Build Your Own Compost Tumbler

Get rid of the compost pile, build a compost tumbler and learn how to compost easily and quickly.

| May/June 2014

Compost Tumbler Next to Garden Plants

Create your own compost tumbler.

Illustration by Nate Skow

Truth be told, our compost pile very rarely, if ever, gets turned. When it comes to the compost heap, my preferred method is to pile it up and let nature take its course, which it effectively does. Compost cures whether you turn the pile or not; it just happens at a slower pace when you leave it to nature alone. While this method of composting is easy on the back and takes little effort to maintain, it does take time for the process to complete — sometimes up to a year or more.

We still keep a compost pile, but for producing compost on the fast track, I prefer a compost tumbler. It’s an easy-to-use option for the busy gardener, the closed environment of this barrel-style tumbler makes it rodent-resistant, and when used correctly, you can create compost in eight to 10 weeks from start to finish. Besides, I’d rather turn a tumbler than toss and turn the compost with a manure fork any day.

Build a compost tumbler

Building this compost tumbler is surprisingly easy and can be done in an afternoon. Here’s what you need to get started.


• Sturdy plastic drum or barrel with tight-fitting lid, or galvanized steel trash can with tight-fitting lid, between 30 and 55 gallons (for particulars, see “Tips to Tumbler Success” below)

• Galvanized pipe (threaded both ends), 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 36 to 48 inches long (diameter and length will depend on the size of your container)

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