Compost tumbler

Would you believe what a compost tumbler costs today?  About $200 or more. Jeez.

But you can build one for about $35, and that’s my idea of a good time. The first thing to do is locate a 55-gallon plastic drum on Craig’s List. For some reason they keep popping up there. Or you can check with local soda distributors who use them for storing syrup and then give them away. Or, you can do the Taoist thing and forget about it for now.

 Once the drum is in hand, the next step is to build what’s called a sawbuck. These are easy and cheap to make, and are used to cut logs in smaller lengths. Do it my way or look it up on the Internet (my feelings won’t be hurt, and I won’t come after your firstborn). You’ll need four 4-foot lengths of 2-by-4s to be joined into Xs such that one end of each X rests on the ground and the other cradles your 55-gallon drum. Depending on your drum, and how high you want it, the Xs will be joined roughly at their centers. Use carriage bolts, washers, and nuts, which means drilling a hole. If that means buying an electric drill, do it. It’s too valuable a tool not to have.

Now join the lower legs of the two Xs, set about 2 feet apart, with  a wide board or section of plywood, screwed into each leg tightly. Your sawbuck should stand there nicely now with hardly a wobble. Now set your drum on the upper legs, and mark where the drum meets each upper leg. On each of these four spots mount a ball caster. Lay the drum in its cradle to make sure it rolls comfortably.

Now cut a door in the drum with a circular saw (another priceless tool). This should be at least the width of a shovel wide and a foot tall. Fasten the door back in place with two hinges on the botton, and a hasp latch on top. (You may find the door flattens out, whereas the drum doesn’t, so you can screw in some mending plates about halfway up to fix this. (Am I making sense here? If not leave a note.)

 You can attach a handle to one end of the drum, but I just roll it by hand. All you do is dump (or delicately place) all your compost raw material in the open door, wet it just right, and close the door. Turn the drum every day or so.

 And there you have it. Take your spouse out to dinner with the money you just saved.

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About lifegrower

Peter V. Fossel has been gardening since he was nine, and has been an organic farmer for the last 20 years. His most recent book, “Organic Farming, Everything You Need to know” was published by Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, 2007. He’s written numerous gardening articles for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Country Journal, Out Here, and American Profile among others. He was Gardens Manager for The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee before returning to Cape Cod to start his newest organic venture, Swan River Farm in Dennisport, MA.
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