How Does a Compost Tumbler Work
A compost tumbler is basically large drum with a handle on it allowing you to rotate the drum and the compost inside. Composting tumblers work by giving the compost greater access to oxygen, in theory speeding up the composting process. Despite their claims, there are mixed opinions whether or not most compost tumblers produce compost any faster than a well maintained compost pile.
Why Use Compost Tumblers
Despite not working any faster than a well maintained compost pile, compost tumblers do offer several advantages.
Ease of Turning the Compost
Using the handle of a composting tumbler is much easier and less strenuous than having to turn a compost pile over with a shovel or pitchfork. Sometime the hardest part of making compost is forcing yourself to turn the pile and this ease of use might make your composting more effective for the simple fact that you will use it properly.
Urban Location and Compost Pile Yard Concerns
For the most part, composting tumblers look much nicer than a compost pile. They are also cleaner and less obtrusive. Compost tumblers also will attract less animals and and normally odor free. These benefits allow you to use compost tumblers in places where local laws might outlaw normal compost piles. This can be extremely helpful in urban areas.
Compost tumblers also retain moisture better than a normal open air compost pile. Since moisture is key to composting this is very helpful and allows you to conserve moisture.
Types of Compost Tumblers
While composting tumblers all accomplish the same thing, there are several different designs that the manufacturers use.
Crank Operated Drum Compost Tumblers
In a crank operated drum compost tumbler a drum is mounted horizontally on a raised framework with a crank attached to it. To turn the compost you just use the crank to turn the drum easily. There are almost normally ridges on the inside of the drum tumbler that helps to mix the compost and incorporates air.
Drum compost tumblers are easy to empty since they are raised off the ground but they can be a little more strenuous to fill for the same reason. This normally is a good trade off since the materials going in the tumbler are much lighter and less dense than the compost coming out.
Crank operated drum compost tumblers are also pretty expensive compared to other tumblers. This is because their ease of use is so high.
Center-Axle Drum Compost Tumbler aka The Urban Compost Tumbler
Similar to the crank operated drum tumbler, the center-axle drum is also mounted on a frame, this time vertically. They are very easy to operate and turn and the central axle works similar to the groves in the crank operated tumblers to break up the compost and aerate it.
Center axle compost tumblers are also known as Urban Compost Tumblers because they can usually be found in smaller sizes and work well in an urban setting. Many urban tumblers are made of plastic so they hold in odors better and are easier to clean, two helpful features for an urban tumbler.
The biggest complaint of center-axle drum tumblers is that they can be hard to empty because the door is low to the ground. If you have a lower wheelbarrow, like a low-boy, then it is ok, but otherwise it can be strenuous to get the compost out.
Base Rolling Drum Compost Tumblers
For the base rolling drum tumblers the drum is mounted horizontally on a ground-level framework. The drum spins on the base, either on rollers or points. There are normally ridges on the outside of the rolling drum to turn it with your hands and feet more easily.
Because the base rolling compost tumblers sit almost on the ground emptying them can be difficult. Instead of just pouring out the compost like you can with the crank operated tumbers you have to shovel the compost out.
Roll-Around Sphere Compost Tumblers
The roll around sphere compost tumblers are basically giant molded balls that you fill up with compost. To turn the compost you roll the spheres around your hard. This can be pretty difficult, especially when the spheres are full. They are also very difficult to empty.