How to Make Your Own Compost Tumbler

Barrel composters require an exact balance of green and woody scraps (see References 1, page 4).
i Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Compost is a gardener's treasure, but producing a batch takes time. If you want to create compost more quickly, build a barrel-style tumbler. But, beware hyperbole that says a tumbler will yield finished, usable compost in two weeks --- Brook Elliott of Mother Earth News reports that it's more like 10 weeks from start to finish (see References 1, page 1). Still, compost barrel tumblers are a rodent-resistant, easy-to-use option for busy gardeners (see References 1, page 4). Once you procure a barrel, you can construct a compost tumbler in an afternoon.

Build a Frame

Step 1

Lay one 2-by-6-inch board flat on your work surface. Measure across its width about 1 inch from each end, marking the 3-inch center point. Repeat with another board; these will form the vertical supports.

Step 2

Lay one of the vertical support boards lengthwise, on its 2-inch side. Place the 2-by-4-inch board on its 4-inch side, with one end meeting the end of the first board to form an "L" shape.

Step 3

Set blocks or bricks under the 2-by-4-inch board so it meets the center marking of the vertical support board. Hammer two nails through the support board and into the 2-by-4-inch board to secure it.

Step 4

Line up the second vertical support board at the other end of the 2-by-4-inch board, at the center mark of the support. Hammer in two nails to secure the boards; you should now have a "U"-shaped frame.

Step 5

Measure the remaining 2-by-6-inch boards lengthwise, marking the 2-foot center point. These will form the horizontal supports.

Step 6

Brace or have an assistant hold the "U"-shaped frame so the vertical supports point upward. Align one 2-by-6-inch horizontal support perpendicular to the base of one vertical support, making a "T" shape. Adjust it so the horizontal board's center mark is approximately centered across the width of the vertical board.

Step 7

Drill four 3/8-inch holes at the place where the supports meet. The holes should pass through both boards in a square pattern (see References 2).

Step 8

Insert four bolts into the four holes and attach nuts to the threaded ends of the bolts. Tighten the nuts with a wrench to securely fasten the boards.

Step 9

Attach the remaining 2-by-6-inch horizontal support to the remaining vertical support as in Steps 6, 7 and 8. You should now have a frame that looks like two inverted "T"s connected by a 2-by-4-inch baseboard. This frame will be stable enough to support your compost barrel. (See References 2)

Step 10

Drill a 7/8-inch hole 1 or 2 inches from the top of each vertical support, keeping the holes at the same level.

Mount the Barrel

Step 1

Set the food barrel on its base, with the lid at the top. Measuring vertically, mark a point a few inches above the barrel's center. Make a similar mark on the other side of the barrel, directly across from the first mark.

Step 2

Drill 7/8-inch holes at each of the points you marked in Step 1, for placing the conduit; drill 1/2-inch holes at regular intervals, every 6 inches or so around the entire barrel, to provide air for the compost (see References 2).

Step 3

Place the barrel between the two vertical supports of the frame. Insert the conduit through the hole in one vertical support, through the 7/8-inch barrel holes, and then through the hole in the remaining support. Screw the pipe caps to each end of the conduit.

Step 4

Test the tumbler by turning the barrel. Adjust if necessary by mounting the barrel at a different height.

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