Daily Kitchen Scraps Meets a Full Compost Tumbler
(Strafford, VT, USA)
What do I do with my daily kitchen scraps as I produce compostable material everyday and my tumbler is already full?
This is a problem I continuously have, but haven't yet figured out how to resolve it or manage it properly. I'd appreciate your help.
I have a tumbler composter, thus use a tumbling composting system. I produce compostable material everyday via kitchen scraps and other "brown" material. My tumbler is now full (three quarters), but not, of course, with finished compost. If I keep adding materials I produce everyday in the kitchen, it will not only get too full, thus too heavy to turn, but also, contaminate the earlier much further along compost deposits.
I'd appreciate if someone or anybody in the know can please tell me what the solution is. Thank you.
Steady Kitchen Compost Problems
Hi Leslie, you have the classic compost problem. The issue is you have a steady stream of material to compost but you are trying to do it using a tumbler which is a batch composter.
Tumblers get loaded up and only once they are full do you start the count down for time. You have to stop adding kitchen scraps and let the compost rot for a month or so. Even then your compost still ideally needs a few extra months to cure.
Compost Tumbler Solutions
If you really love compost tumblers and want to use them exclusively then you will ideally buy either a second tumbler or one of the dual compartment tumblers available.
With these once one tumbler or one side of the tumbler is full you start filling the second. By the time it is full in theory the first side should be ready.
Don't forget to give your compost some time to cure. Compost from the tumbler, even once decomposed, really benefits from a few months of sitting still. During this time the beneficial fungi have the opportunity to develop.
Short Term Stockpile
- Hold onto your scraps for 3 or 4 days. During this time turn your tumbler as usual. You are mixing your material together really well. Empty the tumbler - yes I know the material is not yet decomposed - and put it in a pile or possibly even a cardboard box near where you plan to use it to allow it to fully decompose and then cure. This will take 2-3 months or so.
A Kitchen Compost Bin
- If you have a yard of some sort where you
can set up one of those small plastic compost bins you might find it works well for the kitchen compost. I use a small bin which holds about 11 cubic feet of material. I add the kitchen scraps every day or so. It's important to balance your compost with some high carbon material. I use both shredded leaves and shredded paper for that.
By the time the bin is full the material at the bottom will likely be ready to use. I wrestle the bin off the compost and put it in a convenient spot. I then shovel all the still not decomposed stuff back into the bin and use the good stuff. It works well and in truth most people who compost their kitchen scraps use a variation of this method because it's easy.
- If you don't have a suitable place for a small bin you could stockpile your scraps while you're in tumbler limbo. Use a five gallon bucket with a lid. Balance the kitchen scraps with an equal volume of high carbon material and you should avoid the worst of the odour issues.
When the tumbler compost is ready, empty it out. Then just go ahead and dump your bucket into the now empty tumbler.
- I have several pages on Bokashi. It's a method of stockpiling kitchen scraps without huge odour issues. The material ferments in the five gallon buckets. The fermented material needs a second step. I have poured my bokashi treated scraps into my compost tumbler, into my small compost bin and have also buried it in my garden. All seem to work fairly well.
- Another way to handle the steady stream of kitchen scraps is to feed them to compost worms. For successful worm composting you need to buy compost worms and provide them with a home that meets all their needs. That's a whole other story so I think we'll leave it here for now.
Good Luck and I hope this helps.