eklawun
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Homemade vs. Store-bought system?

Being new here, I have been going back through some of the composting threads to see what I can learn before I start the compost area in the garden.

I am wondering after seeing all of the really cool pallet bins and fancy home made things, whether anyone has experience with compost tumblers? I have a smallish suburban backyard and hope to start a veggie patch next year and plant some fruit trees espaliered on the south fence (so you will know how much green/brown I am likely to produce).

Would a tumbler be a good place for me to start? My woodworking skills are lacking ( as evidenced by the lovely potting bench that m Dad started for me, which is still in the garage because I haven't gotten up the gumption to try to finish it yet :oops: ). And it looks like the tumblers might be easier to deal with and maybe faster...

And all the posts about smoking piles sort of scare me a bit :shock: because the spot I have chosen for the pile is right along the north side of the house on the back wall... Not too far from the back door, but hidden from view and not in the beating sun all day...

Any thoughts?
Beth K

john gault
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To get a pile to smoke, i.e. on the verge of combusting; you'd have to have a lot of green stuff like green hay or grass clippings in a large unbroken (brown stuff NOT mixed in) clump. **Or I guess it's possible to have some brown leaves (unmixed) that were wet and allowed to dry. Anyone know, I'm kind of curious of that.

But other than those scenarios I don't worry about fires in my compost, it's mixed in such a way is if it were to dry it'd just turn dormant. And it sounds like I basically throw the same stuff in mine as you plan on throwing in yours. BTW, I also live in the burbs.

**Edit: BTW, I have a large pile of magnolia leaves, but those things are so loosely piled because of the structure of that type leaf that I don't every worry about a fire hazard with those. I think that's why not so much of a problem with leaves is because the structure doesn't allow for it to collapse on itself like blades of grass/straw/hay. But be very interested to hear from someone with more experience in this.

toxcrusadr
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Tumblers come up quite often here. If you'd like to review some other threads, use the Search the Forum button on the toolbar and search this form for "Tumbler". There are 13 pages of threads listed.

Tumblers seem to be finicky as far as moisture and ingredient mix. If you can go with a pile, a circle of metal fencing or chicken wire, or some pallets held together with wire at the corners, you'll probably be happier for a lot less money. 8)
Tox

eklawun
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Thank you all for the responses so far!!

Tox: I don't know how I didn't find the "search the forum" button this morning - I was even looking for it and knew it had to be somewhere. :oops: Thanks for that tip!

John, if you also live in the suburbs, where do you put your compost, so that it is not an eyesore?

Marlingardener: If I don't put it on the north side, I will have to walk all the way around the house (not that it's really *that* far, I guess) to get there and the other site option would be in the full sun on the south side of the house. Would the heap like that? I thought that my FIL in Germany had said that it should not be in full sun. Maybe I misunderstood...

Thanks again everyone! I really appreciate it!
Beth K

cynthia_h
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Most of our members who've tried tumblers have wanted to give them back / give them away / throw them away soon after starting them. Among the very few who was happy with a tumbler was a member who *made* his own tumbler (when/if I run across the thread, I'll post the url).

Common complaints include:

--advertising misleads the time it takes to get finished compost
--compost too wet, smells bad inside tumbler
--aeration vents too small
--guidance on how much to put into tumbler not adequate
--tumbler doesn't make nearly enough compost
--tumblers too expen$ive for the effort/product

