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The case against compost tumblers

Posted by tropical_thought San Francisco (My Page) on
Sun, Feb 5, 12 at 12:49

I am complete against tumblers. They don't drain well enough, the compost becomes too wet and starts to smell bad. With a tumbler you are never finished with the pile either. Sludge that drains off the compost is called leachates. This can be toxic to plants. A bin placed on the ground drains away all the leachates. A tumbler holds on to the leachates. They try to tell that it is not leachates and it is compost tea. Compost tea is completely different from leachates. You make compost in a big jar just like making regular tea. The so called trays for collecting the so called compost tea are really trays for toxic leachates which should allow to drain away and you should not put on leachates your plants.

I like to turn my own compost. It builds up my strength, I remove the bin by lifting it up and off. I mix up the compost and I put it back in the bin. You can really hurt your back turning a tumbler that is heavy with water. I saw one in a friend's garden with soaking wet and filled with fungus gnats. It was gross, smelly, soggy and anaerobic. The weight made it impossible to turn. I am a small weak woman, and I could not turn it at all.

If one is still bound and determined to get a tumbler I suggest using Craig's list and find a cheap used tumbler that someone is getting rid of before spending big bucks on a new tumbler. That way when you decide you don't like it you won't have wasted much money on it.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Tumblers are "batch composters." You fill it all at once rather than loading now & then as you accumulate stuff. From what I've heard, many manufacturers include directions -- aka the batch recipe - for their machine.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

It is possible the one I viewed was a case of mismanagement. It may be if one was very careful not to add too much water, it would go better. But, I think this was a winter rain storm had entered the tumbler someone creating very wet conditions and adding a huge amount of weight to the contents of the bin. It might be advisable to keep them under an awning.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Some people like them--others do not. They work very well for some people if they learn to use them before they are "complete against tumblers".


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I'm with tropical.

We own one tumbling-type composter, and the results using it have been quite a bit less than glorious.

The one we had was a cylindrical plastic barrel that spun not on its axis but end over end. For some reason, it weighed heavier on the lid end. So pretty much whatever we tried, it would end up upside down again, and then rain or condensate would find its way into the air holes and collect in the lid, soggifying the whole mess, and making it heck to turn.

It's been well over a decade and I'm still trying to figure out something--ANYTHING useful to do with the stupid thing. It's possible that the ones that spin on the axis are better, but I doubt they live up to their claims.

I think worms are a better bet and are much less fuss. Them, or just plain slow, honest compost.


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batch composting

I just thought of another reason to dislike tumblers. If you read the essay to turn or not turn which someone here provide a link for in this composting book. The essay suggests turning is not needed and in fact turning can make your pile colder. "Turning causes the thermophilic activity to be in the upper part of the pile, while the thermophilically "spent" part of the compost sinks lower and lower to be worked on by fungi, actinomycetes, earthworms, and lots of other things. Turning continuous compost dilutes the thermophilic layer with the spent layers and can quite abruptly stop all thermophilic activity."

I do believe in some turning. I am not an anti turning person, but turning too often will cool down your pile. The only reason to have tumbler is if you plan to take advantage by turning it very often. While it may not matter in batch composting. What will you do with the new food scraps while you are waiting for the batch to cure so you can start a new batch? I don't see how batch composting is good for a home garden. Unless you want to have a lot of tumblers which would take up too much space. You can't really start a new batch weekly, they would not bulk enough unless you had a restaurant or some other access to huge amounts of food scraps.

Here is a link that might be useful: link to book with essay


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 5, 12 at 15:22

Some misinformation here folks, use with large grain of salt.

Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Lloyd,

If you poke this hornets' nest first, so will I. I'm no fan either, but different reasoning.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I don't like tumblers cause they're too darn small. At least a hundred bucks to produce maybe a cubic foot or two of compost. I guess if you live in a condo...

I have nearly two cubic yards out back. The back wall is a block wall. The sides are 2 x 12 planks, as is the front. The sides and front are just to keep loose stuff from getting away, because the pile is three feet tall and as deep. I turn it with a pitchfork whenever I think about it...sometimes once a week...sometimes every couple of weeks. It's cooking slowly...but it IS cooking.

I just can't see making little batches.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I agree why spend all that money. You could buy a lot of compost with the money you save by not buying a tumbler.

I use a wire cage on the ground so all the earth worms can enter and do all the tumbling I need. Mother nature will water as needed.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Centurion wrote:
> At least a hundred bucks [for a tumbler]

A tumbler doesn't have to cost a penny :-)
A plastic barrel or round trash can will serve well as a tumbler.

A big plastic barrel is very light weight, unlike wooden and metal barrels. Roll it on the ground and it tumbles what's inside, or, better yet, place it on the 4 small wheels of an upside-down furniture-moving dolly. More about these things in this thread: Anyone have this composter?

You can get a big, nice plastic barrel on Craig's List for $10.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers -

Marquest wrote:
> I use a wire cage on the ground so all the earth worms can enter and do all the tumbling I need.

Stu Campbell writes in "Let It Rot!":

"Unfortunately you cannot rely on earthworms and other macroorganisms to do much of the turning for you...They do a lot of good things but cannot bring the 'outside of the heap to the inside and the top to the bottom' the way you can with a five- or six-tined pitchfork..."

"In comparison with earthworms, ants are the real muscle men. They can move materials around like mad. But a well-watered pile is unlikely to have many ants. So worms and bugs can only do a little bit of mixing and reorganizing for you, mostly in the perimeter of the heap."


