Tumblers are a style of composting bin that is manually flipped, spun, rolled or crank-turned for aeration, depending on the style. These types of bins do not require turning with a pitchfork, instead, the whole compost bin is turned for aeration. The Solana Center has four different styles of tumblers at our compost demonstration site. Please feel free to drop by on a Tuesday or Thursday between 9am and 4pm to check them out! To find another compost demonstration site in San Diego County, please click here.
Material is put inside the doors on the side of the barrel. To aerate, the handle is turned, cranking the barrel in a circle. There are two separate compartments within the barrel, so compost can be finishing in one side while the other side is being added to.
Pros: can hold a large volume of materials, easily emptied, two interior compartments
Cons: most expensive type of tumbler, material has to be lifted up into the barrel, when the barrel is full, cranking becomes difficult
The lid of this tumbler spins and unlocks so material can be loaded inside. The tumbler can then be rolled like a ball for aeration.
Pros: easily filled, can be fun for kids to roll
Cons: because it is not completely round, it does not roll on a straight path, can be difficult to empty, not good for someone with back problems
Central Axis Flipped Tumblers
These tumblers are loaded through the top. Some models have an aeration tube going down the center, our particular model does not. The tumbler is flipped around its central axis for aeration.
Pros: the center axle doubles as a mixer, blending the materials inside the tumbler.
Cons: difficult to load, difficult to turn when full, difficult to empty. We had a unit similar to this and its lid warped. Because we could not fit the lid back on, the tumbler became completely unusable.
This tumbler is loaded through the side panel and sits very low to the ground. It spins around a central axis like a hamster running wheel.
Pros: easily filled and emptied, compact size means it does not fill with as much material, making it easier to tumble.
Cons: does not hold a large amount of material, requires a bent position to turn.
There are other various models of tumblers out on the market. Remember to do your research and read reviews before purchasing a tumbler. Pay close attention to door hinges and closures because if you cannot close the compost bin, it cannot be tumbled. Please see below for a general list of tumbler pros and cons:
There is no pitchfork required to turn a tumbler. When you turn a tumbler, all the material is getting turned at the same time, not by shovelful like a compost pile would be turned. A backyard is not required to own a tumbler; it can be placed on a patio or in a garage because it does not need to sit on dirt. Tumblers close tightly so there is no fear of four legged pests infiltrating the bin. With routine turning, tumblers can make compost fairly quickly.
Generally, we’ve found that once a tumbler is full, the weight of the material makes it difficult to turn (on the pro side, you’ll definitely be getting a good workout!). Depending on the model, especially if the opening is not near the ground, tumblers can also be difficult to load or empty material out of. Because tumblers do not sit on the ground, it is unlikely that beneficial insects will find their way into the bin to help with the decomposition process. Depending on the tumbler model they can also be very expensive in cost ranging from $120 to $550.