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Mar 23, 2011 01:22 PM

New Compost Tumbler: no action at all

I've been very excited about my new tumbler....started it up with Liriope clippings and dead flower stalks and dried leaves. Continued w/ pulp from weekly juicing. No action. Decided I didn't have enough brown and added shredded newspaper. Still nothing. Bought "compost starter" from Lowe's (appears to be fish meal) and sprinkled it in. Nada. I turn it 2-3 times a week.

I started it in South Carolina around the first of March. We are having balmy 80 degree weather today and the stuff in the bin looks just like it did when I put it in there. Smells OK, I see a few bugs, that's about it.

Ideas? Thanks.

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  1. I don't have the tumbler version, just the old-fashioned bin, but wouldn't expect action this quick. The starter does help heat things up quicker. How 'bout some grass clippings? Our takes a good couple of months to really decompose, though.

    1. There's just one thing missing from your scenario: patience.

      Regardless of all the hypey advertising, all those compost tumblers do is speed up compost production SOMEWHAT. You're not going to have finished compost in 3 weeks. In fact, the very earliest I'd expect to "maybe" see results - weather & turning dependent - would be more like 3 months.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Breezychow

        no kidding? some of the online sites I looked at said you ought to feel heat coming off the thing in as little as 2 weeks.

        So, should I stop putting stuff in it til it does something? We really wanted to feel like all that leftover pulp from the juicing wasn't going totally to waste. Maybe I need to start making carrot (pulp) cake muffins or something. thanks!

        1. re: danna

          I have other gardening friends in your neck of the woods and even though it's warm this week, the ground temperature is still pretty cool. Wait til things warm up a little more and it should begin to heat up. (keep adding stuff)

          1. re: sunshine842

            Agree--keep adding stuff, but give it time, especially when nighttime temps drop.

          2. re: danna

            Yes, you'll feel "heat" in the compost in as little as a week, but all that means is that it's "cooking" - not that it's close to being "done". When it's finished the end product should be dark & crumbly with no offensive odor - just a sort of earthy smell. And you shouldn't be able to make out any of the original ingredients.

        2. Not warm enough. It snowed yesterday in NY. Give it time and some water.

          1. Definitely time. It also needs to be damp. If it's dry in there give it a sprinkle but don't soak it. Coffee grounds seem to help move it along too. Get some from your favorite diner or coffee shop. Starbucks gives them away too.

            2 Replies
            1. re: morwen

              do coffee grounds count as "green" or "brown"? I think I may need more brown. I have lots of newspapers, but I'd rather compost something without chemicals , all else being equal.

              1. re: danna

                +1 on the coffee grounds. We haunted Starbucks for weeks--added over 100 pounds of grounds directly into the raised beds (our soil is super alkaline), but put about 10 lbs. into the compost, too. Smelled heavenly!

            2. Here, check these links.

              1st link is a review of various composting systems and how they work:

              2nd link is a Compost Troubleshooting Guide:

              Hopefully these can help you with your issue and continue better compost management.