DIY: Compost Tumbler


Compost that heats up enough to kill fungus and weed seeds also converts organic material into finished humus faster than colder composting methods. Achieving this optimal combination is a matter of mixing a ratio of about 20 to 30 parts of carbon for each part of nitrogen, chopping up materials into small pieces to expose more surface area, keeping the pile moist and turning it often to give the composting bacteria plenty of water and air needed for digestion. A compost tumbler makes the work of frequent turning much easier.

Step 1

Choose a sturdy container, as large as you can manage, such as a 55-gallon drum or trash barrel. A cylindrical shape is easiest to roll.

Step 2

Drill holes all over the container, every 6 inches or so. Air is necessary for bacteria that make hot, fast compost. Alternatively, make several larger holes covered with mesh to allow air in.

Step 3

Check the lid on the container. It doesn't need to be tight-fitting, but does need to be able to hold in the weight of the organic materials inside during tumbling. If the lid won't stay on firmly enough, use bungee cords or straps to secure it.

Step 4

Load a mix of green and brown organic materials into the container Fill the container to the top. Finished compost only takes up about a fifth of the original space, so don't be concerned if not much will tumble at first. Water the pile well; the excess will drain.

Step 5

Close the lid, secure it and place the container on its side. To turn, just roll it or kick it over a few times. For the first two weeks, turn the compost every day, and every two to three days thereafter. Check the contents after three weeks; if the pile hasn't dried out and the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio was optimal, you will have humus for the garden.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not skip the step of making air holes in the container. Composting without air creates methane, which is flammable.

Things You'll Need

  • Container
  • Lid(s)
  • Bungee cords or straps
  • Drill
  • 1/2- to 3/4-inch drill bit


  • Compost Info Guide: How to Make Fast Compost in 14 Days
Keywords: compost tumbler, how to make a compost tumbler, making compost