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Well, my goodness, you certainly don't like any kind of tumblers, do you!!!????
I bought a bullett type of tumbler about 8 years ago at the dump for about $5.
I fill it about 1/2 way with shredded leaves, then add coffee grounds and kitchen waste, give it a couple of tumbles each week ( I have a bad shoulder and can still do this without hurting myself!) Add some water and we're doing fine!
I tip the bullet tumbler into the stationary bin to "finish" and a couple months later we have the lovely stuff to spread on the garden!
The tumbler probably speeds up the process by 6 months or so!
This is just my 10 year experience with "tumblers". I've had the same $5 bullet tumbler for all these years. Nancy


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Turning often does not necessarily cool down a compost pile because there are many people that make good compost in 14 days and that requires turning quite often.
As a rule compost that is too wet, whether in a pile or a tumbler, is most often due to mismanagement and not that the compost is in a tumbler or anything else.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost in 14 days


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I think the biggest problem with the commercial ones is that they are marketed to people who don't know much about composting. But using a tumbler obviously requires quite a bit more knowledge and understanding of the process in order to manage it correctly, which the typical target audience does not have. So they part with a lot of money and end up with problems because tumblers are not as easy to use as advertised.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I almost made that mistake myself. Many years ago, I was a beginning composter and I did not know what to buy. A tumbler I thought would be easy, so I was going to buy one. But, I posted here to ask if this was good, and I got a reply from someone who had one. She said her compost smelled like a rotting corpse.

This changed the direction of my composting future. If I had gotten a tumbler, I probably would have gotten mad and given up all composting.

What really upsets me is setting those website which market a tumbler as a super easy "no work" way to compost. In particular they want to market to senior gardeners on fixed incomes. It seems clear to me that an advanced composter who is willing to work with the tumbler and only wants to do batch composting can make it work. I am glad I know this now.

If you want no work compost you could hire a gardener to do all the gardening work and maintain the composter. This is the only really "no work" composting option. Since you need a big batch to create heat. A big batch will naturally be heavy and involve lifting and moving of the compost. But, you can break the lifting down into small parts. This means less heavy lifting and but increased reps. It is exercise anyway way to try to do your own composting.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I maintain that the end-over-end barrel-type purchased composters are pure shite (Irish interpretation there). And not the good type of shite, either.

The ones that roll on the axis will likely perform much better, but with an end-over-end model there is too much margin for being off-balance.

I guess I should just disassemble mine, recycle or re-use the aluminum base, and perhaps turn the barrel into a rolling compost tumbler to see if that will be better.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

What is an "end-over-end barrel-type" ? Please give an example so I can look at a photo. The ones that roll on the axis, I think are like huge balls on a base. Those look hard to turn. The ones that look like a bullet on metal legs that turn don't stay turned the way you want them. Is this what you mean? The huge balls on a base look very hard to turn. But, I have never seen one in real life.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Several years ago I listed ten reasons why my mesh bins were better, cheaper, easier than my tumbler (and the center bar broke after four years). I only used it two years.

I would not say that one CANNOT make compost in a tumbler, only that I found it more work, etc. If folks like their tumbler, fine with me. Some users may not like to badmouth an expensive purchase. Some D-I-Y people may enjoy the challenge of making one.

My preference (at least after my first two purchases, a plastic bin, then a tumbler), is for simple, cheap, easy to assemble, easy to use. The tumbler took three hours to assemble.

Many prospective tumbler buyers might think that this product should be easier to use than a large mesh bin. Not me. Years ago I had a lower back muscle strain, so bending is a consideration. The tumbler had a large crank handle so there was a lot of movement using it. The 'five rotations' turned out to be five barrel rotations equals 5x5 or about 25 turns of the crank due to the cog arrangement.

Winter composting was easier with a mesh bin since the larger size retained the heat better. Fish parts worked better in the bin since they stayed put and there was no odor.

And lastly, the debate over the meaning of the words 'compost', 'finished', 'cured', etc. '14 day compost', '30 day compost' say the ads. Only problem, those with no axe to grind, usually write that a curing time of 30 days, 90 days, even a full year when pet waste is included, is necessary. Not optional, necessary. Cornell was the source of the one year cure.


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End-over-end barrel compost tumbler

Here is a photo of an end-over-end style barrel compost tumbler. It is precise in every detail to the one that I got over a decade ago--the most important detail being that it likes to rest LID-DOWN.

Bullet Compost Tumbler - 53 gallon

There in the lid all the liquids (including the rain that finds its way in) will happily pool into a sloppy, heavy mess.

Those handles? Don't even THINK that they're going to help turn it when all the weight is on the bottom and the frame is so light!

Yes, I was an idiot to have bought it. But no, I wasn't so much an idiot as to have bought it for over $200--that's just crazy. For that amount of money I would have bought the original CompostTumbler. At the time, these were much cheaper than the axial CompostTumbler and I was hoping to be able to accomplish a similar end. :-P

Here is a link that might be useful: End-over-end barrel compost tumbler


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Here's my two cents.

Compost tumblers don't work because they are inapproprate to the methods of some gardeners. For some, they're fine. It is how they are operated, as others here have already said, that determines their effectiveness.

I make a lot of compost, so I always have it available. 10 tumbling bins couldn't possibly meet my needs.

I like well cured compost: curing with tumblers means the added work and space of emptying the bin and piling the compost somewhere else.