And there were many, many more complaints as well.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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rainbowgardener
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Another thing about tumblers, is that it requires batch composting. That is you load it up and leave it, tumbling occasionally, until the compost is finished. But you can't keep adding, because you would be constantly mixing old and new stuff together, so you would never have a finished product. That means you have to have somewhere else where you pile up compostables waiting for the tumbler to be finished. If you have to have a compost pile anyway, it isn't worth it to me to also have the tumbler. It would work if you had two tumblers, so one could be getting loaded up, while the other one was composting (as long as you don't have so much stuff for the compost pile that one would get full before the other one was ready) . Then you just have the other problems cynthia mentioned.
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Odd Duck
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I have 2 compost tumblers (got them very cheap or wouldn't have tried them) and have been unimpressed for all the reasons already mentioned. I'm switching one to a "homemade potting soil, misc. mixer" and try using the other for precomposting stuff for the indoor worm bins as soon as the current batch of compost comes out of that one. I get much better texture, much less odor, much easier/less effort, etc, from my simple, wire-enclosed heaps. IMO, your money is better spent on other things.
Sharon
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john gault
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eklawun wrote: John, if you also live in the suburbs, where do you put your compost, so that it is not an eyesore?
I have three very large trees in my back corner lot -- two live oaks and one sweet gum. So it's a shaded site -- not that it has to be, but that helps here in Florida so I don't have to water it as much.

This is how I keep it not so ugly. First I did not construct one thing; I simple gather leaves from various neighborhoods that set them out for city disposal. (Note: if you have some landscaping companies around, they are usually more than willing to give you leaves -- that way they don't have to transport them to a dump).

I simply pile up the leaves in that corner lot and mix in kitchen/yard waste. It really doesn't look bad for two reasons, 1. it's a very shaded area, i.e. very dark. 2. Also the area is well marked off, i.e. I have a definite line between the pile and where I stop the grass, so it kind of gives it a contrast look to it, sort of like a nicely mulched area lined with grass on the outside, as opposed to grass growing into the mulch. (BTW, the waste is never visible, only the leaves are, also the pile doesn't start right at where I stop the grass, I mulch that area and the pile is set back from there; you really only see a bump under the trees from the street, I'm sure most don't even see it).

I also had some plants around the perimeter, but they died, so thinking about replanting something there, but not really necessary, not an eyesore at all; I just like planting stuff, just need to find some colorful shade plants -- I'm having real problems with hostas down here in Fl, but that's another issue...

P.S. Most leaves look good with exception of magnolia leaves, just ugly looking in a pile, IMO, unless you shread them.

eklawun
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Hmmmm, thank you all again! I will definitely forego the tumbler.

My problem now is to find a good location... Actually the north side of the house---for now--- has almost all day sun. I mentioned being in the suburbs, but what I guess I forgot to say was that the house is now about four years old and no one who lived here before us took any interest in the yard at all, so there was some minimal landscaper-new-house stuff in the front and wall to wall Bermuda in the back. There were either no trees in the area to build around, or they were all felled before construction, so we have *zero* shade, which is a rather unfortunate state of affairs in this part of the country just now.

Any pile that I make will be quite out in the open and will have to be a "yard feature" since there is no where to hide it.

We hope to plant some trees in the fall for shade, but of course it will take a while for the trees to get big enough to actually shade anything.

Maybe my Mom and Dad will come to visit again soon and help with the construction aspects of the whole thing.

Thanks again, everyone!
Beth K

john gault
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A few ideas/alternatives.

1. You can place it in the sun won't hurt anything. It can actually help to "cook" your compost fast by heating it up which will invite the Thermophilic microorganisms (thermophiles). I, unlike most people, am a "cold" composter, because I just like bugs and love to watch the bugs/worms do their work, that's why I like the shade; hot compost piles drive many of them away, or at least reduces them. Also having a compost pile in the sun is good in the winter time.

2. There's another tactic you can do by making artificial shade using a tarp. Sort of like what people do when the shade their plants when it gets too hot.

3. Another possibility is mulching large sections of your yard and then throwing kitchen scraps in under the mulch. You can either place it directly on the ground then cover back up with the mulch; or dig it into the ground a little, only the depth of a shovel scoop is all that's needed.
If you look at my banana plants https://s1128.photobucket.com/albums/m484/76gunner/ you'll notice that they are planted in a thick layer of mulch, in which I now throw much of my kitchen scraps into, because I'm keeping that area "fed", along with the garden (more of a future garden, once I build up that area). I only use my compost pile right now for very aggressive weed that I don't want to set root in my various garden spots.

