How to Make Your Own Tumbler Compost Bin


Make no mistake--whether you tumble it, mix it with a manure fork, or just let it sit and do its own thing, converting organic waste into compost is a win-win scenario. Not only does composting allow you to reduce the amount of waste you put by the curb for the garbage truck, but it also provides you with a nutrient-dense super food for your plants. Tumbler units are the way to go if you're interested in reaping the benefits of composting more quickly. According to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, turning units like tumblers produce finished compost in as little as two months or less. Rather than take the time to construct an intricate elevated turning unit, you can make a simple tumbler compost bin from an old garbage can.

Step 1

Find a cylindrical plastic garbage can sized for the amount of organic waste that you plan on composting. Many composters who produce a lot of organic waste opt to use multiple smaller garbage cans to make the tumbling process easier. Common sizes include 30- and 45-gallon trash containers. Make sure the trash cans have tight-fitting lids.

Step 2

Remove the lid from your trash can and invert the container on the ground. Drill at least 15 holes in the bottom of the container with a 5/8-inch drill bit to provide drainage for excess moisture in your compost. Make 20 additional holes in the sides of your garbage container for increased ventilation to help allow fresh oxygen into your compost. Try to space the holes evenly across the entire side surface of the garbage can.

Step 3

Place the trash container upright and fill it with a mix of equal amounts of high-nitrogen organic waste (green materials such as cow manure, fresh yard clippings and vegetable or fruit waste) and high-carbon organic waste (brown materials such as straw, sawdust, dead leaves and newspaper). Shred any large chunks or pieces of waste into smaller sections that are less than 2 inches in diameter.

Step 4

Moisten the compost materials with a gentle spray from your water hose. Toss in five to eight handfuls of fresh topsoil to introduce native decomposing bacteria to the organic waste, which helps jumpstart the composting process.

Step 5

Secure the lid on your garbage can compost tumbler. Fasten it in place with an elastic bungee cord, stretching the cord across the top of the lid and securing the hooks to the garbage can handles. Turn the compost tumbler on its side and rotate it five to six complete rotations across the ground. Repeat this tumbling process at least once every five to ten days to produce finished compost in about two months.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't use old trash cans that have contained toxic chemicals in the past. These chemicals could contaminate your compost.

Things You'll Need

  • Cylindrical plastic garbage can
  • Drill with 5/8-inch bit
  • High-nitrogen organic waste
  • High-carbon organic waste
  • Garden hose
  • Plain topsoil
  • Elastic bungee cord (one per tumbler)


  • The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: Composting Methods
  • The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: The Science of Composting
  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide;" Barbara Pleasant & Deborah Martin; 2008
Keywords: compost tumblers, composting with tumblers, composting, trash can 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.