How Do I Use a Compost Tumbler?

Composting yard waste and kitchen scraps provides the home gardener with two benefits: nutrient-rich compost for soil amendment and a reduction in the amount of waste sent to local landfills. Using compost instead of chemical fertilizers saves you money and lessens your impact on the environment. While you can achieve all the benefits of compost using traditional piles or bins, a compost tumbler speeds up the process and keeps your yard looking neat. A tumbler allows even urban gardeners to compost kitchen scraps in a small space and hide the compost from neighbors, who may object to a pile of decomposing scraps on the balcony.

Choose a location for your compost tumbler. The ideal location is shaded, close to a water source and close enough to your kitchen that you add compostable materials and turn the tumbler regularly.

Load the compost tumbler with green, nitrogen-rich materials such as fresh leaves, grass trimmings and vegetable peels.

Add brown, carbon-rich materials such as dry leaves, small twigs or shredded newsprint to the compost tumbler.

Add one or two handfuls of garden soil or finished compost to the tumbler (see References 3). Garden soil or finished compost adds beneficial bacteria that helps start the decomposition process.

Close the compost tumbler and rotate it several times to mix the materials thoroughly.

Add enough water to dampen the compost materials. Add less water than you think you need, as it is easier to add more water than to dry out saturated compost materials. If you pick up composting material and can wring water from it, your compost is too wet.

Close and rotate the tumbler again.

Rotate the compost tumbler daily to aerate the materials and speed the decomposition process.

Items you will need

  • Fresh compost materials
  • Dry compost materials
  • Garden soil or finished compost
  • Water


  • Add more compost materials as you accumulate them. The easiest way to achieve the correct ratio of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials is to mix equal amounts by volume of each type (see References 2).


  • Do not compost meat or dairy scraps, which attract rodents and insects. Do not compost manure from meat-eating animals such as cats or dogs. Fecal matter from these animals can carry harmful bacteria and parasites that survive the composting process. (See Resources 1.)

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About the Author

Tricia Ballad is a writer, author and project geek. She has written several books including two novels, teaches classes on goal setting and project planning for writers, and loves to cook in her spare time. She is living proof that you can earn a living with a degree in creative writing.