Which compost tumbler is best?

You can create nutrient-rich compost with yard and kitchen waste, moisture, time and air. The first three components are readily available, but how do you incorporate air? It takes a lot of work to add air into a standard compost bin, which is necessary for turning waste into soil. If you prefer an easier alternative, a compost tumbler removes most of the backbreaking labor and still produces rich garden soil. 

The Miracle Gro Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler is a hardworking garden tool from a trusted brand. It’s perfect for smaller gardens and is easy to operate. 

What to know before you buy a compost tumbler

Capacity

Garden composters create rich, nutrient-filled soil from kitchen scraps and yard waste. The amount of soil produced depends on the capacity of your tumbler. If you have a small balcony and use container gardens, a tumbler that holds 30 gallons or less is a good size. Larger gardens need tumblers of 60 gallons or more.

Single vs. dual chambers

Traditional single-chamber compost bins take longer to produce soil because you fill them up, turn them over and then have to wait. These work well when space is tight, but you won’t get much soil right away.

Dual-chambered tumblers are constantly in a cycle of producing soil. You simply add scraps to one side until it’s full, and then add your scraps to the other compartment while the full side gets to work. These produce a steady supply of soil in less time, but they are larger and more expensive.

What to look for in a quality compost tumbler

Durable construction

Because most people store their compost tumblers outside, they must be well-built and able to stand up to rough weather. Look for tumblers made from sturdy plastic and galvanized, powder-coated steel frames. Even though these are heavier, it’s the best choice if you can’t keep them covered or in a shed. 

Smoothly operating handles

Having a tumbler isn’t worth much if the handle doesn’t function as it should. The best ones have smooth and easy operation even when the bin is completely full. 

Tight lids

Since you will be rotating the tumbler regularly, it’s crucial to have a tight-fitting lid. These keep everything inside and pose no danger of opening unexpectedly when the bin is upside down. 

Food-safe materials

Most outdoor compost tumblers are built from plastic. Make sure the one you select is labeled BPA-free or food-grade. This ensures no chemical leaching occurs, even when the bin heats up in the sun. Even better, some tumblers are made from recycled plastics. 

How do kitchen scraps become soil?

  • Place chopped-up kitchen scraps and yard waste into the tumbler chamber.
  • Add water as needed, and close the lid.
  • Rotate the tumbler to thoroughly mix and aerate its contents.
  • Bacteria begin to consume the waste and produce heat. The contents of the tumbler can reach 100-140 degrees. 
  • At 140 degrees, the bacteria begins to break down the waste.
  • Rotate the tumbler periodically to add air for more bacteria to grow.
  • Over time and with attention, all of the original scraps in the tumbler transform into usable black garden soil. 

How much you can expect to spend on compost tumbler

Costs vary depending on how much the tumbler can hold and the quality of its construction. Steel-framed tumblers with a capacity of over 40 pounds will cost more. Expect to spend $80-$125.

Compost tumbler FAQ

What’s the best way to create compost?

A. The two main ingredients in compost are brown and green scraps.

  • Brown scraps: Dead leaves, twigs and branches
  • Green scraps: Vegetables, fruit scraps and grass clippings

You should add these in approximately equal measures, but it does not have to be exact. Manure of any kind — chicken or horse work best — speeds up the process of decomposition, thanks to its nitrogen-rich compounds. Add water to keep the ingredients in the tumbler moist without being sopping wet. You’ll know you’ve added too much when the tumbler smells of rot. Compost is technically rotting, but it should not have an unpleasant smell. 

Is there anything that should not be composted?

A. Yes. You should not add any animal proteins or bones to the compost pile. In addition to that, avoid composting:

  • Dairy
  • Cooking oils of any kind
  • Chemically treated wood or plants
  • Weeds or vegetables that have gone to seed
  • Cat, dog or human waste
  • Paper products 

What’s the best compost tumbler to buy?

Top compost tumbler

Miracle Gro Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler

Miracle Gro Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler

What you need to know: Add scraps to one side of this tumbler while the other is busy making soil.

What you’ll love: It has two internal mixing bars that add extra air, creating compost in under two months. The handles crank easily, and it holds 37 gallons of waste and soil. It’s warranted against defects for two years.

What you should consider: It’s on the smaller side and may not work for composting leaves and grass clippings.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top compost tumbler for the money

FCMP Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter

FCMP Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter

What you need to know: Though it takes slightly longer to produce compost than the advertised two weeks, this tumbler is well-designed and efficient. 

What you’ll love: It holds 37 gallons of material in its two tumblers. The BPA-free plastic blocks UV rays. It has a sturdy handle for cranking, and the body is made from recycled polypropylene.

What you should consider: You’ll need adequate dry material to prevent leaks.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Ejwox Garden Composting Tumblers

Ejwox Garden Composting Tumblers

What you need to know: This sturdy tumbler can stand up to rough use.

What you’ll love: It’s a slightly larger model that holds 43 gallons of material. It also has an internal mixing bar for proper aeration. The frame is durable powder-coated steel that is weatherproof and tough. 

What you should consider: Assembly can be a bit tricky. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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