Various Pros and Cons of Compost Tumblers

We generate a lot of waste, especially at home, and the big question becomes, how do we eliminate the waste responsibly? In comes composting! Composting recycles organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps into a valuable fertilizer that can enrich the soil and plants.

Composting simply speeds up the process of decomposing by providing an ideal environment for fungi, bacteria and other decomposing organisms to do their work. A compost tumbler is, therefore, a device that aids in the composting process, and is the topic of this article.

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Composting has numerous benefits and many find it to be a great way of dealing with waste in their home – whether that’s food waste from the kitchen or otherwise. The great thing about composting is that not only does it mean that you get rid of waste in a green and organic way but you also manage to create something that is thoroughly useful for caring for your lawn.

It really offers the best of both worlds and is one of the reasons that many people tend to really wish to introduce it to their homes. Below are a few of the pros and cons of compost tumblers.

What Are Compost Tumblers?

A compost tumbler is a container, for lack of a better word, that can be turned easily and is mainly made of plastic. It is a sealed container such as a barrel that you can rotate or simply tumble. The science behind a compost tumbler is that it mixes up the ingredients placed inside it more frequently as compared to a compost heap or pile.

With more air being introduced as well as the mixing up of the ingredients, the composting process heats up and matures faster. Compost matures faster if it is turned regularly and compost tumblers are designed to make the turning process easy; you only need to turn the barrel.

A compost tumbler differs from a compost heap in two main ways. First is that a compost tumbler is sealed, meaning it generates heat more quickly, speeding up the composting process, and secondly, a tumbler can rotate, meaning the contents or ingredients mix more easily. As such, compost tumblers are meant to make the composting process fur much simpler and faster.

Compost tumblers also differ from compost bins on several fronts. First, compost bins are designed to be set on the ground and most have open bottoms. They are also less expensive as compared to compost tumblers, but they also have several disadvantages.

One, you can turn the compost tumbler, mixing the contents inside, something you cannot do in a compost bin unless you manually do it with a pitchfork. Secondly, heat is dissipated in a compost bin, slowing down the composting process. Finally, rodents can easily burrow under the sides of a compost tumbler, gaining access to the composting material, something that is avoided in a compost tumbler.

How Long Does It Take To Compost In A Tumbler?

The process can take as little as 5 to 6 weeks. However, it is not quite possible to estimate exactly how much time it takes to compost in a compost tumbler, mainly because the result depends on several factors. If these factors favor the process, it takes a small amount of time, and the opposite is true.

1. Moisture level

The ideal compost tumbler should be just moist, but not too dry, nor too wet. Usually, there is already enough moisture in the items you compost like kitchen scraps and grass cuttings, to maintain optimum moisture levels. Therefore, avoid adding water since it will only slow down the composting process. If you are in a dry environment, consider adding as little water as possible. Keep your balance of greens to browns and add what you need

2. Heat

If you feed your compost tumbler a perfect mix of nitrogen and carbon materials, it will generate a lot of heat. The compost tumbler keeps the heat inside, although composting is slower in colder months. When you notice the temperature dropping, heat it back up by adding some more nitrogen-rich materials and turning the tumbler more. Also, if you live in a relatively hot area or an area with hot summers, consider placing the tumbler under a shade

3. Air

The tumbler is well ventilated with small holes, which gives it a constant source of fresh air. The air is a vital ingredient of the composting process as it keeps it going. Therefore, your device will come fitted with holes to aid in the process. Therefore, you will only need to turn the compost about once a week, to give it some fresh air, and allow the air to permeate through the mixture.

This is why the compost tumbler is far more advantageous, as you will be able to turn the contents, a process that is not possible in a compost barrel or composter drum. These stationary composters require you to manually turn the contents using a fork

4. Compost starter

You can as well kickstart the composting process with some compost starters, although they are not needed to make compost. Once you are making compost regularly, keep a little compost from the previous batch as a starter. You could also ass some soil from the garden to keep the process going

What Should You Not Put In A Compost Tumbler?

1. Worms

Ideally, you can put worms inside a compost tumbler, but you should be careful to ensure you add them at the right time. If you place them in fresh waste, they will not have anything to eat, meaning you should wait for the waste to rot to a point where the worms see it as food.