This raises a question: What is it you would like to compost and about how much. Pretty sure "item 3" can handle any amount you want to compost and at the same time you're building your soil for either a garden, a tree or anything you'd like to grow there in the future.

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rainbowgardener
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Compost bins don't have to be particularly ugly. I have two.

One is a wire bin something like this:

https://compare.ebay.com/like/280612494718?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

but with a wire top across it. The coated steel bars are green and blend in. Since every time I put a layer of kitchen scraps or whatever in, I cover it with a layer of leaves, it mostly looks like a square pile of leaves.

The other one is an Earth Machine type bin about like this but with no logo on it:

https://www.earthmachine.com/index_r.html

Mine are in the back corner under a big tree with my wood pile and brush pile. They don't stand out too much in the landscape. In your blank landscape they will stand out more, but still they aren't really ugly.

If you really hated them, you could build a little enclosure - make it big enough to put your trash cans and any thing else you don't want to look at as well as your compost bins...
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musewoman
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Hi,

Not sure where your compost will be located on your property, but if you have a place where it won't be too obvious (with good sun), you don't need any paraphernalia at all. Yep. They call it a compost pile, because that's what it is.

Just throw your browns and greens on top of it. If you want to speed things up, you can insert a 5 in. diameter PVC pipe with holes in it vertically in the ground to get the air down more quickly. Those who are in a hurry and like gardening with work turn their piles too, and even water them if the season is dry. But if you can wait a season, Nature will handle it all for you. Just collect your compost from the bottom of the pile as needed.

And if getting raw manure, just spread a lot of it (6-8 in.) on top of your garden plot in the fall so the rains/snow can go to work on it before spring, when your garden's soil will be transformed into gorgeous loam. I learned all this many years ago from Ruth Stout's "The No-Work Garden Book". Still highly recommended, if you can find a copy. Used it in Connecticut, and now in Southern California.

eklawun
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Hmmmm, food for thought....

John: I will be composting whatever kitchen and garden scraps I have, which is not much at the moment. But we also have a lot of Bermuda grass and would love to be composting that instead of having it hauled off.

Rainbow: which one do you like better? the totally enclosed plastic? Or the wire mesh?

Thanks also for mentioning water, Musewoman! What I was totally forgetting is our sprinkler system... My latest pondering had the compost right on top of a sprinkler head. ooops. I'm now off to amazon to look for the book. I can't see your post except when I have hit the reply button, so I can't see whether you list where you are in CA. I grew up in SoCal and was just fantisizing the other day about the lemon tree in the back yard. Ahhh, those were the days.
Beth K

eklawun
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Hmmmm, now I see the other post. Strange... I grew up just east of where you are, in Downey---back when there were still orange groves and we had a lemon, an orange, and a peach tree in the yard 8) . Not to mention access to an avocado tree (or three), and I didn't even like avocados back then. Sigh.
Beth K

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rainbowgardener
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I grew up in Anaheim, CA when there were still orange trees all around. We had three orange trees in our side yard and a pomegranate in back.
I still miss it, too!

The two different bins have different pluses and minuses. I had only the wire one for about 15 yrs. It is cheap and durable, but after all that time, it had gotten bent etc and was no longer doing a good enough job of keeping all the many critters out of the compost pile. The enclosed one keeps critters out, holds in moisture so I don't have to water the pile as often (compost piles do need to be kept moist, but not wet), and holds in heat, but I worry that it's not as well ventilated and there seem to be more little flies and stuff in there.
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bogydave
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I tried a tumbler for a few years, never got the process to work for me.
As a standard, a 3' X 3' X 3' bin is minimum size for hot composting.
Some have said they got the tumblers to work, but not much volume of "done" compost.



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