Barrel Composter Advice
I belong to a community garden of 13 plots, each the size of a parking space. We have not had goodluck with the traditional composter where you put material in the top. We would like to get a barrel composter that needs to be turned. We have about 500 to spend, and recomendations. Our garden is in San Diego.
Morwen gave you some very good information and I agree with the advice about periodic turning and watering. We've been composting for years in a bin type composter, but we live in a suburban area and that was a good type for us. We use a specific compost turner thingy with a collapsible prong. I'm citing a supplier in Vermont for the tumbler type of composter you're looking for. Using the information you might be able to find a similar one nearer to where you live.
I've been buying from Gardeners Supply since the early 1980s. Even if you don't buy from them, I have found their information is always the most current and dependable. Their trial gardens and community enrichment programs are legendary.
Were you physically turning the compost in your original pile? We don't have any sort of composter appliance. We just have piles. But when we add to the piles, we fork the new stuff into the old stuff to mix it up. Make sure what you add is somewhat chopped up. Large pieces of new material will slow it down. In addition, we have sturdy tree limbs jammed into the pile at intervals to allow air to get into the center and occasionally water it as well. The compost needs a little air and moisture to keep the bacteria happy. We mix in fresh horse manure to get the heat going and in about 4-6 weeks a pile is done composting. From there we screen it into plastic garbage cans and allow it to cure a little before using.
My husband did an experiment earlier this year using a plastic barrel to roll the compost but he said rolling it wasn't as efficient as forking it because the stuff inside rolled around but didn't mix. It definitely created heat and was working but it also created a lot of bad smell, while the open piles never smell.