Some compost tumblers can cost up to $500. With an investment of that size you better be getting your money's worth. Don't worry though, we've put together a bunch of information to help in your buying decision. Who knows...we may just save you 500 bucks.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of compost tumbling, let's look at the basics.
To "tumble" your compost simply means to turn your compost while it is inside some sort of closed container. These containers can range in both size and shape. There are compost tumblers that hold up to 12 cubic feet of material, whereas others can only hold 5-6 cubic feet of material (please note that these volumes are referring to raw uncomposted materials). Although most tumblers are purchased from a manufacturer, there are some great do-it-yourself plans on the net (see our compost tumbler plans section below).
There are three basic categories of compost tumbler:
Crank-operated tumblers are usually double the price of other types of tumblers.
Center-axle tumblers usually range in price from $150-$250 US.
Base rolling tumblers tend to cost less than the two types of tumblers mentioned above.
All of the above tumblers are considered "drum" types, because the main composting container is in the shape of a drum. Usually, these types of tumblers are compared to sphere-shaped tumblers.
Sphere-shaped tumblers typically range in price from $75-$200 US.
An example of a sphere-shaped tumbler is the Bio-Orb Monster Compost Bin.
The answer is that it all depends on your individual abilities and situation.
NOTE: When tumblers have been put in head-to-head tests against standard well-managed compost bins or open piles, tumblers did NOT perform any better. Please refer to this wonderful article by Mother Earth News.
We agree with Mother Earth News, and feel that the secret to tumblers is the turning frequency. That is, a compost tumbler usually appears to generate compost more quickly than an open pile, simply because the ingredients get turned more often. Assuming you have a well made tumbler, there is a better chance that you will turn its contents more often than you would turn the compost in your bin or pile. That's because turning compost with a tumbler happens more quickly and doesn't require as much effort. This is definitely one of the perks to well made compost tumblers.
Don't you just love that part?...If you have a compost bin or pile, and are willing to turn it every couple days (especially during the first couple weeks after it has been assembled), you will produce compost in the same amount of time as a tumbler. So are you able and willing to turn your compost bin or pile every couple days? If so, you may not want to invest in a tumbler.
Now let's consider the second part of the equation...your situation.
If you live in the city or in a small urban lot, a compost tumbler may be just the thing for you. However, if you live in the country or have a large lot, a compost tumbler may not be necessary. Needless to say, a compost tumbler does save space. They also help to contain any odors that may come from the composting process.
In conclusion, if you meet the following criteria, a compost tumbler will be well worth the cost.
As you can see from Lloyd's ingenious invention in the above video, building a tumbler is quite possible. If you love do-it-yourself projects, or just want to save some money, your best option is to build a tumbler from scratch. Now, don't think you have to build a tumbler like the one from the video, instead, start small and slowly allow your creative mind to run amuck.
Here is a set of step-by-step instructions that will teach you how to build a very simple homemade tumbler.
If you were to search the net using the phrase "plans for building a tumbler", you would find 101 different designs. The key is to stick to the basics. Always remember what compost needs when outside of a tumbler, then be sure to mimic those conditions inside your tumbler. For instance, you need to ensure your tumbler can sufficiently aerate your compost. How will your design accomplish this?
If you're ever in doubt, be sure to check out
our tumbler plans page for a great DIY project. We are continually adding new designs, so please be sure to check back regularly.
Lastly, we would like to discuss back-porch compost tumblers. These are tumblers that are much more compact than your ordinary tumbler. Back-porch tumblers are ideally suited for people living in apartments or condos (assuming you have access to a small porch or balcony).
Since space is an issue, your tumbler will be much smaller. Therefore, it's going to be quite difficult to generate enough heat based solely on the volume of your ingredients. This means it will take a little longer to produce your compost. But it can be done! For more information, please refer to our back-porch tumbler page.
Interested in learning more about compost and compost tumblers?
What if we told you you're just one click away from being able to download five free compost e-booklets?
All you have to do is click on the Composting 101 booklet to the right and read our Free Goodies page.