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Which is best, a vertical or horizontal compost tumbler?

Photo by Kelly Ishmael from StockSnap

No serious gardener would be without compost. Compost is an essential ingredient in successful gardening as its use helps to build a good soil structure which in turn allows the soil to retain nutrients, moisture and air amongst other benefits.

Compost can be purchased from a wide array of retailers from garden centers to supermarkets and DIY stores; but more serious gardeners are increasingly making their own compost.

What makes up compost?

Compost is made up of certain organic materials which decomposes over time. The decomposition process provides important nutrients and moisture to the soil and can include materials such as vegetable peelings, used teabags, grass cuttings and pruned plants, fruit waste and falling leaves. To each his own: http://www.homegrown.org/forum/topics/2263119:Topic:2275?commentId=...

Things that shouldn’t go into compost include rotting meat, dairy products, animal waste or plants with disease. Composting with perennial weeds can also cause a problem as the seed-heads can spread unwanted weeds into other areas. 

There’s a balance to successful composting and getting the right mix of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ composting materials can take some effort to get right. Here's another tutorial you can check out: http://www.homegrown.org/video/how-to-make-compost

How do I set up for composting?

A good-sized outdoor space is required if creating a composting pile and a bin is recommended to contain composting materials. Just leaving a pile exposes the pile to the elements so it might be blown by wind or become contaminated with foreign matter which will compromise the quality of the compost.

It might also begin to smell bad depending on the materials used to construct the pile so using a composting bin is perhaps the best solution as it will contain odors as well as protect the pile from any outside contamination.

While a bin can be practical, a compost tumbler can make the process easier with less effort on the part of the gardener; here’s a quick look at both vertical and horizontal compost tumblers.

Benefits of a compost tumbler

Using a simple bin means the gardener still has some work to do to agitate the composting materials in order to accelerate the composting process, aerate the compost and to ensure the balance of the mix stays at a good level. This can be hard work without the correct tools for the job. However, the use of a compost tumbler can make light work of such a task, leaving the gardener free to do other work.

But which one is better? Vertical or horizontal compost tumbler?

A vertical compost tumbler works by having a container affixed vertically around a horizontal axle. This allows the container to spin end-to-end, mixing the composting contents well and ensuring a constant aeration and decay.

Depending on the height of the tumbler, it can be easier to empty as a wheelbarrow can be placed directly under the container. However, a vertical compost tumbler may not be able to contain the weight or capacity of a horizontal tumbler as a heavier mix may be more difficult to rotate through the spin axis (source).

A horizontal compost tumbler is usually a roll-able container set on a base at ground level. These containers can often bear more weight and capacity than vertical compost tumblers while retaining relative ease or rotation.

However, due to their lack of height they can prove more awkward than vertical counterparts to empty as the contents can’t be tipped out of the drum but require physical removal through a relatively small access.

There are a lot of compost tumblers and bins on the market, and making an informed choice can be difficult. Considerations such as the gardener’s health, the ease of spinning or tumbling when full, the capacity of the container and more are just some factors to consider when deciding whether to make your own compost. For more information on the particular models that are worth your attention, check out this compost tumblers comparison.


Hope you liked this research I made for my neighbors and friends.
Feel free to leave any comments on this, since I'd really appreciate any feedback from fellow gardeners.

with kindest regards, 
- Jane

Views: 666

Comment by Jacob Tenney on August 27, 2020 at 10:12am

Thanks for the post. I am using (in the process of building) a compost bin. I contemplated tumblers but decided to go with a bin first. I'm curious to see how much actual manual tumbling I'll have to do. It's my first compost bin, I'll start with this, then maybe eventually move to a tumbler.  


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