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Questions about my new tumbler

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Questions about my new tumbler Empty Questions about my new tumbler

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 2/23/2023, 9:25 pm

So I got most of the material from my old, inadequate compost bin into the new tumbler earlier this week, and have been turning it 3 times a day since then.  I've been measuring the temp and was hoping to see it heat up but it really hasn't (the max I've seen is 77°F), so I have some questions..... Wink

I apologise in advance for the length of this post, but I really feel quite at sea here; I thought all I had to do was get the material into the tumbler, turn it enough, and it would get cooking, but that doesn't seem to be happening.  Making matters worse, I'm in a hurry for compost; I need to get about 85 gallons of it into my winter storage area before the end of June.

  1. I noticed as I was moving the material across that it's already partly decomposed; I could see some avocado skins (and pits, of course -- some of which were sprouting!) but there weren't many pieces of veges in it. (see first photo, below)  I know this is good news, but OTOH the colour isn't dark brown / black which makes me think there is sawdust (which I was using as my main brown in the old bin) which hasn't yet decomposed.  This makes me think that if I were to put it in a garden bed right now it would compete with the plants for nitrogen, right?  If so, it seems I should add some nitrogen and I'm thinking about blood and bone instead of fresh greens which would take time to break down (again, I'm in a hurry here).
  2. Assuming I should add some blood and bone, the next question is in what form.  I have a liquid product called Nitrosol which is NPK 8:3:6 but have hesitated on this because the material felt moist (I think like a wrung-out sponge), so I figured adding moisture was not called for.  However, I wonder if perhaps I'm wrong on the moisture level because there hasn't been any liquid dripping out the bottom of the tumbler???  I was also wondering if I could perhaps put the Nitrosol into the bin undiluted (the usual dilution rate is 1%), so adding the minimum of moisture; after all, we're not worried about it burning plants here!  Or I could go and buy some powdered blood and bone.
  3. I also have a few questions about turning it.  As I said, I'm doing it 3 times a day.  It's pretty hard work, so I count the drum rotations, and I'm doing 5-7 each time.  Is this enough?  Should my sessions be longer?  Should I do more than 3 per day?
  4. I've noticed that whilst the material does often move while I'm turning the drum, it doesn't always, and it actually doesn't fall down inside the drum when it's not turning -- the material is in the same place when I come back for the next session.  Is this a problem?  Does it maybe point to the material being too dry?
  5. I've also noticed that the vents (which aren't very big -- only 1"x2", and 4 per internal section, see second photo) have got compost in them now, which can't be helping to get oxygen into the drum.  I tried to clear the only 2 that are high up enough to get to, but they just got back to the same state after the next turning.  Is this a problem?  If I maybe open the lids each turning session (obviously not while turning!) might this make up for it?
  6. I was also wondering, about the cyclone-damaged leaves which our big tree is still dropping everywhere: do they count as browns?  Or does the fact that the tree clearly hasn't had the time to withdraw all the chlorophyll from them make them greens?


Again, I'm really sorry for all these questions, but I'd be incredibly grateful for any pointers/advice here. Very Happy


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Post  OhioGardener 2/24/2023, 8:32 am

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:So I got most of the material from my old, inadequate compost bin into the new tumbler earlier this week, and have been turning it 3 times a day since then.  I've been measuring the temp and was hoping to see it heat up but it really hasn't (the max I've seen is 77°F), so I have some questions..... Wink

Why are you turning it 3 times a day? When does the compost sit to build heat?  I turn my composters when I add new material, or when it has reached temp around 150F or higher. Otherwise it sits to compost.

OTOH the colour isn't dark brown / black which makes me think there is sawdust (which I was using as my main brown in the old bin) which hasn't yet decomposed.  This makes me think that if I were to put it in a garden bed right now it would compete with the plants for nitrogen, right?  If so, it seems I should add some nitrogen and I'm thinking about blood and bone instead of fresh greens which would take time to break down (again, I'm in a hurry here).

I wouldn't use blood & bone meal - the bone meal will do nothing for composting, and the blood meal is an expensive alternative. If using blood meal, use dry pure blood meal not a blended fertilizer.  A better alternative is something such a free coffee grounds from Starbucks, or Alfalfa Meal.


