Do Tumbling Composters Work?

What is a Tumbling composter and do they work?

A tumbling composter is essentially a barrel which you fill with compostable materials. The materials break down over time. 'Tumbling' the barrel two or three times a week speeds the process up as it introduces more oxygen. Theoretically in a month, maybe less, you will have produced wonderful rich compost yourself. For free.

I have Googled the term "Tumbling Composter" extensively and I can tell you something. I found mixed views on whether or not these Tumbling Composters work compared with the more traditional composting methods.

In fact, one of the top Google searches threw up a link entitled 'Tumbling compost bin? Don't waste your money'. But I've always been intrigued by these things and we do like a challenge here at Almost Off Grid. So rather than pay £100+ only to discover that they are indeed rubbish, we did what any self-respecting tight fisted person would do. We went on Ebay and searched for Tumbling Composters.

And behold: here is the result.

Tumbling composter


Tom is our bargainous bargain purchase. Our Blackwall Aerobic Compost Maker. Even taking into account the 3 hour round trip to Kent (ahem): at £10 he was, indeed, a bargain. In-between purchase and collection I made the mistake of looking at the Google links I'd found in more detail. I found even more horrendous reviews of tumbling composters, but we went and collected it anyway.

The nice man said that he'd just moved in and found it in the garden, left behind by the previous owners. Hardly a ringing endorsement. Nevertheless, Andy took it partially apart, put it in the back of the car and we drove the 1.5 hours back to Sussex.

Being me, I posted our new purchase on Facebook. Cue my helpful friends suggesting that we paint the top half yellow so we have our very own Minion. But no, I love him just the way he is.

And now we begin the great Tumbling Compost Bin experiment. Tom is one third full of materials and we don't plan to add anything more until the experiment is over. I read an interesting article suggesting that continuing to add materials for days on end was the equivalent of putting a cake in the oven to bake, then getting it out 10 minutes in to add more flour, putting it back and expecting great results. This seems to make sense, so our compostable materials consist of:

  • a handful of broken down compost from the bottom layer of the wormery, so friendly compost-like bacteria are present from the start
  • plant cuttings
  • vegetable peelings
  • shredded paper
  • torn up newspaper.

We will now tumble Tom regularly like this... and resist the temptation to add anything else. 

We'll let you know how things work out.


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