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  • Naomi Stephens | Permaculture Designer

How to Use Compost Tumblers in Small Spaces

If you garden in a small space, like a balcony, patio or yard, you know the challenges of growing food in a limited area. But with some creativity and strategic planning, it’s possible to maximize your gardening potential while still working within the restrictions of the size!

One tool that can help is a compost tumbler - an automated spinning container for breaking down organic material into nutrient-rich soil for use in gardens.

In this blog post, i'll cover how to use compost tumblers in small spaces so that even those with restrictive areas can benefit from one of gardening’s most useful tools!

What is a Compost Tumbler and Why Should You Use It

If you're an avid gardener, then you know the importance of having rich, healthy soil. However, creating compost the traditional way can be time-consuming and messy.

That's where a compost tumbler comes in handy. This clever contraption takes all of the hard work out of creating compost.

It's essentially a container that you can fill with food scraps and garden waste, which is then turned and mixed on a regular basis to create nutrient-rich compost that's perfect for your garden.

A compost tumbler is incredibly convenient, and it's also great for the environment. It makes composting more efficient and less time-consuming. By making composting easier, it encourages more people to get involved in composting and reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Composting also helps reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and other pollutants that can damage soil, water, and air quality. The nutrient-rich compost produced from a compost tumbler can be used to enrich the soil which helps promote healthier plants, improves water retention, and reduces erosion

How does it work?

Compost tumblers are designed to make the process of composting as easy and efficient as possible. The idea behind them is simple; you fill the container with garden waste, food scraps, and other organic materials.

Once the container is full, you turn it on its axis using a handle or crank mechanism, and this stirring action helps break down the organic matter and mix it together. This mixing action also helps aerate the compost, which is essential for creating nutrient-rich soil.

Choosing a Compost Tumbler for Small Spaces

When it comes to choosing a compost tumbler, there are a few important considerations. First, size matters. Look for a tumbler that can fit comfortably in your space and still hold enough compost for your needs.

Additionally, consider the tumbler's ventilation and drainage systems. Also, there are twin models that are great for keeping the composting on the go and lessening the composting time.

Lastly, think about how easy the tumbler is to use and maintain. Look for models with features like easy-access doors and removable chambers for simple cleaning.

How to Set Up the Compost Tumbler

To get started, read the instructions carefully and assemble your tumbler according to the manufacturer's guidelines. Next, choose a good spot for your tumbler - it should be in a well-drained area and away from your home or living space. Like a patio, balcony or back yard, or front yard.

Once you've got your tumbler set up, start adding your composting materials like kitchen scraps, leaves, and grass clippings.

Give it a good spin every few days to aerate the mixture and speed up the composting process.

Tips and Tricks

• Keep your compost tumbler in an area with good drainage away from your space.

• Make sure to add a of green materials (like kitchen and fresh grass clippings and brown materials (like dry leaves and shredded paper).

• Give the tumbler a spin every few days to ensure proper aeration.

• Empty the tumbler into a collection bin or onto your garden when it’s ready.

• Clean and disinfect your compost tumbler regularly to prevent bad odors and encourage healthy composting.

• Don't add meat, dairy, or any material that may attract pests.

• Be sure to wear gloves and safety glasses when using your compost tumbler.

• Monitor your compost for temperature and moisture levels to ensure healthy decomposition.

• Add a small amount of soil or manure to help kickstart the decomposition process.

• Place your tumbler in a shady spot to help regulate the temperature and moisture levels.

• Composting can be a great way to reduce kitchen waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden.


How often should I empty my compost tumbler?

This will depend on the amount of organic matter you are adding to your tumbler and how quickly it is breaking down. Generally, a full compost tumbler should be emptied every 3-4 weeks.

How do I know when my compost is ready to use?

When your compost has broken down into a dark, crumbly soil it is ready to be used in your garden.

Can I add cooked food scraps to my tumbler?

Yes, cooked food scraps can be added to the compost tumbler as long as they are not greasy or fatty.

What should I do about ants in my compost tumbler?

Ants are a common problem in compost tumblers, but they can be controlled. Make sure to cover the tumbler tightly and keep it away from your home or living space. Additionally, adding diatomaceous earth to the compost will help discourage ants from entering.

What should the temperature be in a compost tumbler?

The ideal temperature for a compost tumbler is between 135-160 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your compost.

How long will it take for my compost to be ready?

The amount of time it takes for your compost to be ready depends on how much organic matter is added, how often it is aerated, and the temperature of the compost. Generally, it can take anywhere from two to six weeks for your compost to be ready.

What happens if my compost isn’t breaking down?

If your compost isn’t breaking down, you may need to add more green materials or give the tumbler a spin. Additionally, make sure that the compost is at the correct temperature and moisture levels for decomposition. If you’re still having difficulty, it may be necessary to start a new batch of compost.

How do I know if I need to add water to my compost bin?

You can check the moisture level of your compost by squeezing a handful of compost in your hand. If it forms a ball and holds together, then it has enough moisture. If it falls apart easily, you may need to add more water.

Can I add bokashi to my compost tumbler?

Yes, bokashi is a great way to add beneficial microorganisms to your compost tumbler. Simply mix the bokashi with regular kitchen scraps for best results.

Can I add molded food to my compost bin?

No, it is not recommended to add molded food to your compost bin as this can introduce unwanted toxins and pathogens. It is best to remove any molded or spoiled food before adding it to the compost tumbler.

Is there anything I should avoid putting into my compost tumbler?

Yes, there are a few things that should not be added to your compost tumbler, including meat and dairy products, diseased plants or weeds, and pet waste. Additionally, it is important to avoid over-tilling the compost as this can result in a smelly bin.

Why can't I add weeds to my compost bin?

Weeds can contain harmful seeds or roots that could spread and take over your garden. It is best to dispose of weeds in the garbage instead of adding them to your compost bin.

Can I add worms to my compost bin?

Yes, worms are great for helping to break down organic matter. You can add a handful of worms to the compost tumbler to help speed up the decomposition process.

Worms can usually tolerate temperatures up to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. If you monitor the temperature of your compost tumbler and keep it below this level, then your worms should be fine.

What can I do with my finished compost?

Finished compost can be used in a variety of ways, such as adding it to your garden or flower beds, using it as mulch around trees and shrubs, or using it to make potting soil. It can also be used to fertilize lawns or as a soil amendment for container plants.

Whichever way you choose to use it, finished compost is a great source of natural fertilizer and can have many benefits.


I hope you find this useful please share your experience and let us know how you're using compost in your garden!

Also if you think this post would be useful to anyone in a small space please share this post and spread the knowledge!

Thank you for reading!



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