July 25, 2014

How To Make A Compost Tumbler for Cheap!

We have a compost bin but we need more compost than it can make.

DIY Compost Tumbler Tutorial

We’ve always wanted this heavy duty composter but it’s $257!!!  So I did a little research and found that you can make you own compost tumbler very inexpensively!

Out of an ordinary garbage can!

Compost tumblers are suppose to make compost much quicker than the bin method. I’ve never used this type of tumbler composter before so I’ll keep you informed about how effective it is. This is a tutorial for making a very inexpensive rolling compost tumbler. At the end of this post are some links for ones that are on stands.

garbage can compost bin

Rolling Garbage can compost tumbler tutorial:

We just happened to have this blue garbage can that we weren’t using. You will also need either a drill or a large nail & hammer and bunji cords.

drill holes in your garbage can

Step 1 – you will either drill holes all over the garbage can including a few in the bottom so that it can drain or use a very large nail and hammer and puncture holes in the can.

The drill was very fast and easy. If you decided to go with large but fewer holes, you will have to adhere some screening over the holes to keep the compost in and “critters” out. That’s why I went with the smaller holes, but it’s up to you.

My husband decided to make the holes in a row but you can make them randomly too.

Step 2 – After you have the holes drilled it’s time to fill it! That was easy wasn’t it!

layer a homemade compost tumbler

Compost Recipe for Your Tumbler – Layering your compostible material

Normally you want a combination of “brown” and “green” material. We started with putting some of our compost on the bottom because it’s nice and wormy but you can also just add some top soil or store bought compost. Then you start layering. Brown, green, brown, green. Finish off with a sprinkle of water wetting it all down. I think in a tumbler it’s best to keep to to things that you can shred before adding. Things like sticks take a while to break down.
worm in compost
“Brown” material is dried leaves, hay, sawdust from non treated lumber, shredded paper and wood chips. “Green” matter is grass clippings, kitchen scraps (not meat or dairy but veggies and fruit). You can also add coffee grounds and crushed egg shells. I won’t go into how compost happens (you can always google it on your own). Let’s just say that all this matter will decompose and turn into some wonderful stuff that’s essential for a good garden.

It’s a little tricky at first figuring out the percentage of brown to green but I’ve read that in a tumbler composter there should be more brown matter than green. So I’m trying that first and I’ll report back with the outcome.

bunji corded garbage can compost tumbler

Step 2 – Secure the top with bunji cords and start rolling. It needs to be rolled at least once a week. Which was me pushing it around the lawn with my feet.

DIY Compost tumbler

Step 3 – You can then set your garbage can compost tumbler on some blocks so that it gets good air circulation and drainage but it’s not vital.
garbage can compost tumbler on blocks

Step 4 – roll it around. The more the better! It’s a good workout!

I’ve read that there should be some usable compost in 3-4 weeks as long as you are consistent with rolling it – I’m sure you have to sift it like regular compost before using to get out the parts that haven’t broken down.  I’ll keep you posted on how it works for us!

Here are some other links for info about compost tumblers:

Build a Compost Tumbler YouTube Video

How to Build A Compost Tumbler with Supports

You might also be interested in my Gardening 101 series

start here The Basics of Planning Your Vegetable Garden

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***Please read the comments for updates and other information.

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Comments

  1. Terri and Bob says:

    Oooo, I am as excited as you to see how this all turns out! I am very interested in the composting bin… we never have luck with any of our composting efforts.

  2. I’ll be watching to see how this works out. It is a fairly simple project!

    I was interested that you said the
    pumpkins didn’t do well in the raised beds. We were going to put some in for Chelsea this year…maybe we will just find a spot for her pumpkins elsewhere…
    thanks for that heads up.

  3. Your blog is great!
    I will also be interested to see how it works. I have seen this idea,but did not know anyone that use it.

  4. Manuela, did you receive my email?

  5. Laryssa @ Heaven In The Home says:

    Great garden spot! Thanks for the great idea for the homemade compost tumbler. I’d really like to make something like this for our house.

  6. vintage at heart says:

    I have been reading up on composting and this is a wonderful idea and economic too!!! I look forward to seeing how your oats do!! So exciting to try a new crop!!! I totally get your excitment!!! Good luck!

  7. Thanks for showing that composter! I think I’ll have to try it. I got my garden going a few weeks ago, and then a hail storm came through and really roughed up everything. Everything survived, but just looks ragged. I’ll be interested in watching your oats.

  8. june@craftyniche says:

    Neat! My Hubby took an old wooden bin behind his office to make as a compost for the garden. :)

  9. I saw directions to make this composter. Now I will actually do it. My husband and I will have to fight over using the drill, though, cuz we both like to. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. Barb~Bella Vista says:

    Manuela, this is a great project. I really like this and think maybe we will try it. Thanks!

    Barb

  11. Linda's Blue Gate says:

    I can just see you and Maxie rolling that trash can around the yard…… I bet he loves this new game….. what a great idea… I have a old trash can I have been saving …… well after I clean the chicken coop ….. chicken poop…..I am guessing that would be some good brown to get started with…. what a tidy way to get compost…… you have the BEST ideas….
    HUg
    Linda

  12. Madeline says:

    I am definetly making one! I have been putting my fruit and vege scraps in my garden spot all winter and turning it over. This will be much easier and I can continue year round! Thanks…Madeline

  13. This is so weird. Just this morning my daughter said she wanted to make a composter and my husband was telling her she could do it in a garbage can. His aunt used to cut the bottom out of a metal can (we have an old one around) and make compost in it. Personally, I like your idea better. We’ll have to try it. Thanks!

