How to Make a Rotating Composter


A rotating composter allows you to quickly convert your organic household waste into a nutrient-rich amendment for your garden, flower beds and potted plants. Rotating the compost in the tumbler removes the need to mix layers of compost with a pitchfork, which can shorten your composting time to less than two months, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. Although most rotating compost units operate by turning on an axle, you can easily construct an inexpensive rotating composter that you simply roll around your backyard, according to "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide."

Step 1

Select a cylindrical plastic trash can that will hold the amount of waste your household produces, such as a 30- or 45-gallon plastic trash container. Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid. Choose a container that has not contained any harmful chemicals in the past; these chemicals may have leached into the plastic and could contaminate your compost.

Step 2

Remove the lid, flip the trash can upside-down on the ground, and drill 10 to 15 holes in the bottom of the container with a 3/8-inch drill bit. The holes should be large enough to allow sufficient drainage but small enough to keep rodents and other animals out. Space the holes evenly across the entire circular bottom of the trash can.

Step 3

Drill 20 holes around the sides of the trash can with your 3/8-inch drill bit to provide adequate air flow to the compost. Position your hand firmly on the bottom of the trash can to hold it steady while drilling.

Step 4

Flip the trash can into an upright position and fill it with your compost ingredients. Shred large chunks of waste into small pieces less than 2 inches in diameter to ensure rapid decomposition. Include an even mix of high-nitrogen (fresh grass clippings, vegetable peels and fruit waste) and high-carbon (straw, cardboard and newspaper) materials.

Step 5

Mist the compost with water from your garden hose to make it about as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Step 6

Secure the lid on the compost unit with a rubber tie-down or elastic bungee cord. Hook one end to each handle, making sure the tie-down is pulled tightly across the lid.

Step 7

Turn the compost tumbler on its side and place it in a spot from which it can be rolled. A rolling composter can typically function correctly with as little as 6 to 8 feet of space for rotating.

Step 8

Roll the composter three to five complete rotations across the landscape every five to seven days to produce compost within about 10 weeks.

Things You'll Need

  • Cylindrical plastic trash can with lid
  • Drill with 3/8-inch bit
  • High-nitrogen organic waste materials
  • High-carbon organic waste materials
  • Garden hose
  • Rubber tie-down cord or elastic bungee cord


  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: 2008 Municipal Solid Waste Facts and Figures
  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide"; Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin; 2008
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: Composting Methods
Keywords: rotating composter, compost bins, turning compost

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.