Homemade Compost Tumbler


Organic gardeners swear by compost as a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. That's because compost contains recycled nutrients left over from organic materials such as grass clippings or kitchen scraps. Compost can be used as mulch, amended into soil, mixed into potting soil or used to top-dress your lawn. One of the fastest ways to create compost from organic waste is to use a compost tumbler to speed the breakdown of the organic material. A compost tumbler makes turning small batches of compost easier.

Step 1

Drill a series of 20 evenly spaced ½-inch holes in the bottom of a 55-gallon garbage can, using a drill and ½-inch drill bit.

Step 2

Cut a piece of window screen to fit inside the bottom interior of the trash can with a utility knife.

Step 3

Lay a line of silicone glue in a ring around the bottom interior of the can.

Step 4

Press the window screen into the bottom of the can. Make sure the edges of the screen touch the glue. Allow the glue to dry before continuing. The screen will allow the can to drain without allowing compost to leak through.

Step 5

Change out the ½-inch drill bit for a ¼-inch drill bit. Drill a series of ¼-inch holes in rings horizontally around the sides of the trash can. Each ring of holes should be spaced 1 foot apart starting at the base of the trash can and moving toward the top end of the can. Each hole should be spaced 1 inch apart.

Step 6

Change out the drill bit for a Phillips-head screwdriver bit.

Step 7

Place three boards end-to-end in a line against one side of the inside of the can, with the narrow edge against the can. You may need to shave the ends off the boards to make them fit inside the can. Attach the boards to the can with wood screws screwed from the exterior of the can through the wall of the can into the boards. Repeat this process twice more to make three baffles inside the can. The baffles will aid in mixing compost in your tumbler. Space each set of baffle boards equidistant from the others.

Step 8

Fill the can with compost and place the lid on the can. Hold the lid in place by running a bungee cord through the can's top handle and hooking each end of the cord through the handles on each side of the can.

Step 9

Place the can on two cinder blocks so the compost can drain. Tumble your compost by taking the can off the cinder blocks, laying it on its side, and rolling the can to mix the compost inside the tumbler.

Things You'll Need

  • 55-gallon round trash can with a lid
  • Bungee cords
  • Drill
  • ½-inch drill bit
  • ¼-inch drill bit
  • Window screen
  • Utility knife
  • Silicone glue
  • Phillips-head bit
  • 9 2-by-4 boards that measure 11½ inches long
  • 27 wood screws
  • 2 cinder blocks


  • University of Arkansas: Compost Tumblers
  • Florida's Online Composting Center: Composting Bins
  • University of Missouri Extnesion: How to Build a Compost Bin

Who Can Help

  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Construction of Home Compost Units
Keywords: make compost tumbler, homemade compost tumbler, garden recycling compost, build compost tumbler, homemade compost tumbler

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."