I'm not lifting anything, I think almost anyone could turn it if they had any strength at all.

I already have a full bin style batch composting right now, I'll have to save up items to do another batch. However, with all you guys' help I feel like I have a better handle on things and will be successful next time around!

Thanks!!!
AJ

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  Triciasgarden on 2/4/2013, 6:18 pm

@Lemonie wrote:Didn't we just conclude somewhere recently that urine/liquid nitrogen might work as a great compost starter? blush I'm just sayin'....might be time to get a little up close and personal w/ the pile.
:fall: who?me?

+1

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

Post  Triciasgarden on 2/4/2013, 6:20 pm

@littlejo wrote:Sometimes the compost just doesn't seem fast enough even if you have the green/brown ratio right. Cannot remember where I found this but, I add 1tbs. molasses to a gal. of water. Sprinkle in composter. This feeds the microbes, supposedly gives them energy to work/grow. You can also add to compost or worm tea.
Only thing about tumblers, don't get overly wet. They are very hard to dry out, and the excess moisture makes them hard to turn.
Jo

Sounds like a good idea!

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Re: Hints for Successful Tumbler Composting?

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