How to build a rotary compost tumbler

Written by melanie l. marten
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How to build a rotary compost tumbler
Rotary compost tumblers provide nourishing soil for new plants. (Fishmonk at

Rich, black compost provides nourishing soil for your plants in both vegetable and flower gardens. It also helps save yard and vegetable kitchen waste from landfills and negates the use of chemical fertilisers. Build a rotary compost tumbler in a few simple steps and have a never-ending supply of compost for your yard.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 2x4 inch boards
  • Plastic barrel
  • Galvanised steel fence pole
  • Hinges and hasp
  • Electric saw
  • Electric drill
  • Nails
  • Hammer

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    Build a Rotary Compost Tumbler

  1. 1

    Cut two 8-foot 2x4 wooden boards in half, using a measuring tape to determine the correct place to cut. Cut additional 2x4 wooden boards into lengths approximately 4 to 6 inches longer than the barrel you are using for your rotary compost tumbler. You will need four of these lengths. These boards will create the frame on which the compost container rests.

  2. 2

    Position two of the pieces of wood in an X shape that is slightly taller than it is wide. Use nails or screws to attach it securely at the place where they cross. Do the same thing with another pair of boards so you have two X-shaped structures. Sand any splintery ends if necessary.

  3. 3

    Nail or screw one of the boards that is a bit longer than the plastic barrel near the bottom of each 2x4 cross piece to attach one X-shaped structure to the other. Repeat this on the opposite side. Nail or screw the remaining two boards on opposite sides of the wood directly under where the boards on the side cross to make the X. These pieces add stability to the frame for your rotary compost tumbler.

  4. 4

    Measure each end of the plastic barrel to find the exact centre of each. Use a large drill bit to make a hole on each end just large enough for the metal fence pole to fit through and turn easily. Turn the barrel on its side and use an electric or hacksaw to cut out a rectangular doorway from the side. This opening should be large enough to fit a shovel through.

  5. 5

    Drill small guide holes in two locations at the top of the plastic rectangular door you cut out as well as corresponding holes on the barrel itself. Drill another set of holes at the opposite side of the compost tumbler door for the hasp hardware. Attach the hinges and hasp accordingly to both the door and the barrel.

  6. 6

    Slide the metal pole through the plastic barrel all the way and position it atop the wooden frame. If desired, spray paint the entire structure black or dark green to attract heat and speed up the composting process. Place the rotary compost tumbler outside in your yard or garden and reap the benefits or natural, organic compost.

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