I also have a few questions about turning it.  As I said, I'm doing it 3 times a day.  It's pretty hard work, so I count the drum rotations, and I'm doing 5-7 each time.  Is this enough?  Should my sessions be longer?  Should I do more than 3 per day?

Too many times.  Once a day maximum, about 4 to 5 rotations.


  1. I've noticed that whilst the material does often move while I'm turning the drum, it doesn't always, and it actually doesn't fall down inside the drum when it's not turning -- the material is in the same place when I come back for the next session.  Is this a problem?  Does it maybe point to the material being too dry?
  2. I've also noticed that the vents (which aren't very big -- only 1"x2", and 4 per internal section, see second photo) have got compost in them now, which can't be helping to get oxygen into the drum.  I tried to clear the only 2 that are high up enough to get to, but they just got back to the same state after the next turning.  Is this a problem?  If I maybe open the lids each turning session (obviously not while turning!) might this make up for it?
  3. I was also wondering, about the cyclone-damaged leaves which our big tree is still dropping everywhere: do they count as browns?  Or does the fact that the tree clearly hasn't had the time to withdraw all the chlorophyll from them make them greens?


1. Is it too dry? Test it to find out. Grab a handful of it (wear a glove is your are squishy about handling it) and squeeze it. It should be moist with a drop or two coming out of it. If more liquid than a drop or two, it is too wet. If there is no liquid coming out, it is too dry and needs some moisture added.  (Related to comment above, if you add coffee grounds for nitrogen, it will add moisture.)

2. The vents should open as they go towards the top of the drum, and then will be covered again when on the bottom, correct?  I don't have any experience with that problem, though, since my tumbler has the vents on the end and not on the main bin.

3. They are probably mostly browns.  The C:N ratio of leaves is generally 30-80:1, and I would guess those leaves are on the low end of that ratio.

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Post  sanderson 2/24/2023, 2:05 pm

Wayne has pretty much answered your good questions. The only thing I want to chime in on is don't turn every day. Let the microbes do their job.

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Questions about my new tumbler Empty Re: Questions about my new tumbler

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 2/24/2023, 8:35 pm

Thank you both so much for your replies, I was feeling a bit silly but I'm so glad I reached out for help Smile


OhioGardener wrote:Why are you turning it 3 times a day? When does the compost sit to build heat?  I turn my composters when I add new material, or when it has reached temp around 150F or higher. Otherwise it sits to compost.



OH!!!  Embarassed   I thought turning it introduced oxygen, and after sitting for months in a pretty airless heap in the old bin I figured I should be doing it lots!  In fact I thought I read somewhere that 5x per day was ideal and was feeling a bit lazy....  Very happy to do it less Smile


I wouldn't use blood & bone meal - the bone meal will do nothing for composting, and the blood meal is an expensive alternative. If using blood meal, use dry pure blood meal not a blended fertilizer.  A better alternative is something such a free coffee grounds from Starbucks, or Alfalfa Meal.
1. Is it too dry? Test it to find out. Grab a handful of it (wear a glove is your are squishy about handling it) and squeeze it. It should be moist with a drop or two coming out of it. If more liquid than a drop or two, it is too wet. If there is no liquid coming out, it is too dry and needs some moisture added.  (Related to comment above, if you add coffee grounds for nitrogen, it will add moisture.)

Oh it's definitely too dry in that case.  I haven't yet done the test, but I'm 99% certain there won't be any drops of liquid coming out.  Oops.......  Will go and talk with the local coffee-in-a-van vendor.

2. The vents should open as they go towards the top of the drum, and then will be covered again when on the bottom, correct?  I don't have any experience with that problem, though, since my tumbler has the vents on the end and not on the main bin.

Hmmm, sounds like a better location for the vents Rolling Eyes   All I know is as they come around during the turning they always have little bits of stuff poking out of them.  Guess I'll put an old knife outside and clear them post-turning each time.

thanks

Oops, one more question.  How often would you measure the temp?
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Post  OhioGardener 2/25/2023, 8:07 am

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:OH!!!  Embarassed   I thought turning it introduced oxygen, and after sitting for months in a pretty airless heap in the old bin I figured I should be doing it lots!  In fact I thought I read somewhere that 5x per day was ideal and was feeling a bit lazy....  Very happy to do it less Smile

I suspect they meant 5 rotations a day, not rotate 5 times a day.

