How to Make a Homemade Tumbler Composter


Compared to traditional bins or piles, tumbler-style compost bins are easier to maintain for people with back or shoulder injuries since they do not need to be turned with a pitchfork. Since a tumbler composter is entirely contained, it can be moved as needed, making it ideal for renters or people with summer homes. Tumblers may also produce finished compost faster than open compost piles. While several types of compost tumblers are commercially available, it is easy and cheap to make your own.

Step 1

Choose a container for your tumbler composter. You will want a container that is round so that it will roll on the ground, and it should have a tight-fitting lid. Metal or plastic garbage cans work well. You could also reuse a 55-gallon drum as long as it did not previously contain oil, solvents or any other toxic chemical. Clean any reused container thoroughly before proceeding.

Step 2

Use a cordless drill with a 3/8-inch or larger drill bit to drill several holes all around the bin, including on the top and bottom. Ventilation holes are vital for healthy compost; otherwise, your yard and kitchen waste will just putrefy. There should be a ventilation hole every 6 to 12 inches.

Step 3

Stand your compost tumbler on cement blocks or bricks to allow for air circulation under the bottom.

Step 4

Fill your compost tumbler with garden and yard waste and scraps from your kitchen. Aim for a mixture that is approximately two-thirds to three-quarters "browns" (dried leaves or lawn clippings, straw, shredded paper and other materials high in carbon) and one-third to one-quarter "greens" (fruit and vegetable waste, tea leaves, coffee grounds and other materials high in nitrogen).

Step 5

Place the lid on the compost tumbler. If the lid does not lock into place, use bungee cords threaded through the handles of the bin to secure it.

Step 6

Turn the tumbler composter on its side and roll it back and forth once a week to mix the materials. Stand the composter upright again after turning.

Step 7

Water your compost as needed to keep the mixture as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

Things You'll Need

  • Large (approximately 55-gallon) drum or round garbage bin with a tight-fitting lid
  • Cordless drill
  • 3/8-inch or larger drill bit
  • Cement blocks or bricks
  • Yard waste and kitchen scraps
  • Bungee cords (optional)


  • Can Composter
  • Compost Bin Building Plans
  • How to Make a Compost Tumbler for Cheap
Keywords: compost tumbler, barrel composting, DIY compost bin, browns and greens, composting in a can

About this Author

Sonya Welter graduated cum laude from Northland College in 2002, and has worked in the natural foods industry for nearly seven years. As a freelance writer, she specializes in food, health, nature, gardening and green living. She has been published on, and several local print publications in Duluth, Minn.