The Breakdown on Composting

I’ve always set up composting in my yard and loved it.  I’m a self proclaimed lazy gardener, or maybe just a bit of an unorganized gardener.  I like to do things as simple and easy as possible in the least amount of time. I do learn from experience and what seems to work best.  Different areas and homes have different needs and ways to accommodate.  The past two homes I lived in, made it easy to just set up an open compost area. I love to share what I can to help others on their composting journey. 

The first compost pile I had was under a tree in the corner of our yard with tree trunk stumps encircling the area.  We loved it.  The chickens loved it as well.  It was good times for my youngest son and I to dig in with our shovels and turn it over. The gardeners would throw in some grass and trimmings and it was easy for us to walk out and throw our scraps in the pile.  We didn’t cover it or anything.  It was easily accessible and throwing the enriched compost soil into the wheel barrow and taking it around to our garden areas worked well.

The next transition house, had a smaller area behind the garage and didn’t provide as much fun for us, so we didn’t use that as much. It was also open air. Our garden wasn’t as big, either. Yet, I didn’t like wasting scraps and throwing them in the trash.

Both open air compost piles never seemed to cause a rodent nor pest problem for us.  I have heard of other friends in the city having pests from their piles.  I”m not sure if we were lucky or what. 

In this home we are in now, my husband and older son didn’t like the idea of an open air compost pile in our backyard. They also didn’t want to get chickens again.  There was way more poop than we’d ever imagined.  My younger kids and I loved the chickens. It did break our heart when our favorite turned out to be a rooster. That’s another story. They wanted our yard to look a little more tidy and not as bohemian garden girly?  Who knows?  I like the flow of a complete garden with the compost as well to help provide good, healthy soil for our veggies and fruits.  We had been wasting scraps for a while and it just didn’t feel right to me.  I always saved our coffee grains and eggs shells and would just throw out on garden and plant areas, as it accumulated counter top in my kitchen. Yet, I was ready to keep recycling and not wasting our wonderful scraps. I also knew my garden would thrive with some good compost to add throughout the seasons.

I decided to look into self contained composters. I looked into some of my homesteading resources to see what would be best for us. It was very overwhelming for me to pick one, and also stay within a decent budget.  When I was researching, of course everything that seemed worthy enough to purchase, also came with a big ticket price.  So, budget was one of the first priorities for my search to narrow down.  I also knew that looking at all the smaller composters, didn’t seem to offer usability.  The openings for adding in scraps and taking out, didn’t even look like they’d fit a shovel.  Some had wheels, to roll it over to the garden when ready.  It still seemed awkward to get the soil out when ready. I also wanted to make sure the material was not going to be harmful to the breakdown of the scraps and trimmings to my organic garden. So, I wanted to make sure it was BPA free, as well. 

 I settled on a Mantis Compost Tumbler.  I figured it was still about $200 plus tax and I got free shipping, since my local stores were sold out.  I guess quarantine got all sorts of people gardening. I decided the bigger opening and lid that could come off completely would help me out. I chose the bigger size that didn’t have wheels and figured since the barrel rolled around, I could just dump it into the wheel barrow. It didn’t look bad, either.

Now that I have it, I do prefer the open air compost pile in my yard over the Compost Tumbler. First, I thought I got the wrong item.  It was in a flat box, which was a warning that I was going to have to invest some time into putting it together. That was a chore within itself and I would’ve preferred to use my time gardening than assembling.  It sat for a while, and I hired someone to put it together for me.  I was not in the mood to tackle that.  After sitting for a awhile, it was finally up and looked very nice in the yard.

 We didn’t have an odor problem before, but this tumbler is not that pleasant for smells.  And when I open up to add scraps, all kinds of gnats and bugs fly out.  It also leaks juice out of the bottom.  The other thing I hadn’t considered was the time frame of the scraps turning into a wonderful composted soil to use.  It takes about two weeks to break down and become more soil ready, yet, I am adding scraps daily and didn’t think about how that would effect it being ready to use.  In my open air compost, I could use the bottom of the pile when needed and keep turning the rest for rotation.  With the tumbler, I seem to need to stop adding scraps in order to let it mature?  I don’t want to buy another to have to rotate batches.  I am not sure  if there were other tumblers that had two chambers, and if so, they probably were a bit more costly.

If I had to choose between buying a Compost Tumbler or having an open compost pile, I would stick with the open pile.  When we had wood stumps all around the pile, I liked the look and ease of it all.  It was easier to rotate the soil.  It was less work to just throw scraps into the pile and easier for the gardener to add the grass and trimmings. If I had to have a tumbler, I would make sure there was a slide opening to add scraps easily and another, bigger opening to have access to remove and use the soil.  I would also need to have two chambers to rotate scraps as one batch brewed and the other was available to continue recycling scraps. I am thankful I am no longer wasting scraps. 

Those are the things I’ve encountered and decided were most important to share.  If you have any other comments to add, that may help others or your own personal experience, please feel free to share below.  It’s always lovely to hear other’s stories to help keep garden life moving forward.  Homesteading can be done even in the city and small areas and I encourage everyone to do what they can.  It is so rewarding.

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