How to Start a Compost Tumbler

Composting is the newest trend in trying to circumnavigate that pesky little thing called food waste, which if you don’t already know, we have a lot of in the United States. If you’re already into gardening and digging in the dirt, then this will be a cinch for you. Chances are you’ve even heard of it before. However, should you be anything like me and lack a green thumb the mere idea of starting a composting tumbler seems far-fetched. As far-fetched as attempting to reach for the stars from your window.

Despite how difficult it seems; you can start a compost tumbler with this straightforward guide I’ve created. All you must do is muster up the courage and read through.

What it is and How it Works

The first important question to address is what a compost tumbler is and what it does. Well, if you break down the words it’s self-explanatory. Compost is decaying organic material that is used as a fertilizer. A tumbler, in this context, is a revolving device. Put together, a compost tumbler is a rotatable enclosed container full of compost.

The way a compost tumbler works is quite simple. It speeds up the decaying process of the organic material like flowers you have collected because of the heat contained inside. This gives you the compost in weeks rather than the months or years that a composting pile may take. It’s not instantaneous but having a compost tumbler on hand is much easier than waiting for it to decay naturally.

Besides, compost as fertilizer is about as natural as you can get! There’s nothing synthetic about it.

Starting From Scratch (How to start and how to keep it working)

Now that we know what it is and how it works, it’s time to get down to tumbling! After you have gained the tumbler, the next step is to fill it up with materials that are easily decomposed. We’ll discuss a little later what are the best materials to use inside your tumbler, so don’t worry about what type of compost to use right now. I promise you will find out soon enough!

A tumbler’s sizes can vary. It depends on the person/family and their waste output and how much they want to use. Once you have figured out the perfect size for you and filled it up with material, the next thing to do is simple enough. You must turn your compost tumbler every day or so. This is necessary if you want decomposition in a matter of weeks for your berries to grow better.

The waiting process is the worst part because you want compost, and you want it now!

Reasons to Start a Compost Tumbler

One of the biggest reasons to use a compost tumbler is because of how great it is for the environment. They use natural organic material rather than store-bought fertilizer that can be rife with chemicals. Don’t believe me? Well, check out the EPA’s reasons composting at home is such a great idea.

Another reason to use a compost tumbler is how quick they are. Like I mentioned before, a compost pile can take months while with a compost tumbler you have fertilizer ready in a matter of weeks. Third, they are extremely easy to use once you set it up and get the hang of it (same goes for cleaning them).

Are there some cons to using a compost tumbler? Of course, there can be but there are cons to anything. The thing is the benefits of having a compost tumbler on hand outweigh any negative outcomes that could arise from having/using one.

Location, Location, Location!

You know what it is, how it works, and why you should start one. The next question is where you should put the tumbler in the first place because believe it or not, there are places that work and some that you should avoid.

A good place to put a compost tumbler is somewhere that isn’t too cold and isn’t too hot. You want it to be in a place that’s warm. A good spot to consider is a shady area, one that is easily accessible, and nearby the plants/workspace.

The best places to avoid putting your compost tumbler, besides in an overly hot or cold place, is anywhere windy, under a tree, or against the house for the sake of your nose. Follow these suggestions and your compost tumbler will find its forever spot.

What’s Inside? Well, That’s Up to You!

Finally, this brings us to what you can put inside a compost tumbler. To be honest, this is the most important part because if you don’t use the right organic material inside, you won’t have compost to begin with!

Compost material can be separated into two categories. One is greens, which includes fruit and veggie scraps, grass clippings/leaves, coffee grounds/tea leaves, and food leftovers. There are other options of green waste available to you, but the ones I listed are the easiest to get your hands on.

The other category is browns. Browns material includes sawdust, wood chips, eggshells, cardboard, shred paper, and dead leaves. This isn’t the complete list, however, like I mentioned above these are the most easily accessible.

Naturally, there are things you shouldn’t put in your tumbler as well. This includes already diseased yard waste, meat, fat, bones, and dairy.


And there you have it, folks. Not only do you have everything you need to know about how to start a compost tumbler, but you also know what it is and why it’s a good thing to start one. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become second nature.

If, after reading this guide, you still find yourself unsure of what kind of tumbler to get, then you can check out this guide that goes into the best compost tumbler that is available for you to purchase online/in stores/etc.

With this last piece of information, you’ll be composting in no time.

Edward Kim

Edward Kim, holding a Ph.D. in Botany from Cornell University, has been deeply involved in the study and practice of plant cultivation for over 20 years. He joined our team in 2020, having previously led a renowned botanical garden's research department. Edward's extensive knowledge is not just limited to academic circles; he has participated in community gardening projects and frequently conducts workshops. His love for plants is mirrored in his gardening-themed travel blog and his collection of rare botanical illustrations.

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