If you’re serious about gardening, then you’ve at least considered composting. It’s the classic and old-fashioned way to build better soil, foster a healthier ecosystem and, not least, save a little money over the long term. Composting is also a simple and inexpensive way to reduce and reuse kitchen and garden waste.

Gardeners know that success begins with good soil, which produces better and stronger plants, lawns, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Not only does compost improve your garden’s fertility, it also improves the soil’s texture and structure. It adds nutrients, as well as beneficial microbes.

Feeding your garden “naturally” will also save money. By feeding plants with natural and organic product, you improve yield, support healthier plants and reduce or even eliminate the need for chemicals. Higher yields, independent of chemical sprays, are very cost effective.

So how do you make your own compost? Locally, Urban Harvest and the Harris County Extension Service occasionally host compost workshops. Check their schedules to sign up. There is also endless advice online from experts such as Modern Farmer and Rodale.

However, for many people, the idea of a compost pile back behind the garage is golden in theory, but can be a little off-putting in reality. The food scraps you add can attract rats, roaches and other pests. It requires considerable upper-body strength to use a pitchfork to turn the composting materials from time to time. Maybe it stinks a little (or a lot). It can certainly be unsightly.

One answer is a tumbler, which is a container that keeps the compost, well, contained. It requires much less space and can be closed up. This allows heat to build up and produce compost more quickly through the breakdown of organic materials. It also rotates so you can easily spin the tumbler to mix the materials, introduce air and further promote the breakdown process. Some reasons to consider a compost tumbler:

  • Tumblers are easy to turn, even when full. That means no messy piles or backache-inducing turning by hand.
  • They are fully enclosed and secure with sturdy latches – no rodents or pests.
  • A tumbler system heats up fast, which kills weed seeds and helps makes compost faster.
  • Aerator/drainage vents create proper air flow and moisture control for optimal decomposition.
  • The tumbler-style drum keeps compostables off the ground and nutrients in the composter.
  • Finished compost tumbles out into a cart or tub, no shoveling required.

If you have a small garden, you might like the Back Porch ComposTumbler from Mantis. The company provided these general hints for successful composting with a tumbler:

  • Collect a variety of organic waste materials from your yard and garden.
  • Be sure to include a mix of both nitrogen (green) and carbon (brown) ingredients for good balance. For a full list of what to compost, click here.
  • Do not add products that have been treated with chemical fertilizers or pest control products.
  • If you have bulky items, such as corn cobs, melon rinds, or shrub clippings, shred before composting.
  • Fill the compost tumbler with compostable ingredients, close the door. Turn the tumbler four or five times. Be sure to turn it daily.

If you get the right mixture of ingredients and turn your tumbler regularly, you can expect to have your first batch of compost ready in as little as four weeks. The variation depends on the temperature in your garden and the mix of composting materials you use.