Tumbling composters

Discussion in 'Other' started by OskarDoLittle, Jan 11, 2016.

  1. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member

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    Hi all,
    I was wondering if anyone has much experience with or recommendations for composters...I live on a 1000m2 block in the Brisbane 'burbs and don't really have anywhere for a compost heap, but like the idea of composting whatever is in excess for the worm farm. (Not to mention the byproducts of just general gardening!)
    I was about to go buy one from Bunnings, but have been trawling around this site for the last day or so, having just found it (love the site btw Mark...thanks for all the info - am germinating some dragon fruit as I write), so I thought I'd ask for opinions?
    Cheers,
    Barb
     
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  2. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Hi Barb and thanks for joining us as a member of SSC!

    I can't say I've had any experience with those tumbler type composters. Our compost heap evolved from one pile into 3 x large bays (but we have a big garden). Still, 1000 sqm is good sized block are you sure you can't find a spot in the back corner somewhere for a 1m square box or cylindrical container with an open bottom?

    The reason I ask is one advantage of composting on the ground instead of a tumbler is this allows worms and other bugs to invade the scraps/material to break it down plus add their own nutrients to the mix. Whereas a tumbler may be faster but the mix is more sterile (especially if the barrel is in the sun).

    I don't want to talk you out of getting a compost tumbler though because I'm sure they would do a good job - I'm just pointing out some differences and options that's all... :)

    This old fiberglass compost bin (image attached) was my Grandfather's (he was a master vegetable gardener & swore by this bin method) it's about 15 - 20 years old and spent most of the time in direct sunlight and it's still in pretty good condition (I strategically placed it in my dragon fruit patch for effect :p). These bins (even the cheaper plastic versions - one piece with lid) do a great job! It's about waist high and probably a tad over 1/2 metre at the base - so not too big.

    I like them because they are compact and strong plus have an open base so if positioned in a shady spot it basically grows into a mini worm farm. They're good for smaller gardens but large enough to take a fair days garden waste or supply of kitchen scraps.

    They can be used as a continuous compost heap or packed full and left for a month or so to break down. Yes, it's a slow way to make compost but you do end up with a very high quality end product!

    I've tried the rectangular plastic bins you buy flat packed from Bunnings with the small opening at the base to scrape out the finished compost they look good but I found them to be flimsy and it just didn't work well at all so in the tip it went (after it fell apart within a few years).

    I'd also be interested to see what other people think of the tumbler composters but personally I like the old fashioned heap design.

    fibre glass compost bin in dragon fruit patch.jpg
     
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  3. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member

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    Hey mark,
    Thanks for the reply (and the strategically positioned pic showing off the dragon fruit!)
    I used to have a standard compost bin...it sat very lonely and neglected well away from the house for years until we renovated and got rid of it. The block is unfortunately quite steep at the back, dropping 3 stories, so this is all landscaped with decking and low/no maintenance garden with nowhere really for a "heap". So while the block seems large, actually my "sustainability" patch is much smaller than I would like, being the flat part at the south west of the house - but does get full sun most of the day.
    I was hoping to hide a composter between the A/C unit and the clothesline (not terribly glamorous I know) but I also don't want any green matter to get sucked into the air con vent (or blown all over the clothes for that matter). I've attached pics so you can see what I mean. What's currently lawn will eventually become raised veggie beds if the other half will agree to it.
    I have come across a Swedish (or was it Swiss?) designed 2 chamber insulated composter which seems to get a big thumbs up, though is quite expensive. Just starting to feel quite guilty about all the lawn clippings going into the green bin, that could be better used at home...
     

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  4. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Ok I see... What a lovely little area and looks like plenty of sun too! A raised bed vegetable garden in that area would be awesome I reckon! Trendy veggie patches are soooo "in" now and there's heaps of options to choose from in regards to garden beds from sleepers (wooden or concrete), bricks, galvanised/colorbond, plastic (like the VegePod), or even big containers, they're all good :twothumbsup:

    Like this one - the "Little PIG rotating composter bin"?

