A Review of Garden Compost Tumblers

At Gardening Tips ‘N’ Ideas we’ve looked at building our own compost bins and being able to recycle our own waste materials through the process of composting but I didn’t really touch on the humble compost tumbler. Hopefully this post should clear that up and help you see what a wonderful garden tool the compost tumbler is.

The first compost tumbler I saw when growing up was my father’s home made job that consisted of a 44-gallon drum suspended by a metal frame. It was kept behind the shed in the veggie patch and was always filled with veggie scraps, garden prunings and manures. It wasn’t a hard tumbler to rotate so we would often find it enjoyable twisting the handle as all children do.

Contents

The difference between compost bins and a compost tumbler is the amount of time it takes to produce an available source of composted material. Compost tumblers will produce compost within 14 days provided the mixture is kept moist and turned 2-3 times per day. Compost bins, at a minimum, will take at least 1 month to produce rich, broken down compost and they require far more energy to achieve the same result.

So let’s introduce a couple of the star compost tumblers and discuss the pros and cons of each tumbler.


The Original Barrel Compost Tumbler

This isn’t exactly the original compost tumbler but it is the closest to it today. Those gardeners who have been around for some time would remember the original compost tumbler had the rotating bar running through the centre of the tumbler and actually helped mix the compost while you turned it. The problem with having this bar running though the centre was that it made it hard to retrieve the compost from the tumbler. Pieces of string from hay bales or tomato vines would wrap themselves around the bar and inevitably wrap up other loose waste items as well.
Today, compost tumblers are usually turned or rolled by an external mechanism that doesn’t restrict the flow of the compost inside.

Pros and Cons of the “Original Barrel Compost Tumbler”

  1. The height of this compost tumbler can be a pro and a con. At waste height it is very easy to manage and check how the contents are composting. However, it can also be quite difficult to lift materials into this style of compost tumbler and therefore would limit the type of gardener able to use them effectively.
  2. Height for pouring contents out of this tumbler is also an advantage. It’s very easy to open the door of the compost tumbler and allow gravity to pour the compost into a wheelbarrow or straight onto the ground if it is kept where you are most likely to use the compost.
  3. This type of compost tumbler has very limited manoeuvrability so wherever you begin your compost mix determines where you will probably finish it as well. For smaller gardens this wouldn’t be as much of a disadvantage as the roller compost tumblers would be limited by the garden for their movement anyway.
  4. Cleaning this style of compost tumbler is really easy and as it is situated at waste height it’s possible to see how clean you are getting your tumbler.

The Urban Compost Tumbler

One of the new arrivals on the compost tumbler scene is the Urban Compost tumbler. This radical new tumbler has been aimed at gardeners with small gardens but who still require a decent amount of compost for their gardens. It can contain 270L (71 gallons) of waste materials producing more than ample for most small gardens.

The urban compost tumbler also comes with an optional compost tea collector that resides at the base of the tumbler and collects the run-off from the compost.

Pros and Cons of the “Urban Compost Tumbler”

  1. The urban compost tumbler is completely made of food-grade plastic which is UV resistant. This means the tumbler should last for a long time. There are no metal parts to rust or corrode.
  2. It’s patented central aeration system is a great plus for quickly composting the contents of your tumbler however, it is still likely to restrict the contents of your tumbler when you are trying to pour it out and also when you try to clean it.
  3. While this type of compost tumbler is portable once it is filled with waste materials you aren’t likely to move it anyway quickly.
  4. Like the barrel compost tumbler, the urban compost tumbler has some height advantages and disadvantages. The benefit is that it isn’t as high to lift materials while the converse is that you will need to bend often to remove your compost and to clean the tumbler.

The Ezyroll Compost Tumbler

My favourite compost tumbler is the Ezyroll. The Ezyroll compost tumbler is an Australian invention so I’m even more loyal to this as a great option in your garden. The Ezyroll is a large compost tumbler that converts to a wheelbarrow for easy moving around your garden. Once your waste has finished breaking down you can wheel the Ezyroll around to your target destination and unload on the spot – no need to transfer it between the compost tumbler and wheelbarrow.

Pros and Cons of the “Ezyroll Compost Tumbler”

  1. If you have a multi-layered, landscaped garden the Ezyroll may not be the best option for you as moving it around can become very difficult. This compost tumbler is made more for larger gardens that don’t have tight spots to get into.
  2. Also, the amount of compost this tumbler makes is more suited to larger gardens. A 320L (85 gallon) barrel will produce a large amount of compost but only if you have enough garden waste to fill it.
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