As a gardener, you know that compost is black gold to your garden. Fresh nutrient-rich compost will work wonders. It can take a lifeless, dry, nutrient-deprived garden and turn it into a utopia of life but you either have to buy compost, wait on nature to do itself which can take a very long time, or make it yourself to take advantage of it. Since you are here reading this, I assume you want to make it yourself but with a compost bin or a compost tumbler. In this article, I will be breaking down the pros and cons of a compost bin vs a compost tumbler.
What’s the big difference between a compost vs compost tumbler?
The big difference between the two is that one has the ability to tumble the compost while the other does not have that capability. Despite that difference, there are plenty of other factors to take into consideration before investing in either. I will cover the pros and cons of a compost bin vs compost tumbler while taking into account the following factors:
How much can it hold?
A compost bin can hold a greater amount of compost compared to a compost tumbler, therefore giving you the ability to more compost. Most compost bins I found, on average can hold over 100 gallons of compost. Compost tumblers, usually have a capacity of 80 gallons or less. There are a few outliers with compost tumblers but on average a compost bin wins, when it comes to capacity.
Can you move it if need be?
If both are empty, they can both be moved as needed but the compost tumbler has the advantage here. This is because some come with wheels making it easier to move and on average have less capacity for compost, making it lighter if compost was in it. Once a compost bin is set in place, it usually stays there especially if it has compost in it. Even if it is not a lot of compost inside of it, you would have to make two trips when moving it, one to move it and another to get the unfinished compost since compost bins do not have a bottom.
How much space does it take up?
Between the two, they usually take up the same amount of space of 2-6 square feet on average. Something to consider here is that the compost bin is stationary for the most part while a compost tumbler can be moved considering sometimes they have wheels. Therefore, when planning the layout of your garden, keep this in mind.
How will it hold up over time?
The quality of the material used to make the bin and tumbler play a factor. Tumblers usually are usually not just constructed with plastic like many compost bins. What will also make a big difference in durability is the design of the support. So, make sure the legs are sturdy and strong if it has legs. If it has a lid, be sure that it is secure and if there are interlocking corners or connections, look at how they connect to see if it will hold underweight or pressure. After reading several reviews, I found that many people complained the plastic compost bins were fragile and would fall apart but mainly with the bins that came in parts. All in all, I would say the tumbler will have more overall integrity due to the fact it has to hold weight up against gravity more unlike a compost bin that is more so containing weight from the sides.
What functions does it have?
A compost bin and compost tumbler have functions that serve their purpose but a compost bin definitely requires more work. One must put in a little sweat equity to get compost. It requires you to take a compost aerator rod, pitchfork, or shovel to aerate the soil by turning it. Considering, the finished compost is at the bottom of the bin and that is where you must go to retrieve it, you may chip or crack the bin digging in there with a shovel. “If you decided to use something smaller to get the compost out, it will take longer.
A compost tumbler, I found to be easier to use. Usually, there is a handle or groove you can grip to turn the drum to aerate the compost. It can still be difficult to turn, the more compost in the drum causing it to weigh more. Also, it can more convenient to get the compost out. You can easily just reach in to scoop the compost out or put a wheel barrel under it to dump the compost in. Another function of some tumblers is that they have two compartments to have two separate compost doing at the same time instead of one. A tumbler just makes gardening life more convenient.
Will it keep odor away?
Both do a good job with keeping odor at bay but rather than focusing on the compost bin or tumbler, your focus should be on the nitrogen (greens) to carbon (browns) ratios to avoid odor.
Can it stop pests from getting?
A compost tumbler wins when it comes to pest control over a compost bin due to the fact that it off the ground in most cases and in a sealed container. A compost bin is not good for pests control. Borrowing animals or any animal that can dig can burrow underneath to get inside the compost.
How long will it take to make compost?
When it comes to composting time, it comes down to aeration, nitrogen (greens) to carbon (browns) ratio, moisture, and heat. The nitrogen (greens) to carbon (browns) ratio is the main factor you can control in the process in both a compost bin and tumbler. Both will be subject to weather and climate which can play a role in the heat of the compost and moisture. A compost bin will naturally get rid of excess moisture since there is no bottom and a compost tumbler can only do so if it has drainage holes. In terms of aeration, a tumbler is better to extent that you can turn it easier to mix better while a compost bin is harder to turn and constantly getting compressed especially if a lot of waste is in it. The more waste, the longer it will take to break down. Again, a compost tumbler may have two separate drums to have two things of compost going at the same time, allowing you to let one batch break down while starting another.
How much is the investment?
Overall, compost tumblers are more expensive than compost bins when comparing the same capacity amounts. Also, the fact compost tumblers are sometimes built with additional materials other than plastic and have more moving parts make them more expensive than compost bins as well.
In summary, I declare compost tumblers to be better than compost bins for a typical residential garden as a hobby. If one has several large garden beds, a small homestead, or running a small hobby farm; compost bins make more sense because they have a larger capacity to make more compost. You can always use both. Place your compost bin in a central spot in the garden and use a compost tumbler with wheels to get compost elsewhere in your garden. I personally use a plastic tumbler with a base that collects compost tea. I have about 15 grow bags, 5 totes, a 10-12 foot mound, and a 3 x 12 garden bed to use compost in from a 35-40 gallon drum compost tumbler throughout the year.
Below, I have listed several compost bins and tumblers that I feel will make your gardening, homesteading, or farm lifestyle and experiences more efficient and pleasant.
There you have my friend, compost bin vs tumbler bin, it is time for you to get what is best for you and your garden. I hope that your growing season goes well. Keep on gardening, homesteading, and/or farming; it is a great life skill to have and a fun hobby to partake in. Need more resources and/products to help you live a healthy lifestyle? Please visit my healthy lifestyle resource page.
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