    If so, it certainly would be low mess and easy enough to operate, move around, and look nice. I like being frugal but sometimes you do have to pay for good quality stuff that works exactly as you want and lives up to expectations.

    Like I mentioned in my first post, I'm sure you can't go wrong with a tumbler composter - it's going to do the job and if this design fits your property and routine perfectly then I'd say go for it because any composting and recycling of materials is better than removing them to the tip via the green bin.
     
  5. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member

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    Yup, that was it...the little pig (there's a big pig too, but I think that'd be overkill!)
     
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  6. Codger

    Codger Member Premium Member

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    I am an obsessive composter and it makes me sad to see good organic matter going to waste.
    I have not used a compost tumbler but it might be useful where there is a problem with rodents or flies in the compost.
    At my place anything remotely edible and most other kitchen scraps end up in the chook pen to be worked over by the chooks. Other material is piled up in the orchard and occasionally moved with the tractor.
    It seems to me that composting is often made out to be a difficult science when in practice any organic matter will break down into compost given time.
    It would be interesting to hear any reports on performance of compost tumblers.
     
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  7. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member

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    I agree codger...while looking into composting tumblers I've been gobsmacked by how many "formulas" there are for "perfect" compost. In the past I've just chucked everything in a pile and left it - Turned out fine in the end but took quite some time. Also discovered that putting the pile too far away means I'm less likely to use it (Me lazy?...never)
    Weird to now find myself in a situation where I'll need to turn over the compost quicker so I don't need to find storage space for it. (I blame our renovation for that...before we had more yard and less house.)
    I'm so jealous btw that not only do you have an actual orchard...you have a tractor too!
     
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  8. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I have a friend who has 2 tumblers & they make excellent compost in summer in 4-6wks. In winter a bit longer.
    He has one of each type but one is hard to turn so be sure to buy the drum tumbler that lay horizontal not vertical.
    The vertical one has a horizontal shaft through the long sides so the thing still stands up like an ordinary drum.
    The horizontal tumbler lays on it's side & has the horizontal shaft running through the top & bottom of the drum. It is a lot easier to turn although harder to empty & fill with larger quantities of material.

    The vertical tumbler has a lid that unscrews & opens the whole end just like a blue 44gal drum. The horizontal tumbler has a smallish access door in the side which may or maynot have enough catches & hinges on it to remain closed during tumbling. The vertical tumbler is a lot harder to turn once it is loaded. It requires a man sized person!
     
  9. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member

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    Thanks ClissAT, I'm pleasantly surprised that the claims about making compost that quickly are accurate...I thought that had to be an exaggeration!
    I'd also assume the vertical tumblers would need a little more room to tumble? Sounds like the horizontal tumbler is def the way to go. (The other half reckons he might get me a "Little pig" for my birthday...how romantic!)
     
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  10. letsgo

    letsgo Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Was about to post about my recent purchase when I came across this post. Don't know if you have bought any tumblers yet @OskarDoLittle.

    The days of me turning compost over with a spade are gone. Don't have the best of lower backs. I know a heap is supposed to be better but not much point if you can't do anything with it. I had been piling my compost up in an garden bed, so at least it wasn't been thrown out.

    I recently bought 3 NEW compost tumblers off Gumtree for $50 each :). We had been looking at them in Bunnings cost $139 each, so new which ones we wanted to get. I came home looked on Gumtree and a guy had 3 of them brand new. After a quick call, we made a dash to the Gold Coast which was about 1 1/2hrs from home.

    Compost-Tumblers.jpg

    They sit nicely up my back yard near the chook pen. I filled all 3 with the compost pile I already had which surprising had broken down quiet a bit. I have no issues turning them, especially once they start moving.

    Inside there is metal sharf that goes right through the middle of the drum with 2 U shape prongs that help break the pile up. I didn't seen this on any of the other tumblers we looked at.

    Inside-Tumbler.jpg

    Close up of one of the prongs. The photo doesn't show it but one side of the prong is taller than the other.

    Prong.jpg

    These are made in Italy and seemed stronger than some of the others we looked at. There is a big lid that sort of twists off on both ends, so should be easy to get the compost out. The bins can also be locked in place, so they don't move when filling with large amounts or when emptying out. They are 180 L.

