Pros and Cons of Compost Tumblers

Everywhere you turn you see advertisements for compost tumblers. The options are endless–some roll, some rotate, some feature a central axle and some even crank by hand. And all of these options make composting more easy than it would be if you were to use a traditional bin. But are tumblers worth it?

Well, a few years ago Which? Gardening magazine took the time to compare these two methods. Using the same volume, they turned five tumblers three times a week and a traditional compost heap once a week. To the surprise of many, it actually took a month longer for tumblers to produce compost that was usable. Sure, tumblers may make the work easier, but if you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty then your best bet is to use compost bins or traditional compost heap. Not only is it quicker, but you can also save a little money and get some extra exercise.


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 that you can 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 few of the advantages and disadvantages of compost tumblers.

Disadvantages of a Compost Tumbler

Not everyone is on a consistent schedule when it comes to composting. So it’s easy to understand why most people would find the idea of getting the job done faster so appealing. But before you make your final purchase there are few things you need to be aware of.

It may take a little longer than you first estimate. Not only do you have to take into account the volume that the tumbler needs to contain in one go, but you must also need to think about where you will compost all of the material that comes after this. Whenever you add more bulk during the process, it will also add more time to the wait because these things have to break down. Though, there are models that are designed with a second compartment do you don’t have to worry about this.

It is somewhat useless during the colder months. Sure, tumblers are great for the summer, but they are not able to heat up properly. The only way around this would be to ensure that they are properly insulated.

You won’t get the same amount of nutrients. What most people may not realize is that heap and tumbler compost differs in their composition. In the best case scenarios, worms would churn materials through their guts and add a certain amount of nutrition. While heap contains worms, the tumbler compost does not. Instead, the tumbler gets the result of fungi and bacteria. And while this does kill off disease spores and weed seeds, it is hardly the same texture of well-rotted heap. Some people sit a little compost to the side so that the worms can do their job.

Advantages of a Compost Tumbler

Yes, compost tumblers can take a lot of the physical work out of composting. However, there are a few more advantages that this method can offer. Let’s address a few of the most important ones.

First, they are ideal for people who struggle with rodent problems. You see, traditional bins aren’t usually made of metal and they require large air gaps. This makes them a prime target for vermin. Conversely, tumblers are made of metal, can hang off the ground and don’t require any large air gaps due to aeration. This inaccessibility even makes it easier to compost foods that would otherwise be seen as taboo such as meat, fish and fat. The best part is, as the temperature rises, the food will naturally break down on its own.

It’s great for those who suffer with back problems. Though those that pivot around a central axle may lead to a few issues due to their swinging difficulty, the higher end models can take a lot of effort out of turning. Consider purchasing one that you can turn via a handle.

It’s perfect for people who deal with a considerable amount of grass clippings. In most cases, anaerobic decomposition would cause large volumes of grass clippings to produce sludge and foul doors. However, this doesn’t happen when you use a tumbler. Though you may still need dry material, tumbler allows for the proper introduction of air. Turning your tumbler daily will result in less volume. Just remember to add drainage holes so that liquid can escape. This liquid can in turn be used to feed your foliage because it is nitrogen rich.

If you want to get your family involved in composting, then tumblers are a great option. It may seem odd to suggest composting as a hobby, but many people admire how well-built and designed tumblers are. Their ease of use could be just the thing to get your children involved.

Finally, tumblers are ideal for people who want to ultra fast output. This isn’t to say that it is easy, by any mean, but if you are diligent you can create usable compost in just three weeks time. Of course you must closely measure your ingredients and monitor moisture levels and temperature but you will be rewarded with useful mulch that can be used in the garden at home.

Composting, no matter how you do it, is a great addition to the home and something that people can really benefit from. We would recommend you read up on the best ways to do so and then get started as soon as possible. It will help you be greener and also help your garden and its plants become more lush and full.

Image credit: flickr

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