Properly managed piles don't smell, are easy enough to turn, and don't need to be turned if you have enough that you don't rush the process. I have 24 wooden pallet bins, typically 4' square, in sets of three, in various places around my property. In them I compost shredded materials. The bins are filled in sequence, so one end is the freshest and one is the oldest. When compost is removed from one end, the adjoining bin gets turned into the newly emptied one. Because the material is shredded, it is easy to turn and mix and breaks down quickly. I build the piles with a pallet underneath, not so much for air, because the space rapidly gets filled, but because it gives an easy surface to shovel from... I turn my compost with a 10-tined long-handled fork, but empty the finished bin with a large plastic shovel designed for scooping snow. Bins open to the ground also permit entry to all kinds of little beasties, which I welcome in my process and which can serve as an indicator of how far along the compost has come. With 24 bins, I have a finished one every 2 weeks.

I also have windrows, where I collect larger, un-shredded materials; manure, seaweed. leaves and sticks and branches, and anything that is added in the winter. These are turned with a tractor. When I am ready to use this compost it is surface applied in fall over the beds that I will use first in the spring. It is a coarse dark mulch that will leach nutrients into the soil and leaves a nice planting bed. Once the snow has cleared, I rake out the biggest material with a 30" bed-forming rake, and that goes into the shredder and into the bins. With beds that are over-wintered with a hardy cover crop, I can do a quick mow and I have green material to blend with the now shredded material from the windrows, so I can get new bins started quickly in the spring, when demand is high. Other beds are planted to non-hardy cover crops, on some of these, the residue stays in place as a mulch, others I will rake off later in spring, thus keeping the frost in the ground somewhat longer. This is a good way to prolong the harvest of over-wintered parsnips, for instance.

Finally, my preference is to reduce my personal carbon footprint as much as possible. Giant plastic contraptions of any kind just don't fit into my methods or aesthetics.

That said, I can see a place for these in a less rural setting.

OK, call it 22 cents.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Bill--do you cover your pallet bins and/or your windrows with anything to keep the rain off? I've read that rain leaches a significant portion of the fertilizer value of the compost, and was wondering what your take on that was.

Also, I'm trying to get my head around the mechanics of how to do windrow composting. When you say that you "turn" the compost with the tractor, does it end up picked up and dumped and moved a couple feet to a different patch of ground? I guess I mean do the windrows stay in stationary rows, or do they kind of migrate?


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I see the end over end. That is what I called the Bullet on legs. That was the type that did not drain and was too heavy to move at all. I use big plastic bins that contact the ground. I hope they can be recycled, but I am not sure if they do that in my area.

I had a cracked earth machine I tried to get the city to take it like a plastic bottle, but they would do that. I ended up having it picked up as a big item. If someone has plastic bins or tumblers I suggest selling on craigslist or use the craigslist free category. I got someone to take away my square bins for free. I had these old rubber maid bins and the lids would not stay on anymore. Wikipedia has a photo of the old rubber maid bins. It would be better to give them on craigslist then take them to dump. This would reduce the need for more bins to be made, and would be better for the environment. I have cats, dogs and raccoons so a wire bin would not be a good idea. I do a short turn around time as well. I can get new compost out of there every time I turn the compost, I harvest the finished compost out of there. I could not wait a year. I can do 30 days compost, but it is hard to tell how long it is taking. I microwave the food before adding it, which really cuts down on the turn around time. Since I learned this trick, I have fast compost. I started out by wanting to keep old potatoes from growing in the bin and now I micro apples and everything I can.

Here is a link that might be useful: wikipedia compost photo of bin


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 6, 12 at 18:10

This thread is like the guy who walked into a car dealership and gets sold a two passenger car and then comes back two days later to complain that it won't haul the bales or the three kids he has.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, each composting method has pros/cons and each persons personal parameters will determine the method they will prefer. I've also recommended that people search out compost demonstration sites so that they can look, touch, feel and try out a system before they buy, build, borrow or steal one.

Other than that, there are numerous misconceptions about tumblers evident within this thread.

Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

My bins are arranged in sets of 3. The one furthest to the right is the freshest, because it is more comfortable for me to turn from the right into the left-hand bin. The bin furthest to the left is covered with recycled metal roofing, the other two are not covered. I'm sure the ground below is quite fertile, but I don't have any fertility problems in my beds that the compost and green manures don't handle. I don't buy outside N-P-K in any quantity, but when I find a good price on greensand or gypsum or granite powder I'll buy it to have on hand.

My windrows get turned with a bucket loader, basically I scoop from the bottom on one side and move it to the top of the other side, reaching up and over with the bucket. It takes four trips (down and back twice) along the length of the pile to get it nicely turned, two hours or so. Some people have a few widely spaced heavy tines that they drive into the bottom and lift, a less thorough turning but it does introduce air into the pile and mixes things up a bit. And I've seen it done with a pick-up with a snowplow, but that seemed highly inefficient. I would not be surprised if commercial compost turners become popular enough in some areas that you will be able to hire them to come out to the farm, much as people do now with PTO driven rototillers.


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hire a turner LOL

Bill, that is so funny to hire a "compost turner". I once was contacted by a local gardener who wanted to come and help me on a regular basis until I told him I also wanted composting help and he never wrote back. It was like the kiss of death to suggest he would help compost. I still do my own turning in small batches with rubber gloves on since I am not afraid of compost. You need to have the right personality to get really into composting, its not for everyone.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Tropical thought, by compost turner I meant this:

Here is a link that might be useful: tumbled compost, professional devision


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 6, 12 at 19:23

I don't think some people are grasping the scale of which we speak.


Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Lloyd,

There is also such a thing as plain, old bad engineering. Or no engineering whatsoever.

We all like to grow up believing that all companies produce quality products, and then test them to ensure that they work. However, experience eventually teaches us that this belief, as well as the beliefs in true love, the tooth fairy, and benevolent government were all pipe dreams.

