Ever wondered how to use a composter? Here are the step-by-step instructions and tips and tips and ideas for using a tumbling composter for your garden.
This was a picture I took last week right after I showed you how to make an obelisk.
I wish you could see this Mandevilla now.
It’s almost twice this size.
We’ve been adding plant food and watering every day and even in the middle of the Texas heat, these flower urns and the plants in our yard are growing like Jack and his beanstalk.
And that got us talking.
And general garden discussioning.
What if we made our own plant food? What if we took the stuff that we get rid of and turned it into nutrients and went all Mary Mary Quite Contrary and watched our garden grow?
So as an early Father’s Day present for my husband….
…I ordered this.
A tumbling composter.
I did a lot of research and found one that got good reviews and was affordable and wasn’t too big and had two compartments and tumbled and ordered this model. This is our “get started” composter. I know that there are much bigger composters on the market and this one isn’t going to produce enough compost for our yard, but I wanted to start small. Sometimes when I’m starting a project or a new idea, I tend to spend too much money and buy too many tools and products that just sit on a shelf that I never even used.
Just between us?
I wanted to make sure that we even actually compost before I invested a lot of money.
So here it is.
Our starter composter ready to go.
I’ve done SO MUCH research on how to use it and I thought I’d share everything I’d learned in case you had thought about composting and wanted to try it. Also, because I’m just getting started, I’d love to hear any of your tips, too.
Together we can COMPOST.
Q: WHERE ARE YOU SETTING UP YOUR COMPOSTER?
This unit is 28″ wide x 36″ high x 26″ deep so it’s not an overwhelming size. You want your location to be close to the garden, but not so far that you have to walk a mile to put in a banana peel. We have it just around the corner from the backdoor out of sight at the end of this porch. It’s close enough for banana peels and close enough to the urns by the door and the flower beds.
It would work perfectly if you lived in an apartment with a small patio outside, too.
We also have a small trashcan right by the back door (it’s about the size of a bathroom trashcan) with a lid that opens and shuts with a foot pedal. The inside lifts out and you can carry it by the handle to the composter.
Q: HOW DOES THE COMPOSTER WORK?
This composter model actually has two chambers. You add new raw material to one side and rotate it 5 to 10 times each time you add a deposit to the composter. It’s also a good idea to rotate it every 2-3 days if you haven’t added anything to the composter.
When the first compartment is full, you want to let the mix cure and start adding material to the second compartment. You’ll slide the door over with the clock symbol to let you know which side is curing and which side you are adding to.
Q: HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR COMPOSTER IS WORKING?
First, you want to check on your mix after a couple of days to make sure it’s getting hot.
Hot is good. Hot is your friend. That means that the organisms are breaking down the stuff inside the composter and it’s decomposing into food for your flowers. The key is making sure that it’s turned every couple of days.
Another key thing to look for is to make sure that it’s damp. You want your materials to be damp, but not too damp. You don’t want the mix to dry out, so if it looks like it’s slightly drying out, make sure to add a little bit of water (but not too much).
Q: WHEN IS YOUR COMPOST READY?
This really depends on what you’ve added to the composter, but a good rule of thumb is between 2-8 weeks. Just keep turning the composter and keep an eye on the mix to make sure it’s damp and the mix is decomposing.
Q: WHAT KIND OF THINGS DO YOU ADD TO A COMPOSTER?
This was my number one question to myself.
I understood how the composter worked, but what type of things should I be adding to it. Here’s a list (I’m sure there are tons more ideas than this) that I put together for our family:
- fruit and vegetable scraps (the smaller the scraps the easier it will be for them to break down)
- coffee grounds
- grass clippings
- melon rinds
- citrus rinds
- used coffee filters
- brown paper lunch bags
- cooked pasta
Q: WHAT IS THE PROPER RATIO OF GREENS TO BROWNS
You can see from my list that there are “greens” (nitrogen) and there are “browns” (carbon). You want to make sure you have the proper ratio to make your composter the most effective.
Make sure when you are adding things to the composter, you keep a ratio of 1 part greens to 2 part browns. Here are some things to look for with your mix and how to fix them:
- If your mix doesn’t heat up? It could be because your mix is too wet and you’ll need to add some dry browns.
- If it smells like ammonia? It’s probably because you have too many greens, so add some dry browns.
- If it smells like rotten eggs? It means the mix is too wet and it’s not getting enough oxygen. Add some dry browns and open the vent in the composter.
Q: WHAT ARE THE THREE RULES OF COMPOSTING?
Make sure your ratios are correct. Make sure you have the proper amount of greens to the proper amount of browns.
Make sure your mix isn’t too dry or too wet—you want it to feel like a damp sponge.
Make sure the air is circulating in your composter. Air is key to ensure decomposition. You’ll want to turn it every couple of days to ensure the composting is most effective.
Q: HOW DO YOU EMPTY THE COMPOSTER?
Turn the composter so the door is facing down. Pull open the door and let the compost fall out onto a trash bag. You’ll notice that the compost will be in two parts. One part will be a finer mix that you can sift and use in potting mixes. One part will be a coarser mix that you can use around outdoor plantings or in the garden.
You can also use a small amount of finished compost to start your next batch.
That was A LOT of information on how to use a composter.
I hope it was helpful and don’t forget to add any tips you have in the comments so we can all be the very best composters possible.
On a side note. I mentioned to my mother yesterday that we were starting to compost and she told me that my father had a compost pile in the back yard when I was younger. So I guess now that we are composters?
We’re just continuing on with a family tradition.