I have been composting with worms for two years now and I absolutely love it! I much prefer vermicomposting over the regular compost pile. However, worms do have a few limitations in terms of certain foods that should be avoided and I wanted another way to compost those kitchen scraps. And it just doesn’t feel right to be a gardener without making the other kind of compost. And so, I am venturing down the path of compost tumblers.
We had a monster sized compost tumbler years ago but we never had enough material to properly fill it. Back then we lived in a rural desert area where fallen leaves and grass clippings (two main ingredients) were hard to come by especially in large quantities. Also, my garden was just being built so I didn’t have much old garden material either. That compost tumbler was given to us by a friend. It needed to be replaced but it was good for one more year so our friend bought a new one and gave us his old one to try.
I wanted to give a compost tumbler another try. When building a compost pile, size matters when it comes to achieving hot compost. The usual recommended size is a minimum of 9 cubic feet. I have seen people claim to achieve hot compost in smaller piles but I think those are the lucky few rather than the norm. I’m not sure if the magic size of 9 cubic feet applies to compost tumblers but I figured that I would aim for that size anyway. I was surprised to see many small options. You can still compost in them but I wasn’t seeing much mention in the reviews about hot composting in them. I have enough space for a larger size so I decided on the Lifetime 80 Gallon size which translates to 10.72 cubic feet. It’s large but not as monstrous as our last one.
It took two of us about 2 1/2 hours to put it together. It was well packed and while there are no words in the instructions (only pictures), it was pretty easy to put together. There are a lot of parts and drilling so that takes some time.
Many reviews that I read mentioned that one person could put it together with the exception of one part…unless the person had long arms. I think this is the part of the instructions that they meant. Each screw needs to be drilled in while holding a plastic nut on the other side.
Now that we’ve put it together, I just don’t think one person can do it. Even with long arms, the person would need to blindly line up the screw and nut on the other side. There are guides on each side but there’s enough wiggle room that I can’t see being able to do it blindly. I sat “in” the composter while my husband drilled the screw in just until I saw it beginning to poke through. Then I positioned the nut while he finished drilling. I just can’t image one person doing that alone.
It looks and feels very steady and strong. I’m hoping it will hold up in the intense sun of our summers in the Mojave Desert. I spent quite a bit of time reading reviews on Amazon before deciding on a compost tumbler. I found a few people from climates similar to ours that have had theirs for five or more years so that gives me hope that our sun won’t destroy it too quickly. But to be safe, we put it on the north side of the house where it gets the most shade.
I’m hoping to fill it all at once or at least very quickly. Once my first batch of compost is finished (and all goes well) then I’ll look into buying another one so that I can add to one and let the other one cook.