Bad engineering truly *can* exist with or without the existence of a composting theme.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 6, 12 at 20:22

Absolutely, engineering can be the 'weak link in the chain', but more often than not it is the improper use of a device that leads to failure. For example, using a butter knife as a screwdriver.

Furthermore, characterizing the inappropriateness of an entire classification of machines based the experiences of one specific model is just plain dumb. If this were the norm, we would not have a flying airplane anywhere in the world.

Lastly, one only has to watch late-night infomercials to realize that the claims of the manufacturer/seller may not live up to real life practicality.

Lloyd


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Truth in advertising...

I believe that I've been fairly careful in qualifying that my principal criticism is of the end-over-end barrel-style tumbler, which is the only tumbler that I've had direct experience with.

However, I've also had enough experience composting to really, really doubt the claim "finished compost in 14 days!!!" Really?!? FINISHED compost? That dark brown nirvana in my hands that I can rub my face in?

However, you are applying criticism with a Streetsweeper. Why not just wade in all the way instead of being ambiguous? I'll pop the popcorn for everyone.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

There's bad engineering, and there's poor manufacturing, but there's also bad system design. System design requires the operator to adopt a method that works within the wider parameters of the entire operation. Lloyds' multi-drum tumbler design makes a lot of sense - for a large home garden with a good variety of crops and succession planting, I imagine that would be an effective unit. A single tumbler in the backyard might be fine for an apartment in the city, to deal with vegetable scraps and junk mail, but if you spend one day in the fall raking leaves it's likely to be inadequate. If you don't understand the composting process, and add too much moisture or nitrogen, you're going to have a smelly mess. If you're the kind of person who won't give the tumbler a spin at the appropriate time - not too soon, not too late - you won't get good 14 day compost. These are system flaws in that the operator has chosen a method which, for some reason, doesn't meet the requirements of their composting needs. Combine them - poor choice of method, bad engineering, and cheap manufacturing, and you have another hundred dollar waste of plastic sitting unused or making its way to the landfill.

Understanding soils, or composting, or gardening holds a fascination for me because the more you do and learn, the more you see that it is a complex and elegant interaction, in which the gardener, in mind, body, and spirit, is as important as all the other complicated bio-chemistry. I've been 30 years tweeking and adjusting and I still want to make things work better, but I'm more inclined to study as much as I can and build something that truly suits my needs than to purchase another piece of plastic.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 6, 12 at 21:14

Well, to start off, there are numerous models of end-over-end tumblers. Personally, I would hesitate to discredit them all based on this one model. (I was very amused at the picture of the one posted, I wonder if anyone else caught the faux pas)

Any person buying any product in this day and age ought to research using the internet and would very quickly determine the "14 day" claim is bunk. I have no explanation as to why anyone falls for this claim.

I would hope that most people, with any degree of objectiveness, ccould see that numerous faults of logic have been displayed in this thread and they shouldn't need me or anyone else to point them out. IOW, if you can't see them, you aren't looking.

Enjoy your popcorn.

Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Yes, I could probably do finished compost in 14 days, if I precooked, used a lot of starbucks coffee grounds, bagged browns, and microwaved all the food that breaks down. It could be a bit hot, but then I mix it with bagged browns. But, I would need enough bulk to make really hot heat. When you have really hot heat you can go check on the stuff and it will gone not recognizable as food any longer. Or one can put the food in a blender first, add to bin, create a lot of heat. I just don't know that a tumbler would work, because it has poor drainage. This will slow you down. But it is far from impossible under ideal conditions. You would also want this to be summer time. You would put the black bin in the direct sun for even more heat. It should cook in full sun all day. I have never had any plant damage from using young compost, but I did have it from straight coffee grounds.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I caught the error in the photo (I think!)

It was parked right against the building, so how in the world could it rotate?

Well, marketing is unlikely to know anything about the product anyway, but it makes a pretty picture.

---------------------------------

Bill, if I'm understanding correctly, when turning the windrows you approach from the side? First the windrow "sidesteps" right, then left, then right, then left again to be thoroughly turned?

Sorry about all the obsessive questions--we are still pretty new to using the little tractor, too, but very happy to have some mechanical assistance. Previously everything around here was done with mattocks, shovels, and wheelbarrows.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

From the side, but for the sake of efficiency, at an angle. If you come at it from 90 degrees, there's much more turning the wheel to get properly positioned for the next scoop. I approach the pile at probably 60 degrees. It takes a good amount of space - twice the width of the pile, and room to run the tractor on both sides. For the second turning, you start at the opposite end on the opposite side, moving the pile both sideways and forward back to its' original position. This is why long tines can be an advantage, the pile pretty much occupies the same space, rather than the sidestepping you mention, but it's harder to move material from the outside to the interior. Also, the bucket is easier for keeping the pile tidy and uniform.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

There is a latin saying "Caveat emptor" and since those old romans knew enough to "let the buyer berware" why would anyone, today, think product manufacturers have your best interests at heart? People that sell stuff to you want one thing, your money. Whether you get something of real value from that exchange is not their concern.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Anyone who thinks that people who are offered a Thing to Buy on TV or anywhere else is going to take time to look it up on the interwebs has not met my wife.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 7, 12 at 16:05

:-)

Ya got me there.

Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

kimmsr, as a commercial grower I have to take exception to that statement. I do sell to make money, but if mine was not a high quality product, I wouldn't sell for long, or for as much money. Some of my clients have been buying from me for over twenty years, and they have access to similar products at lower prices. They buy from me because I meet their needs for quality and because they know and support the reasons that I run an organic farm. There are many business models that depend on having everyone buy one thing from them once, and with a large enough market (say, late night TV viewers), that paradigm can make a few people very wealthy. My farm won't make me rich unless I sell it, but it has, and will continue to, feed and financially support generations. There are many good manufacturers still in the US, and worldwide. The problem is that, because of the huge disparity in incomes and global awareness of the wide variety of labor-saving and pleasure-serving products, the only way to get them into the broadest number of hands is to make them cheap. This means poor manufacturing, skimpy engineering, non-durable materials, so the most people can buy them. My business model is to have a small number of clients who buy a wide variety of goods over a long period. This is the same strategy that is used by the makers of high-end watches, private jets, and hand-made shirts, and those manufacturers rarely go out of business. They don't do it just to make money, they do it because making something lasting, functional, and beautiful is a passion and an avocation, and people who appreciate that will reward it with money.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Sorry to write and run. Thank you so much Nancy for your insights into good composting methods. For the many newbies on here like me, your posts are truly invaluable.

And a hearty thank you to Pt03, Billme, Toxcrusadr, Kimmsr, Robertz6, Ralleia, and all the other brains on here helping out our beleagured Mother Earth before runaway warming makes her into another Venus-like planet.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Eek!

Strike my name from that list, if you please. I wouldn't want anyone to think that I am of the mind that carbon dioxide is a dangerous compound that must be fought against, nor to think that I believe that humans are a primary determinant of weather.

I'm firmly of the mind that that moods of that big, nuclear ball that notice going by overhead most days (unless its cloudy) is the #1 determiner of conditions here on earth, that water vapor is a far more potent "greenhouse gas" (GREAT! LET'S SEQUESTER THE WATER AND CLASSIFY IT AS A HAZARDOUS COMPOUND!!!), and that my allies the plant'll grow up to eat any extra carbon dioxide they can.

I'm a composting, mostly organic, plant fanatic fool because it just makes the most sense. I hate to throw away useful stuff, and hate to let useless or hazardous stuff into the house. It's simple pragmatism.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Laugh-out-loud. Okay, I struck your name off the list. Mrs. Ralleia does not believe in human-caused global warming.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I do believe in human-caused global warming.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Anyone who shares a bed with me believes in human-caused global-warming.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 10, 12 at 20:51

I'm more of a grey kind of person versus black or white. I think we contribute to global warming and I imagine there is a tipping point but what that point is, I have no clue.

I intend to just keep on diverting the 500 or so metric tonnes from the landfill where this material would create a large amount of methane which is waaayyy worse than CO2.

Lloyd

P.S. I'll keep my tumblers too, they work very well for what I use 'em for.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

The real reason to compost is that make a better soil for the garden. We have city wide green bins. If I don't want to compost food myself, I put it in the green bin and it gets composted. No one has to compost. Composting is fun. If you try to guilt people into composting it won't work. One has to really love it to want to continue. I feel like I have a secret science project going on all the time. If composting is just drudgery work, no one will do it.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

If it seems like drudgery, you're doing it wrong.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 10, 12 at 22:16

There can be more than one reason to compost.

Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Lloyd,

It looks to me like you've covered most of the reasons, AND most of the methods. What do you use your tumblers for? It's a great design.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Tropical_Thought wrote:
> If you try to guilt people into composting it won't work. One has to really love it to want to continue.

That's a really good point. You and NancyJane aren't sisters, are you? You both make so many good points. This passage by author Barbara Pleasant from Mother Earth News was interesting, I thought:

"Hooray for everyone who is composting, but why do so many people think it's OK not to compost? Compost educators in search of answers are all over a recent study from Scotland titled "Behavioral Determinants of Household Participation in a Home Composting Scheme." The bottom line is that it's all about attitude. To get a non-composter to pick up a digging fork, forget about saving the world. Instead, convince them that composting is what they must do to be a good person. Then give them a bin."

Ms. Pleasant continues:
"These and other studies on home composting also shed light on the habits of active composters, who typically compost 70 percent of their food waste and either compost or recycle all of their yard waste. Once people start composting, they don't stop -- nine out of 10 people who start composting are still at it 10 years later. Long-time composters tend to keep more than one type of compost, too -- usually a heap and an enclosed bin."

"Sound familiar? Another statistical tidbit about fellow rot-watchers caught my eye: People who make compost are more likely to buy compost. Confession time: I had been feeling guilty about the three big bags of Poplar Manor compost I bought last week, but not anymore! After all, buying locally made compost is a good move that helps my garden and my community, and it takes the pressure off of my compost to hurry up and get done."
[End of quote]

Barbara Pleasant is co-author of "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide," which I just picked up at Amazon. This book is so helpful and awesome. It's another one of those books from Storey Publishing. (I'm not affiliated with Storey in any way, but I've really been amazed by them the past 8 months. They always put together great books, often in an over-sized format with lots of gorgeous color photos throughout their books. Quality outfit.)


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 11, 12 at 11:19

My first tumbler was built for our household use when I was using the pallet bins. The 45 gallon drum tumbler was something we found in the local dump that we used in the compost demonstration area. The multi-tumblers came about because we had an old 300 gallon fuel tank that couldn't be used for fuel any longer so we tried to find some way to make it into a tumbler. It snow balled from there when we got a couple of I-beams from a demolition and jury rigged those and some car parts into a base to hold multiple drums. We still haven't finished the darn thing but it is on the 'to do' list. ;-)

I mainly use the tumblers for food items (stuff rodents and other animals would love to get at). Being out in the country yet close to some residences and a major highway, I did not want any issues/problems for my neighbours. There is a capped landfill only a mile away and there are rats in the area. I do not want anyone going to the local government accusing me of being a problem with the rodents/wildlife. If they shut me down for whatever reason, I lose a decent income stream and the beneficial materials for my fields.

