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Compost Tumbler From A Garbage Can

Garbage Can ComposterIf you're like me and save every leaf that falls in the entire neighborhood, you may be looking for a way to speed up your composting. And the best way to do that is with a compost tumbler.

A compost tumbler is just a compost bin that is designed for easy turning. Remember that turning your compost is the best way to let the pile breathe. Don't forget there's billions of microbes in that pile and they're working hard to give you the best garden in town, so pay them back with some air.

Most compost tumblers are a variation of a big drum on rollers with a crank that you can turn. Put your greens and browns in the drum and give it a turn every once in a while. Much easier than climbing into your compost bin with a pitch fork.

My parents own the Urban Compost Tumbler and that's a beautiful piece of equipment but it was like $200. With a few college funds to save up for, I can't spare $200 for something I'm going to be putting garbage into.

And so I decided to build one out of a garbage can. Where's the crank or the easy turning mechanism you may ask? I'm the crank. You may have seen my compost tumbler video where I just roll this thing around my yard. That's all it needs. And a bungy cord keeps the lid in place.

So take a garbage can and drill holes in it. If you're worried about little creatures climbing into your bin, then screen over the holes. It's actually a pretty easy garden project.

I've promised a few people, detailed instructions on how I built this homemade compost tumbler and they're coming in a future post. But in the meantime, I've got to go and roll my garbage can around my yard.


  1. Gina said...
    great idea! i laughed outloud at "i'm the crank".
    Amy said...
    Awesome idea. I was wondering how to do this just the other day.
    Sue Swift said...
    Sorry - I think my comment for this post got itself onto "Garden Tweets" by mistake.
    Matron said...
    Hey! that's brilliant. I just posted a picture of an expensive looking hand cranked compost tumbler being trialled here in the UK. Yours is so simple. Thanks.
    lisa said...
    Let it roll, baby roll...:) Way to get the job done low-cost!
    Anthony said...
    It's okay, comments are welcomed no matter where you put them. :)

    That's a awesome looking tumbler on your site. Looks military, very hard core.

    Low cost is how I roll.
    P~ said...
    Anthony, I love it! Maybe I had a little influence on you with my DIY tumbler last year??? The video was perfect too, straight to the point. Good job.
    Anthony said...
    Yes, I did think about your project when I was brain storming what I wanted to do. Unfortunately I didn't have any old pickle barrels laying around so I went with a garbage can. :)
    Jenna said...
    Well, I feel a bit of an idiot.

    At the moment, my composter IS a drilled garbage can with a lid held on by a bungie. The idiot part comes with the realization that this whole year of standing there like nit shaking this thing when I coulda just kicked it about the drive for a few minutes.

    Hmmmm. Wonder if I can get my soccer mad neighbor kids to look at this as great exercise for game days?
    Rose said...
    What a brilliant idea! I have a very straggly looking compost pile that I don't stir up nearly often enough. I am too frugal (read cheap) to invest in one of the compost tumblers on the market, so I would love to create one of these. Are you really going to explain how you made it? (I'm trying to figure out those neat circular holes...)
    reggieCasual said...
    This really is an awesome way for folks with small spaces to be able to compost. Thanks for sharing.
    Lisa said...
    I came across your site as I was looking for ways to do a cheap composting container. I had actually seen one specifically that I was looking for again where they cut the bottom off of the garbage can, filled it with compost materials, and when time came to mix it, they lifted the can, emptying the compost on the ground, set the can next to the original compost spot, mixed the compost and refilled the bin in the new spot. Now that I typed all of that, sounds like a hell of alot more work than your idea.

    Thanks for posting!
    Anonymous said...
    Great compost bin! I'm new to this and am hoping to make a similar one, now that spring is here (and Earth Day is tomorrow...). However, I live in Chicago and have to make it rodent-proof. Looking forward to reading how you made yours and what kind of screen you use, how it's attached, etc! Thanks!
    Zendelle said...
    Anthony, I made a similar one a few years ago but had it in a frame made of PVC pipe so that it would spin. The problem was the weight of the compost made the frame sag so the can hit the ground and wouldn't spin any more. Never thought of just rolling it around! I also drilled nice big holes like you did, but didn't cover them with screen, guess what, the critters got in there and ATE IT ALL. How do you attach the pieces of screen to the inside of the can? Glue? Staples?
    Anthony said...
    I keep saying that I'm going to post an in depth article about how I made this but I still haven't gotten around to it yet. :(

    But here's the quick version. I drilled the holes with a hole cutting bit on my drill and then covered them with fiberglass screen. The same screen that you'd use to screen in a porch or repair a window screen.

    To attach the screens, I used a regular glue gun with those wax sticks. And a bungee cord helps keep the lid on while I'm rolling it around. Everything seems to be staying together nicely.

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