Has anyone used a compost tumbler? (Preparing my Y2K garden.)

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I'm thinking about buying a ComposTumbler from a company in Lititz, Pennsylvania. They say it'll make great compost in just two to three weeks, much faster than I can make it, but it's awfully expensive at $379 plus a lot for shipping. I would like to have good compost for my garden in Y2K. Does anyone have any experience, positive or negative, with this product? Do you recommend something else?

-- Gardening Man (garden@home.now), June 25, 1999


We have one and it makes great compost if you follow the "recipes" pretty carefully and chop your items fairly small....just like any other compost pile. Also, try to leave it with the door up as if left down any liq. drains out and it rusted the door(co. sent us a new one free even though the warranty was over).

-- MUTTI66 (windance @train.missouri.org), June 25, 1999.

Compost is easy to make. Look up recipes in organic gardening mag, mother earth news, etc. tumblers are nice, but unecessary. A good long spading fork is the most helpful thing going. Manure, grass and weed clippings, sand or dirt, straw or hay, and any other wastes you can obtain ( fish, hair, organic wastes) can be added. Buy a $15 thermometer, and use it. You will soon know what works and what doesn't as your pile will heat up within days, or not depending on how you have constructed it. Make it now through the fall in the largest quantities you can and shovel it inot your gardens next spring and watch things grow!

-- Charlie (cstewart@ime.net), June 25, 1999.

You can accomplish the same thing using a 32 Gallon trash can with snap on lid. You can actually buy the ones that are made for this purpose that already have holes punched in the sides, but you can punch the holes in yourself. Layer grass clippings, leaves, or whathaveyou - then kitchen scraps or manure - then a small amount of soil. Dampen each layer with the garden hose but don't get it too wet, as in soggy. Let it sit a couple days, then kick it over on it's side and roll it round the yard a bit to stir up the mixture. Be sure to keep it moist at all times. Mix it up every couple days like this, and in a couple weeks you have compost. If it doesn't seem to be de- composing fast enough for ya, toss in a handful of lime. Don't fill the thing up all the way...too heavy. About half full is great. Happy gardening. Spend the savings on beans & bullets.

-- Don (dwegner@cheyenneweb.com), June 25, 1999.

I have one, and it works well as long as you use a bioactivator and use the right mix of compost materials. I did not chop up my leaves before putting them in, so I don't have compost after a month or so. It would work better if you have a shredder I'm sure.

And keep it moist too.

-- nothere nothere (notherethere@hotmail.com), June 25, 1999.

Thank you all for the helpful responses! I think I can get the job done a lot more cheaply using the ideas provided above.

But how do you chop the starting material into small bits without an expensive shredder? Is there some sort of hand tool I can use? I don't mind the labor if I can save a lot of money.

-- Gardening Man (garden@home.now), June 25, 1999.

Composting works even if the materials are not shredded. It just takes longer. One year I bagged leaves after a rain, using the large trash bags. Some were cut up some by the lawnmower, some not. Piled up a dozen or so bags, tied closed, out of the way but exposed to the weather. One thing led to another and I didn't get back to them till the next fall. The bags by then had deteriorated considerably and had a lot of holes, letting the rain in. By then the leaves (oak, maple, hickory mostly) were reduced to usable mulch -- very few whole leaves, just brown bits and shreds. And the bags lying on the ground were full of earthworms. All that with no manure or activator other than whatever happened naturally.

It's more exciting using manure -- a working compost pile will melt any snow that falls on it.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), June 25, 1999.

Thanks, Tom. I guess I have a lot to learn.

-- Gardening Man (garden@home.now), June 25, 1999.

I have one and it is just o.k. I also use the old fashion way with hay and wire. If I were you I would pay attention to alternative ways and save your money for other needs. Most of the time my tumbler goes unused and I toss stuff into other compost. Tumbler is too much bother...that is my opinion. Good luck, Old Gramma

-- Old Gramma (Gotitincalif@webtv.net), June 25, 1999.

I vote for the trash can with holes in it. The wire bales work great too. You can also get free skids, put one down flat for the floor, then three more standing up, wire them together, one more for the front door, voila! Free compost bin. No cost except the wire to tie the thing together.

You might be interested in the forums at http://www.gardenweb.com They have one especially about composting, and many many about different gardening tips.

You don't say where you live but in the south it is time to start your seeds for the fall garden. Planting lots of root crops, you know?

(real email if you remove the X - spam problems)

-- Mommacares (harringtondesignX@earthlink.net), June 25, 1999.

I have one and I am very pleased with it.I mow the yard with the riding lawn mower,which chops up the grass and leaves .I dump the grass straight into the composter ,add a few shovels full of dead leaves and in three weeks I have fabulous compost! My garden has never looked better.