Also, do not add them to a warm compost since they do not like it there. They will try to leave the tumbler immediately and given that there is no place for them to escape, they will die when the temperatures start to rise. Therefore, if you are worried about worms not thriving, you should probably consider not adding them to the compost tumbler

2. Certain foods

Some foods such as meat, fish, eggs or poultry scraps, dairy products, fats, grease, lards or oils, should not be placed inside a compost tumbler. The main reason for this is that they have odor problems, and attract pests. You do not want your compost tumbler smelling awful or slowed down by pests that could kill the microbes in the mix.

3. Charcoal ash or coal

Coal or charcoal ash, as well as black walnut tree leaves or twigs, contain substances that might be harmful to plants. They will make a compost that might potentially poison your plants and should be avoided

4. Some waste

Some diseased or insect-ridden plants, pet wastes, and yard trimmings treated with pesticides should also be avoided. The diseased plants may aid in spreading the diseases to other plants, or the disease might be spread by insects.

As for the pet waste, it could contain parasites and germs, and for the yard trimmings, they will still contain the pesticide that could kill composting organisms, slowing down the composting process.

Pros Of Compost Tumblers

1. Turnability

A compost tumbler makes the work easier because it can turn and aerate the composting mixture. It takes more energy and time to turn over a compost heap or mix a compost barrel with a fork, and therefore, the compost tumbler helps a lot.

2. Faster composting

In an ideal environment, the composting process can be completed pretty quickly. Ensure the moisture levels are ideal, the outdoor temperature is regulated, you balance the carbon and nitrogen levels and you aerate the mixture, and you should have a ready compost in just five weeks.

3. It cannot allow critters inside

The compost tumbler is also advantageous since it can be closed, and no critters or rodents will interfere. It is sealed, except for the small air holes for ventilation and you will therefore not find wildlife lurking in it. You might attract some insects, but it will be minimal. They are also raised above the ground to keep off the rodents and pests from accessing them.

4. Looks attractive

In comparison to a compost bin or heap, the compost tumbler is very attractive. They come in several sleek designs, and keep your garden looking clean and attractive.

5. Produce minimal odors

The fact that they are sealed, ensures they are less smelly, which is vital for those with small gardens. Of course, the composting process will lead to some odors, but the compost tumbler ensures they are minimal. Keep your greens to browns ratio in check and the tumbler will not smell. Surely, the neighbors will also appreciate this.

6. Easy to use

A compost tumbler is easy to access, move and of course use. The majority have wheels, meaning they can be moved with ease to wherever you need it. When it comes to using it, you will need to add the contents, seal it and turn it in once a week. It has been designed to mix the contents once it is turned, meaning you will not have to use a lot of energy to turn it.

7. Saves time

As a result of the point above, the tumbler saves up on time. Try manually turning a pile and you will appreciate the tumbler.

8. Sustainability

The tumbler helps you become a sustainable citizen of the world. You will be able to compost a lot of your waste instead of having it in landfills, polluting the environment.

Cons Of Compost Tumblers

1. It is expensive

A compost tumbler is more expensive than a compost bin. Again, their prices depend on their sizes, with some decent-sized tumblers going for less than $100. However, seeing how much it helps out, it is worth investing in. Moreover, it is a one-time purchase and you will use it for quite a long time.

2. It fills up

Once you fill your tumbler with waste, you will not do anything else with it, but just wait. While you wait for it to compost, you will have to find an alternative way of taking care of your vegetable and fruit scraps and more. Luckily, you can choose a tumbler with dual chambers, where one composts and the other chamber lets you add waste. Even so, they might fill up in five to six weeks.

3. Worms do not thrive inside

Worms cannot invade the chamber by themselves and have to be added manually. Also, unless they find a way out, they will eventually die inside because of the heat.

4. They can be cumbersome

Larger compost tumblers can become cumbersome given the sheer weight they carry. Although there is a size limit on compost tumbler to ensure you can be able to turn them, even when full, consider how much compost you want to produce and how much space you have for the tumbler.

5. They attract insects

All composting avenues will attract insects, but you have to watch them out with a tumbler. After you use the composter for a week or so, when you open the sliding door, you will quickly learn to step aside. Depending on where you live and the season, you may have insects flying out. They are small, harmless, and gnat-like but you won’t want them flying in your face. A compost pile also attracts insects, but they do not come out in full force to your face since the pile is exposed.

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