    P.S. Don’t you need worms for composting?

  14. Manuela, you are a brave soul for embarking upon this project! I hope that it will work for you. My gardening skills are few, and while I love to look at everyone’s beautiful flower beds and like to reap the benefits of their vegetable gardens, I settle for 2 or 3 pots in the front yard during the summer. I spend too much time on the grass! LOL (read my post on moles…)
    Loved reading all your old postings this weekend. Hope you are having better weather than I am- it’s rainy, cold, and dreary here in OH. ~Sue

  15. Thank you. We’ve been looking for plans like these.

  16. Cheryl (Copper's Wife) says:

    Wow, oats!! I’ll be waiting to hear how that goes as I’ve read a bit this year about the small scale growing of grain.

  17. This is great Manuela! Thanks for posting. My husband and I were just talking about making a compost tumbler. We’re going to try this :)

    I was just checking out possibly trying to grow grains this year as well. I had not even thought about Oats.

    Thanks for the inspiration :)

  18. Margaret's Ramblings says:

    This is so great. We have an old garbage can outside and tomorrow I will be out there with the drill. Like you I have looked at the shop bought ones but the price – well let’s not go there. I’ll keep you updated on how I get on. We have put five new raised beds in this year and the expense of the compost is dreadful so the option of getting some for free is welcome.

    Margaret

  19. salmagundi says:

    We’ve talked about a composter of some sort before, but for now we just have a pile and a 7-year old grandson that thinks it is fun to turn it with a large hoe. I’ll be anxious to see how your garbage can works. Sally

  20. Thanks Manuela. That’s a great idea. Our yard is so huge that we put all our compost way out in back. All leaves, all dried out plants and just pile it on and water it to keep it steaming. We then when it is ready just work into whatever are we are going to be working on. Have a great day. Take care.

  21. Rosemary says:

    Wow,
    That is impressive!!
    Rosemary

  22. This is great! Thank you for posting Manuela! I have looked in to those composters as well and have been deterred by their cost. This will be a wonderful project!

  23. mrsjones6 says:

    I like your “tumbled” compost. I am anxious to see how it works for you. Audley built us a bin in February and we have been turning it as necessary. Hopefully it’ll be ready for the garden soon. Your gardening projects are looking good. I can’t wait to see how everything turns out this year!
    Hope all is well with you.
    ~Jen

  24. How exciting Manuela! Your garden is going to be amazing! And thanks so much for posting about this! We just finished making our garden boxes for our Square Foot Garden and I really need to start composting!

    XOOX
    Jen

  25. M.L. @ The House of Whimsy says:

    No sir…I have always wanted a tumbler, but faced the same problem.$$$ Thanks so much for the info. Please do keep us updated on how it goes.
    And your flowers in post below are beautiful!!!

  26. Shady Creek Lane says:

    Thanks for the information on how to build an inexpensive composter. I have tried something similar in the past with a rubbermaid container and just tossed in the kitchen waste. I also started out with red worms someone gave me and it was a great success until I let it dry out too much and sit in the sun too long. You must keep it moist but not too wet.
    Good luck with your project.

    p.s. Not only is a commercial composter expensive but buying red worm casting compost is quite expensive too.

    Connie

  27. Storybook Woods says:

    Oh you did it again, thanks for the cheap idea xoxoxo Clarice

  28. I can’t wait to see how your oats grow. I love to read what you’re doing since we live in the same area. Hopefully if it works for you, it will work for me!

    I also love the composter idea. I found one at a store for around $40 but I can make this one for much less. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Victoria says:

    A friend just told me about this idea a few days ago. I definitely want to try it. I will be checking back to see how it goes.

  30. Maryjane - The Beehive Cottage says:

    Wow! I am impressed! Looking forward to seeing how your compost turns out! Good for you!

    Hugs!
    Maryjane

  31. Lamp Tramp says:

    I’m excited to see this post. I just started composting again, lost my compost bin in Katrina. Just bought a new bin. I agree with you, I need more compost, faster! So please update on this wonderful bin you made!

  32. Um, this is beyond brilliant. I’m going to try it!

  33. The family says:

    PLEASE come tell me if the composter worked. I am VERY curious.

    My blog is pikespickles.blogspot.com

  34. Jo - To a Pretty Life says:

    Hi. Thanks for posting how to make your frugal compost bin! I just made one today. My husband thinks I’m a little crazy, but that’s nothing new ;-)

  35. How did this work out for you?

    • Well I didn’t keep up with rolling it around because it was too heavy for me to lift off the cinderblocks and then I just forgot about it! But it did make compost! I think just by me leaving it alone. I then filled it with leaves to make leaf mulch which was easier to roll around. We eventually bought a compost tumbler that wasn’t that expensive – even Home Depot has them now!

      Manuela

  36. So how did the compost come out?
    I have a compost pile in the corner of my yard and am looking for a better/faster way to good compost.

  37. It does work. It takes a little longer as the composters materials are designed to reach very high temperatures. But you can help the home made ones. I crush everything as mush as I can… I pass any kitchen green through the mixer, I pass the lawnmower over the dry leaves to have them in tiny pieces, etc. So everything is already almost crushed decreasing the time needed. You can do a couple and open them every 6 month. I use all the fall leaves.

    • Well I don’t know what happened to all my previous comments about this tumbler. Must have been lost when I moved my blog to WordPress. But yes, I’ve noticed that even in the tumbler I bought, materials have to be cut up really small and no sticks or anything that would take long to decompose.

      Manuela