I'm of the opinion if a person wants to compost on a larger scale they had best not cause inconveniences to the general public. Having the demonstration area, being very mindful of the neighbours and generally being good to the community with support and donations shows people that a small scale operation doesn't have to be detrimental overall.

Lloyd

P.S. For some reason I think that Barbara Pleasant is a member of gardenweb and was posting here a few years back.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I think a lot of authors must like GardenWeb. Sandy Baker, author of The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care mentions this site in her bibliography. Great book, too.

I gotta say, though, that Atlantic Publishing Group didn't do a good job editing, proofreading, or typesetting the book. Not sure which of those 3 functions is involved, but I am not exaggerating in the least when I say this finely written book has an error on *every* fifth page.

I highlighted with a marker every error I found if they want me to send them my copy. Whew, I've never seen so many errors in a book--literally every 5th page.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Thank you Lloyd. I knew you would have a good clear and rational explanation.

Kind of reminds me of the phrase:

"If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"

You have an inspiring operation.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 11, 12 at 20:41

Took a while but I found her....

bcomplx1

Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

And not only do you have an inspiring operation like Bi11me said, you also are helping Mother Earth more than many of us put together, if author Paul Tukey is to be believed when he writes in his book The Organic Lawn Care Manual:

"I submit that the conscious creation of compost and the subsequent addition of compost to the soil is humankind's primary contribution to the health of the planet as a whole."


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

....Tell that to the council if they ever want to shut your compost operation down, due to their being misinformed about the importance of compost.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Kimmsr wrote:
> Turning often does not necessarily cool down a compost pile

Turning a compost pile both cools the pile down and warms it up. The turning will initially cool down the pile. Say you turn the pile when it drops below the thermophillic threshold of 104* F. The turning will immediately drop the pile into the 60's, 70's, or 80's Fahrenheit, depending.

But within an hour or two, the pile's temperature will again begin to climb because the aerobic bacteria now have the oxygen they need (as a result of the turning) to carry on their work. In 24 hours--give or take a few hours--the pile will again be in the thermophillic range above 104* F.

This assumes a good C:N ratio and adequate, not excessive, moisture.

At least that's what I've found with my small, 5-cubic foot pile inside my plastic barrel tumbler. Adding chopped, slightly moist (not soggy) banana peels, grapefruit rinds and orange rinds during the turning will increase the temperature even more. My carbon source has been shredded leaves.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers - b

Forgot to add: my small pile has usually been able to stay thermophillic for between 2 to 4 days before needing a tumble.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I found it does cool down a pile to turn it. You can get away with mixing it a bit. If I turn a hot pile the next day it is cool. I have add more coffee ground and more bagged browns to the top again to keep the heat going. I lost my compost thermometer for the time being, so I can't say how much heat is lost, would say a lot of heat is lost. It is better to wait until you lost heat anyway as time passes, then turn, then add more stuff. Rather then turning on a good heat and ruining it. Therefore I would assume with a tumbler each time you turn it you may lose heat, but I don't know since it's a closed system. I have not tested this, since I don't have a tumbler. But, just another reason that tumblers are not a good product. The cost a bit more. I am not speaking of an interest homemade one that could be free or cheap, but those slick website selling over priced plastic tumblers to seniors by promising no work composting. No work compost is like losing weight without eating less calories or learn to play music without practicing.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Most of my piles get turned only 3 or 4 times. I like to get a high heat the first time - above 150, then let it sit for about a month. I turn again without adding anything, but being careful to use what was on the inside at first - now the best composted - on top of what was on the outside. I get a good second heating, but not as hot and not as long. After it cools, I turn it once more, this time trying to get a good mix, and removing anything that is still easily recognizable to add to the newest pile. Any turns after that happen on a monthly basis as time allows. I usually use those piles within 6 to 8 months.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I agree with using the pile fast. I found if you wait a long time, you lose too much of the bulk. If you want more compost like I do, I just let it age even more in the ground after I use it. There are a lot of red worms that can eat up all your compost. If they do it in the ground instead of in the bin there are not so many in the ground. But, of course a tumbler won't have worms at all, so that is a not a issue with tumblers. Someday I may try a closed system for fun, but not a tumbler closed system.


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to ZoysiaSod

I just got an email update from ZoysiaSod, that I had missed. One would think hypothetically you would get more heat by changing the placement of the matter and providing more air. Turning makes fast compost especially since I was mush up any lumps with gloves on. But, it does not give me more heat and always give me less heat unless I then add more of the coffee and bagged browns at the time. So, while it should work in practice it does not work for me. I want an extended heating period to help break down the mass of fall leaves that are taking too long to process at this time. Even after waiting a day, even after checking it again and again. The compost that is mostly spent has to be removed it or will slow down the rest of the pile. If I removed the finished compost I will be lacking in the matrix of mushy stuff, so then I add more and get more heat. I check again, I think I am getting more heat from my turning, but I am getting it from the addition of the new materials. This is why a lot of people get really into turning. They turn and the compost does well, they think they are making progress. Did they need to turn so often? Or would just turning infrequently be just as good? More people would get into compost if they did not think it would be so much work with turning it so much. Four times turned for a fast batch seems to be the optimal amount of turning.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 13, 12 at 19:11

Turning a pile and tumbling a tumbler have different effects, the two procedures are similar but different.

Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I forgot that GardenWeb gives folks the option to receive Automatic Email Updates when new posts are made to a thread. Email Updates are a nice feature.

My tumbler's opening is wide enough to allow me to comfortably use a pitchfork to "turn" the ingredients. I first turn with a pitchfork, then tumble.

