Posts Tagged ‘aeration’

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.

This tumbler is turned by cranking the handle.

Crank Tumbler

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

This tumbler is rolled like a ball.

Rolled Tumbler

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

This tumbler is flipped on its central axis.

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 spun around a central axis.

Spinning Tumblers

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:

Tumbler Pros

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.

Tumbler Cons

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.


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It really depends on how fast you want things to break down. The more you turn your pile, the more air it gets and the faster materials can be broken down by microorganisms. You do not have to turn your pile for the materials to break down. It will just take longer.

Turning your pile everyday is not necessary. Just be sure that if you are adding materials regularly that they are always buried in the center of the pile. Many of our Master Composters turn their piles once every week or once every other week. Do what works best for you and your need for the finished compost.

Turning your pile is a great time to add new material and moisture.

Turning your pile is a great time to add new material and moisture.

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HayFieldHay is considered a nitrogen source, or a green, and can be added to your compost bin. Because hay often has weed seeds in it, make sure that your bin is reaching a hot temperature, 100 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are passively composting and not achieving high temperatures, you can bag the hay and put it in the sun for a few days to kill off any seeds.

Straw is considered a carbon source, or a brown, and can also be added to your compost bin. Straw also helps aerate your pile.

When adding hay or straw, our Master Composters recommend moistened it first to help it break down faster in the bin.

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Looking for an easy way to turn your compost pile? Try using a ground auger system.

Auger systems use sharpened, rotating augers that can dig, till, and aerate your soil and compost piles. Since these augers are made to fit in to your 3/8″ or 1/2″ electric drills, you can do all of your taxing chores with the push of a button. If used safely and correctly, the Ground Auger System should save your knees, back, and hands from the strain of manual labor.

Our Master Composters prefer the auger from Rocky Mountain Sales but local hardware stores often carry them as well.

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