Compost Tumbler

Make a Compost Tumbler

By David Brooks

From the September 2008 issue of Boys' Life magazine

Here’s how to tumble your way to rich compost for your garden and plants.

What You Will Need for the Compost Tumbler

  • Sturdy plastic 55 gallon, or close to 55 gallons, food barrel
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Hammer
  • Adjustable wrench
  • 8 3/8 by 3 1/2 inch carriage bolts
  • 8 3/8 inch nuts
  • 8 3/8 inch washers
  • 16d galvanized nails
  • 2 bungee cords (If barrel has a locking lid, you won’t need the bungees.)
  • 5 2 by 6 inch boards (Lengths will be determined by the size of the container.)
  • 3/4 inch galvanized pipe, threaded both ends (You can get a standard-size pre-cut threaded pipe. The length will be determined by diameter of the barrel.)
  • 2 3/4-inch galvanized pipe caps

The Way to Make the Tumbler

Prepare the Barrel Before the Frame

  1. Wash out the barrel and drill two 7/8 inch holes halfway between the top and bottom. These holes are for the 3/4 inch galvanized pipe.
  2. Drill 1/2 inch holes evenly spaced around the barrel.

How to Build a Sturdy Frame

  1. Cut the 2 by 6 inch boards and assemble the frame as shown, using the hardware listed. The feet should be almost as long as the legs are high.
  2. Drill 7/8 inch holes at the top of the legs and pass the 3/4 inch steel pipe through the hole in one leg, into the barrel and out through the leg on the other side. Screw on the pipe caps.
  3. If the lid needs to be held in place, drill small holes around the lid to hook bungee cords.

The Basics to Composting

Layer yard waste into the tumbler. Alternate green materials like grass clippings with brown ones like hay or fallen leaves. Put in some garden soil and kitchen waste such as:

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Crushed egg shells
  • Fruit peels
  • Tea bags
  • Veggie scraps

Never use meat, poultry, fish, dairy or pet waste. That stuff can attract unwanted critters. Bacteria breaks down the materials in your tumbler and turns it into rich organic compost. The decomposing material will become hot as the bacteria does its work. The material in your tumbler should be about as moist as a damp sponge. Spin your tumbler one or two times a week to mix the contents and keep it aerated.

How to Find a Barrel to Use

Food barrels are used for things like juice or pickles. Try checking with large restaurants or food distributors. Also, there are companies that sell used food barrels.

Take a look at Mark Stelly's modifications (PDF) to this project. Print it today and you can start this weekend!