I guess that's one of the advantages of using a large plastic barrel with an open top: you can easily insert a pitchfork to turn the compost before you tumble it.

By the way, is there a way to find out who the moderators of the forums are? Also, I'm wondering if moderators have access to I.P. numbers? Just curious :-)
Thanks.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I'm still trying to understand the first post here about so called toxic leachates.
So it's OK for the leachates to leach into the soil but it is bad for plants that grow in the soil?
Do I need to call a hazmat crew to remove this bad stuff?


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

The toxicity relates to concentration, not content. A double espresso is pretty good - ten double espressos, not so much.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Right what bil said, it is too strong to use a compost tea. I never use compost teas at all. It seems like too much work. I have real compost, no need for a tea. Even a high dose of nitrogen can burn a plant, althought nitrogen is healthy for plants. But, there could be too many bad bacteria if you end up going anaerobic. Right now my compost is some what too wet, this creates problem things in the compost, that I want to drain away into the ground. It does not hurt near by trees, they seem to like it. I am talking about saving up all the leachates in like a little tray and then dumping it on the plants. They may wilt. It could be too strong for them. But, I have never tried this since I was warned here on garden web years ago, not to do this.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Leachates and compost teas are different. For tea, you use a small proportion of compost in a large volume of water. Leachates are formed by a small amount of water in contact with large amounts of compost. Water filtered through compost will absorb everything it can until it reaches a saturation point, and that will result in excess. Compost tea has moderate amounts. It's like comparing a 12 ounce Bloody Mary to a shot of vodka - the same volume of straight vodka is going to have a very different effect. Leachates are a sign of nutrient loss and inefficient compost methods.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

And teas are typically kept aerobic by bubbling air through them. Otherwise the microbes will use up oxygen way faster than in can diffuse into the liquid. Concentrated compost leachate will be not only devoid of O2 but have a lingering demand for more, which can't be good for the soil microbes if used full strength. I don't know if this is the primary mechanism of damage to plants, but it seems like it would be a problem.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Tumbler websites tell people that the leachates are compost tea. This is confusing to newbies. In one case, they claimed leachates were liquid fertilizer, which they are but they not the same as some thing like say fish emulsion. Since the tumblers don't drain to the ground like a bin, they have trays to catch leachates which they try to put a positive spin. They take the negative factors and try to make them positive. It's all deceptive marketing.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

so leachates aren't bad if they are diluted first?
in essence they are actually good for plants when dilluted?


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

no, I still don't think they are good because leachates could have bad bacteria.

How would you keep air bubbling in a compost tea? Maybe one could make it an old fish tank set up and use an aerator? Those air stones that pump air into the water. It seems like too much work if you can do real compost, but if you live place without space for a bin or a pile, maybe it would be good.

I don't think my success in gardening is due to fungal or microherds, I think it is the soil improvement that means the soil gets the water and nutrients to the plants better then pure sand. I don't think compost benefits can be bought with magic compost starters or fungal powders. I think it's the organic matter that brings the most benefits. You want to dig in that organic matter as deep as the plant roots go to make sure the plant is getting good benefits down to the root of the plant. Sometimes it is not realistic to dig up a plant to improve the soil, but at least if you plant a new one you can improve the soil around it.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 15, 12 at 15:07

So if I am understanding one of your objections to tumblers correctly, it is that the advertisers are not telling the complete truth about the leachate. And that is the tumblers fault, how?

Lloyd


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Well, I'm still happy with my $5 dump find of a bullet type tumbler!
It does occasionally end up upside down, but 1/2 turn fixes that!
I still have bags and bags of leaves to add my greens/ucgs to.
I tumble 1-2xs per week and get a much faster breakdown of materials, then dump the whole kit and kabootle into the bin to finish.I also have a bad shoulder that won't allow me to use the pitchfork.
This seems to speed up my compost by about 6 months!
I do, however, have several bins working at the same time. I'm not just counting on the tumbler for my compost.
What ev, to each their own! Nancy


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

With all due respect to those who dislike tumblers, you must not be doing it correctly.

I am new to vegetable gardening and purchased the Jora JK400 tumbling composter. This thing is amazing and so easy to use! I collect coffee grounds from the local Staryucks, combine with grass clippings, leaves, and kitchen scraps, add a little bit of water, and voila! The compost gets very, very warm - hot to the touch, in fact - and I have glorious compost in 3 weeks.

They key to creating compost so quickly is simple: 1) reverse the greens/browns ratio - make it 2 parts green to 1 part brown; 2) tumble at least 5 times each day to maintain aerobic bacterial activity. Less browns, more greens, tumble plenty and you are rewarded. The traditional brown/green ratios are good for piles, but for tumblers that ratio should be reversed.

The key to having success with a tumbler has everything to do with the tumbler. The Jora is insulated with 2" of foam on the inside. This allows for high thermals with relatively low mass of compost. The total capacity of this composter is 100 gallons, or approximately 14 cuft., divided into two compartments.

I live in a suburban subdivision in Arizona where an exposed compost pile would attract nuisance pests, flies, and who knows what else during our 110º+ summers. The tumbler was the best solution for our situation, supplies us with beautiful and rich compost, and is not at all difficult to use.

I don't know a single compost pile that can produce usable compost in 3 weeks. And about those "leachates"... the brown liquid that drains from my tumbler after a rainstorm is like black gold for my plants. Don't pay attention to the nonsense here.


