How to Build a Barrel Compost Tumbler


Every gardener needs compost, a rich organic amendment packed with essential nutrients to fertilize garden and container soil. While it is easily available in nurseries and garden supply centers, it can also be made at home using kitchen and yard scraps. Many homeowners are building compost bins in their backyards to create their own organic soil amendment.

How to Build a Barrel Compost Tumbler

Step 1

Depending on the scale of operation, obtain a 20- to 55-gallon heavyweight plastic barrel with a tight fitting lid. Wash it thoroughly with warm soapy water to remove any residue, especially if it is a used barrel.

Step 2

Select an area in your yard that is flat, shaded and well drained. It should be close to your kitchen so you can conveniently add leftovers and scraps, even in the cold winter months. Also make sure it is sufficiently close to a water source so you can regularly moisten the contents. Roughly measure the length and width of the barrel and place a layer of bricks in a rectangle on the ground. This will be the resting place for the barrel when you are not tumbling it across your yard.

Step 3

Wear your protective eyeglasses and earplugs and drill 1/2-inch holes throughout the barrel, including the lid and base. Space them 5 inches apart. Holes any smaller than 1/8 inch will prevent oxygen and worms, flies and tiny bugs from entering the bin, thus slowing down the decomposition process.

Step 4

Collect "green" waste such as grass and leaf clippings and leftover food scraps. Add "brown" waste such as shredded paper bags cardboard, coffee filters, wood, stem or branch pieces and wood chips. Fill the barrel with alternating layers of green and brown waste. Each layer should be at least 3 to 4 inches thick. Stop filling the barrel when you are 5 inches below the rim.

Step 5

Wet the contents of the barrel with a garden hose at medium setting. Do not saturate the materials, but make sure they are evenly moist. A handful of scrap from the barrel should drain only a few drops of water when squeezed.

Step 6

Replace the lid and push it into place so that it forms a tight seal. Lay the barrel on its side and roll it across your garden or yard so the contents mix thoroughly. Roll it to its brick bed, lift the row of bricks and push the barrel into place. Replace the bricks so the barrel is secure.

Step 7

Roll or tumble your compost barrel at least twice a week so the contents mix thoroughly. Mist the barrel frequently to ensure the contents are always moist.

Things You'll Need

  • Large plastic barrel
  • Warm soapy water
  • Measuring tape
  • Bricks
  • Protective eyeglasses
  • Earplugs
  • Drill
  • Gloves
  • 2 buckets
  • Kitchen and yard scrap
  • Garden hose


  • Home Composting
  • Homemade Compost Tumbler
Keywords: home composting, barrel compost tumbler, compost barrel

About this Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written hundreds of thousands of words for various online and print sources. She has an MBA in Marketing but her passion lies in giving her words wings.