Hmmm, sounds like a better location for the vents Rolling Eyes   All I know is as they come around during the turning they always have little bits of stuff poking out of them.  Guess I'll put an old knife outside and clear them post-turning each time.



Oops, one more question.  How often would you measure the temp?

Both the old ComposTumbler I originally had, and the Jora compost tumblers I currently use have the vents on the end so that when the tumbler is parked there is one vent on top and one on the bottom. They never plug because they are on the end and compost falls off of them.  I assumed they make all tumblers this way because it is all I have had.
Questions about my new tumbler Compos12

I check temp periodically to see if it needs attention. If it isn't heating up when it should have, I add more greens. If it is hot I make sure it gets rotated to spread out the microbial activity. If it has been consistently hot, but is cooling down I know that it is about finished and can be moved to the storage bin if the tumbler is needed to start a new batch.  No particular schedule.

Even when it is in the 30's outside, the inside of the tumbler can get very warm.
Questions about my new tumbler Compos13

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 2/25/2023, 6:02 pm

OhioGardener wrote:
KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:I thought I read somewhere that 5x per day was ideal and was feeling a bit lazy....  Very happy to do it less Smile

I suspect they meant 5 rotations a day, not rotate 5 times a day.

lol!   Oops... Embarassed

Both the old ComposTumbler I originally had, and the Jora compost tumblers I currently use have the vents on the end so that when the tumbler is parked there is one vent on top and one on the bottom. They never plug because they are on the end and compost falls off of them.  I assumed they make all tumblers this way because it is all I have had.

It does seem a better design, but perhaps once my mixture is wet enough it'll clear them better and anyway I can always manually clear with the old knife.  Thanks for the photo, it's good to know mine aren't terribly tiny.  Seems like so long as the ones on top are clear there'll be about the same area of vent holes in mine as in yours, since it has twice as many.


I check temp periodically to see if it needs attention. If it isn't heating up when it should have, I add more greens. If it is hot I make sure it gets rotated to spread out the microbial activity. If it has been consistently hot, but is cooling down I know that it is about finished and can be moved to the storage bin if the tumbler is needed to start a new batch.  No particular schedule.

Even when it is in the 30's outside, the inside of the tumbler can get very warm.

WOW!!!  Holy cow, you're not kidding.  Of course, the Jora is insulated whereas mine isn't, but then we don't get down to freezing here (ever -- let alone in summer/autumn).  Thanks for the pointers: something to live by  Very Happy
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Questions about my new tumbler Empty Reotemp Thermometer Question

Post  Jjean59 3/8/2023, 10:30 am

OhioGardener wrote:
KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:OH!!!  Embarassed   I thought turning it introduced oxygen, and after sitting for months in a pretty airless heap in the old bin I figured I should be doing it lots!  In fact I thought I read somewhere that 5x per day was ideal and was feeling a bit lazy....  Very happy to do it less Smile

I suspect they meant 5 rotations a day, not rotate 5 times a day.

Hmmm, sounds like a better location for the vents Rolling Eyes   All I know is as they come around during the turning they always have little bits of stuff poking out of them.  Guess I'll put an old knife outside and clear them post-turning each time.



Oops, one more question.  How often would you measure the temp?

Both the old ComposTumbler I originally had, and the Jora compost tumblers I currently use have the vents on the end so that when the tumbler is parked there is one vent on top and one on the bottom. They never plug because they are on the end and compost falls off of them.  I assumed they make all tumblers this way because it is all I have had.
Questions about my new tumbler Compos12

I check temp periodically to see if it needs attention. If it isn't heating up when it should have, I add more greens. If it is hot I make sure it gets rotated to spread out the microbial activity. If it has been consistently hot, but is cooling down I know that it is about finished and can be moved to the storage bin if the tumbler is needed to start a new batch.  No particular schedule.

Even when it is in the 30's outside, the inside of the tumbler can get very warm.
Questions about my new tumbler Compos13
Can this thermometer also be used to check soil temps in the garden?
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Post  OhioGardener 3/8/2023, 4:03 pm

Jjean59 wrote:

Questions about my new tumbler Compos13
Can this thermometer also be used to check soil temps in the garden?

 Not effectively.  It is much better to use a soil thermometer with a 6" probe instead of a compost thermometer with an 18" probe.

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