    The only negative so far is that they are close to the ground. We plan to sit the legs on some timber to lift them higher up, to clear the ground so there is no rubbing.

    This is the manufactures website, they have a video to see them in action. I am really pleased and excited to be able to finally get some compost happening. :)
     
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  11. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I like it @letsgo, I've been thinking I need to start some type of compost area at my new place now I have the room. I'm not sure whether to go for the permanent pen type arrangement or one of these bin types, both have their merit.

    I hate throwing out green waste and food scraps, it just grinds me.

    Appreciate the post, food for thought....:twothumbsup:
     
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  12. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Wow $50ea! what a find! Such a saving.
    Compost heaven here we come.....in triplicate! :p

    I think one thing that turns people off from having these types of compost bins is that it's yet another thing to trim around.
    You mentioned needing to lift them up off the ground a little which is a good idea because the ones my friend has did tend to sink during wet weather. Or the grass would grow right over the legs of the stand making it hard to drag the thing aside to mow.
    He has now added concrete plinths for each to sit on. He used concrete house blocks, 2 lengthwise under each leg which made whipper snipping so much easier.
    His vertical tumbler is not as wide as yours, more like a thin taller 44gal drum & it was hard to turn. Apparently it actually fell off its plinth the first time he tried to tumble it! o_O He had to unload it to stand it back upright again. I'm not sure what the fix was but apparently both are now on their rightful plinths. :D
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
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  13. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for the info Letsgo...my birthday came and went in June...the other half got me a new iPad instead of the "Little Pig" tumbling composter I'd requested :(
    That probably sounds very ungrateful, but the camera on the new iPad is such high res that I have to reduce the pics to post anything, so I'm still using the old one instead! Maybe Christmas instead...he reckons I'm turning the place into a "market garden" so maybe it was a deliberate oversight in his behalf! :)
     
  14. letsgo

    letsgo Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    @OskarDoLittle we try and get each other what we want for birthday's and Christmas, so I can understand you may have been disappointment. New iPad is pretty cool though :) I don't find resizing images an issue, the new iPad will take better photos.

    Maybe your husband didn't see the importance of a compost tumbler. So what you do is start a compost pile that is a place that is kind of in the way, and then ask him to turn it for you every now and then. And when he complains you say see if I had a compost tumbler I could do it myself and put it out of the way more :D :D
     
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  15. letsgo

    letsgo Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Hi @ClissAT sounds like your friend has got them all sorted now. Part of the reason we went for the one we did is we felt it was stronger and didn't just have thin legs. It does have plastic cross bits for support on the side on the legs that we don't think will last. Hubby said he will just replace them when that happens. As far as trimming around I think that would be the same if it was a compost on the ground.

    @Steve thanks. I know what you mean about throwing out bits you know would make great compost. We have chooks and they eat a lot of the scraps but there was still bits I didn't give them, and then there is the leaf litter etc around the place. Mind you we did give that to the chooks to sort through which they loved. They are good at turning everything into dust. I have had a container on my bench for chook scraps for a while, now I have one for the compost :) so bits actually make it to the compost bins.

    There are plenty of great ideas on the net on how to make your own compost bins, but for $50 each it was not worth the effort. Mark has a great setup. For me I wanted something I could turn myself and not have to ask hubby all the time. As you say each has it's pros and cons.
     
  16. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Currently I have 2 types of compost.
    There is the general compost in the chook pen which is their floor litter, a bit of horse poo, sundry other wettish ingredients & the chooks mostly turn that for me.
    Any scraps that are not horse worthy go in that pile also, while dry leaves, sticks, green weeds, phone books, etc go into a large pile in the old compost bays! Currently there is red sugar cane & a very nice pawpaw tree growing in the compost bays that I don't want to disturb so I made other arrangements. :p

    I like that idea of putting the compost in the way & asking the other half to turn it. It would be a rare occasion for that to not work!
     
  17. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    "The days of turning compost over with a spade are gone" - I can totally get that!

    Congrats on your purchase @letsgo what a bargain! :shock:

    I grabbed the video from their website
     
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