Rotating compost bins allow you to tumble the bin contents, thus mixing air into yard waste and kitchen scraps. This aeration allows bacteria to more quickly decompose the bin contents and yield a valuable soil amendment for your garden. Gardeners may find a rotating compost bin preferable to laboriously turning a compost bin or pile with a pitchfork. To make your own bin, compare various plans that differ in complexity and features and on whether the long axis of the bin rotates vertically or horizontally.
Alex Hutchinson of Popular Mechanics developed one of the simplest rotating compost bins. The plans call for setting a 55-gallon food-grade barrel horizontally on an X-shaped stand. Cut a door in the side of the barrel to load it with waste and scraps. Add a hinge made of a bicycle inner tube and blocks on the inside of the barrel to prevent the door from falling inside the barrel. A stick of wood attached to one side of the barrel turns the barrel on the stand, and you'll need to rub soap on the areas of the stand that touch the barrel to reduce friction.
University of Arkansas
Extension specialist Suzanne Smith Hirrel tells how to build a variation on the horizontally aligned compost tumbler with more features than the simple Popular Mechanics design. The University of Arkansas design features a steel axle rod supporting the rotation of the barrel fitting into a rectangular, reinforced frame made of 2-by-4s. The interior of the barrel receives three baffles to expedite the tumbling of the bin contents. The access door cut in the barrel features metal hinges and a hasp. The plan for this compost tumbler enables easier spinning of the barrel, as the axle on the stand generates less frfiction than the surface of the tumbler that contacts the stand itself in the Popular Mechanics design.
Matt Berger at Vegetable Gardener offers a combination of the two plans described so far, with the X-shaped stand of Popular Mechanics and the steel axle rod of the University of Arkansas model. He also used two large buckets bolted together in lieu of a 55-gallon barrel to create a tumbler and added ventilation holes in the ends.
The plan for a rotating compost bin offered by DixieGrilling.com also provides a horizontal axle, but the barrel rotates on its short rather than its long axis. A stand comprising 2-by-6 lumber supports the axle. A perforated 3-inch PVC pipe ingeniously attached to a closet flange in the base of the barrel provides continuous aeration to augment the oxygenation created by the tumbling of the bin.