How to Compost in a Tumbler

Composting is an easy way to give back to your garden. image by Margaret Telsch-Williams


In all working composters, the material inside must be turned frequently. A tumbler makes it easier to turn your compost than with traditional, grounded composters. If you already have one, or are thinking of buying a compost tumbler, you must learn how to compost in it. While the principles of composting aren't significantly different with a tumbler, the job of tuning the compost is straightforward and simplified.

Step 1

Open the tumbler and add a layer of leaves, or small twigs, each no larger than 6 inches long or ¼ to ½ inch in diameter. Items such as leaves and twigs are considered "brown" compostable material.

Step 2

Follow the "brown" layer with an equal amount of grass clippings or kitchen scraps. These clipping and kitchen waste materials are said to be "green."

Step 3

Close the bin and rotate the tumbler three to four times around. Turning the compost mixes newer items with older matter, and adds oxygen between the layers to break down the material.

Step 4

Reopen the bin and add a few cups of water to moisten the material. Your compost shouldn't be dry or soaking wet. Start with this small amount and add more water as necessary.

Step 5

Add "green" and "brown" material in equal quantities every time you have items to add to the composter. Always follow this with enough water to keep the compost damp.

Step 6

Rotate the bin every time you add material and water. If you don't have material to add, make sure to still turn the bin every couple of days to keep the compost "cooking" inside the tumbler and add water if necessary.

Tips and Warnings

  • Be sure to place your tumbler on a flat area of your yard where you won't mind having the compost juices drip. While a tumbler seems as if it could go anywhere, you wouldn't want to ruin a nice deck or patio for the sake of convenience.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost tumbler
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Yard waste (such as leaves, twigs or grass clippings)
  • Water


  • The Rodale Guide to Composting; Jerry Minnich and Marjorie Hunt; 1979
Keywords: how to compost, compost tumbler, tumbling composter

About this Author

Writing from Virginia, Margaret Telsch-Williams specializes in personal finance, money management, gardening, crafts and sewing, cooking, DIY projects and travel. When not writing instructional articles online, she works for the website Widescreen Warrior as a contributor and podcast co-host discussing all things film and entertainment. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a master's degree in writing.

Photo by: Margaret Telsch-Williams