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Jora JK400 tumbling composter

he Jora JK400 tumbling composter does seem really cool, and it might even work great in hot climates, because its metal and would get hot. I looked at it online, but it costs 739 dollars! I thought I was crazy to spend over 100 dollars on plastic bins, but that has to be the most expensive ever. I would love to have one and totally test it out and report back, maybe that it works great. And most people are too lazy to bother to get coffee grounds from starbucks, and that can lead all kind of problems with insects. I mean it's good you get grounds, they are 98 percent of the whole deal. Without grounds I can't make good compost at all.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

"I mean it's good you get grounds, they are 98 percent of the whole deal. Without grounds I can't make good compost at all."

I noticed that wet grounds tend to compress the pile. In my experience, the most simple mix is grass and leaves (except for fall leaves, maple, sweet gum and oak). If you find grounds to work well, I wonder what 'browns' you are using, and how finely they are shredded.

Starbucks had two kinds of grounds when I used to go there, seven to twelve years ago. They gave away expresso grounds in a bag weighting maybe twenty pounds rather wet. But once they had none and I asked persmission to check the dumpster. I never went back inside, the dumpster had over 100 pounds of grounds with filters, and they were looser with less water. Checked it on collection days with a rubbermaid and long-handled tool, and always cleaned up any mess I made.

Later they switched the big bags to little bitty bags, and it seemed like company policy did not encouraged the give away.

I find grass to be a excellent 'green', but problematic to use others grass. My favorite ingredients are small fish and seaweed, if available.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Every starbucks has a different policy for the grounds. In my area, they stopped filling bags and now it is much harder. If I could pick up a bag, but you have a huge complex process of requesting it and on and on and sometimes they try to me a huge bag, I can't carry. I bring my own bags and containers. It is very annoying and difficult and often they are too wet and that can be bad. I never add water to my compost to off set the wet problem. However, even too wet coffee grounds are still better then none. Grass is a huge pain, it matts up and is a lot of work to deal with. I don't have a lawn anymore. In California we are having a drought and not supposed to have lawns. I could see in Arizona things would dry up fast, off setting the wet grounds. But, you need a closed system. Grounds attract flies.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Just goes to show how people see things differently. I found fresh cut grass to be easier to work with than the used coffee grounds the last poster Tropical Thought prefers.

I like grass better than the wet Starbucks expresso grounds, and even the dryer Starbucks dumpster grounds mixed with filters (and some trash). But 90% of my browns are finely shredded leaves (paper is hard to mix in my experience), so twice mowed grass mixes in well. Of course grass is only available from April to late October in my mid-west climate.

In any pile, tumbler, or gismo, I find mixing the main ingredients to be better than layering. Problematic stuff like fish parts and kitchen scraps go into the center of the pile.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

Getting a little off topic from tumblers, but I agree on the mixing. If one has enough volume at once, a whole batch with a good grn/brown balance can be made at once. I've made some great compost with huge batches of grass clippings and leaves mixed on a tarp.


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I have changed my mind about it

I wrote that first post back two years ago and newer tumblers have come out. It was reaction to some friend of mine that had this little cheap tumbler that was plastic on thin wire frame. It was too heavy to turn at all, and it had an infestation of fungus gnats. It was too hard to turn because the water was not draining away. But, that was a super cheap tumbler.

Now looking at some of the high end tumblers I do want that one that cost 700 dollars plus. It would great for my problem with raccoons trying to dig under my bins and then removing stuff and strewing it all over the yard.


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

The cheap poorly made compost tumbler is one of the most heinous crimes foisted upon unsuspecting consumers. There should be a special anaerobic circle of hell for the people who sell them.


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I like the JK series

I found the JK 125 is around 300 dollars and not totally out of reach. In fact, I want to buy one of these sometime down the line if I was too old to do turn it myself, which considering I am almost 50 could be not that far away. But one problem is I would worry about someone stealing it out of my yard. The appear to come in three sizes small medium and large. I would like the small or the medium. I wish I could see them in a show room. The big one would be too big, I feel for my needs, but would be good if you had a restaurant and were recycling a lot of food and were raising vegetables as well to use it all up. The sun would shine on the metal and heat that up really good.

So in conclusion, low end tumblers are bad, but high end ones are good. This was been most enlightening for me to have posted.

Here is a link that might be useful: the smaller size one is affortable


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RE: The case against compost tumblers

I have used a tumbler for a year and a half, a bought plastic bin for a year or so, and mesh bins for about ten years. The cheap hardware cloth mesh bins are the only one I recommend.

They all will serve to make compost, but the large mesh bins work the best, and cost the least IMHO. They retain heat longer towards winter, smell less, can be moved, hold lots more material (handy if you are storing the fall leaves). Took me five minutes to set up -- the compost tumbler took me three hours to assemble even if the instruction said two hours.

I have been trying to think of one nice thing to say about my tumbler -- but I can't think of one. It tended to form clumps if you didn't get the moisture just right. It was harder on my back than than my 24" high bins and the compost fork. The center bar rusted out in less than four years.

The experience did reinforce one idea -- knowledge is often more important than a fancy gizmo.

I am happy for those who enjoy using tumblers. I recall seeing pictures one person made of a motor turning a huge round drum, with rubbermaids underneath.

People often have strong opinions about their composting system. I sometimes wonder how many other types of composting they have experimented with.


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I saw the Jora JK125 at the garden show

The san Francisco garden show started today and I saw the Jora JK125 tumbler and it was too small, because it has dual chambers, but that means each chamber is only half the size of the total volume and it will not have enough volume to generate heat. I would like it better if they removed the division. It was the sort of thing that people who don't want to touch or sort the compost would use, but it would be way too small. One could use the thing until it was half done and then go to ground bin for further curing. It would just not be big enough for me and would take way too late to create compost. I like mine done fast so I use it before it gets eaten by worms and other bugs and things.


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