-- gardengirl (gardening@home.com), June 25, 1999.

Flowtron (Sears) makes an electric leaf shredder for apx. $100-110. It operates by a rotating string trimmer, and won't handle twigs. I use it to macerate my abundant leaves in the fall, either for the compost pile or to work into fall garden beds or use as mulch. You need to operate with both safety glasses and a dust mask. I abandon my compost piles and give them a couple of years. My nemesis are tree roots that work their way into the pile and make it impossible to turn, so more recently I have placed the piles on heavy plastic.

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), June 25, 1999.

Composting at Home links to articles on these subjects:
Composting Overview

Compost Demonstration Gardens in Greater Vancouver Region

History of Composting

The Science of Composting

Making Compost: The Art of Backyard Composting

What to Compost

Backyard Composting


Worm Composting

Using Compost

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), June 25, 1999.

Hi GM,

Unlike everyone else it seems, I don't compost -- I put the leavings that make compost right on top of my garden. It will eventually compost 'in place' and has the advantage of keeping weeds from coming through. Grass clippings, tree limbs (broken up a bit so it's easier to walk through the garden), shredded paper that is 'certified' (by me) organic, left over vegetable matter, etc. goes right onto the garden.

In fact, to start a garden, get a bunch of hay (many bales) or lots of grass clippings and put right on top of a patch of grass. Make it about 12 inches deep and wait a month or so. You'll have a place to plant seedlings by pulling the mulch apart, inserting the seedling into the soil underneath (not too deep), and pulling the mulch up around the seedling, leaving the leaves out. As they grow, keep putting more mulch around the plant.

The advantages are: 1) no weeds, 2) far fewer insects and worms eating your plants, 3) far less watering (if any is needed at all), 4) plants are more resistant to frosts as the stem is protected for 6 inches or more, and 5) no need to compost.

20 years ago I tried this method after reading a book by a gardening expert named Ruth Stout, who championed this method in "Gardening Without Work." Well, it worked beyond my wildest expectations. Tomato plants don't have to be staked, just let them lay on the mulch. You get more tomatoes, and they're in better condition than any I got with other methods. Same for beans (bush), brocolli, squash, etc.

Potatoes are a snap. Once you have a good mulch bed (a few months keeping the mulch 12 inches deep), you plant the potato eye *at the bottom of the mulch*, not in the dirt under the mulch. After a time all you have to do is pick the potatoes out of the mulch instead of digging them out of the ground.

Hope this helps.

-- Dean -- from (almost) Duh Moines (dtmiller@nevia.net), June 26, 1999.

Dean, I too am a follower of Ruth Stout's book. And yes, it really works for me. I use a lot of hay with donkey manure in it. I have a large garden area and when chubby hubby cleans the barn with the tractor he takes it all over to my garden and dumps it for the chickens to scratch all the seeds out of and spread it around. I only use half the garden space I have. Our next project is to fence the garden as a chicken yard with the hen house positioned so that they can be let out on the half that is not planted. That way there are no weed seeds and I get the benefit of well spread chicken manureand hay/compost. Each season (I plant 3 times a year down here in Florida) I will switch garden beds with the chickens. Had this set up once before out west and it worked really well.

Taz...who gardens more for the soul than the food.

-- Taz (Tassie @aol.com), June 26, 1999.


"Gardening Without Work" by Ruth Stout is available at www.amazon.com and usually ships within 24 hours.


-- Mercy (DivinMercy@aol.com), June 26, 1999.

$379??? For criminy's sake man! What is the thing made of, titanium?? I bought my [Green Magic] tumbler at Gardener's Supply Co. for $125. English made. It works as stated above. You get faster compost if you chop ingredients up small and 'mix' per instructions. I did not, however I will have a decent compost in about 2.5 months tumbling and that is a whole lot better than simply tossing stuff on a pile and mixing it around with a pitchfork occassionally.



-- OR (orwelliator@biosys.net), June 26, 1999.

We had one but decided that it was too small for the amount of yard/kitchen waste that we were generating. Also I think maybe the bio-mass is too small in those things for heating up hot enough to properly cook (not too hot/not too cold) but your mileage may vary. We ended selling our composter at a garage sale and built 3 bins of hardware cloth that were about 4 ft in diameter that were able to accept a years worth of yard clippings/ leaves and leafy kitchen waste. As the compost settled/cooked down we moved it all into one bin a year before installing on the garden. I planted potatoes in the finished compost bin and had a nice crop of new or boiling potatoes. Good luck.

-- Ramp Rat (aviation-R-us@noname.nocity), June 27, 1999.

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