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Compost tumbler vs. compost bin: Which is best for my garden soil?

Which is best for my garden soil: compost tumblers or compost bins?

Composting to feed your garden is a great way to turn waste into gardening gold, but should you opt for a tumbler or a bin? The right answer depends on what waste you compost, how much space you have and how often you add to your compost.

Compost tumblers can be attractive-looking and offer an easy way to turn your pile for aeration and mixing. On the other hand, bins generally have larger capacities and can handle waste that takes longer to decompose.

Both offer many benefits to gardeners. Compost tumblers are generally easier to use, while compost bins offer more space and are more versatile.

Compost tumblers

The main feature of compost tumblers is their easy-turning designs, whether by rolling the whole container on the ground, turning a crank or simply giving the container a spin. You can relocate them relatively easily, and their smaller size means you can put them near your garden. 

They’re also a good choice if you don’t want to wait long for rich compost. Most tumblers take around a month to break down waste to form a healthy, crumbly mix. 

Most tumblers range in price from $50-$250 depending on their size, number of drums and materials. 

Compost tumbler pros

A tumbler is a good choice if you don’t want to turn a pile with a pitchfork or if you want a small and simple container. 

  • Compost tumblers take less time and effort to turn, resulting in a well-mixed pile.
  • The closed design means unpleasant smells can’t escape.
  • This is a good entry-level option for first-time composters if you’re comfortable spending a bit more.
  • You don’t need to turn a tumbler as often as you do with a pile or bin.

Compost tumbler cons

While tumblers are convenient and tidy, they have some disadvantages compared to a classic pile or bin. 

  • The cost can be quite high, especially for a larger model.
  • Earthworms can’t help with decomposing. 
  • Tumblers generally don’t heat up as well as a bin, removing this element from the composting process. 
  • It can be awkward to remove finished compost from the tumbler.
  • Turning too often can result in wet clumps rather than an even consistency.

Best compost tumblers

FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter

This simple dual-bin tumbler offers a smaller option with a sturdy design. In addition, the BPA-free recycled plastic offers peace of mind when you feed your vegetables with the resulting compost.

Sold by Amazon

VIVOSUN Outdoor Tumbling Composter

Garden gloves are included with this plastic dual-chamber tumbler, which can be assembled as a single-chamber tumbler. Adjustable air vents offer ideal aeration. 

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Miracle-Gro Small Composter

For the space-limited yard, garden or porch, this 18.5-gallon tumbler can support a small garden or some potted vegetables. The hand-turned system is easy to use, especially with the smaller size. 

Sold by Amazon, Home Depot and Wayfair

Compost bins

One small step up from a ground heap, a bin keeps everything contained and allows heat to help with the process of breaking down your kitchen and lawn waste. Most bins also have an open-bottom design, which allows earthworms to find their way into the pile.

The biggest advantage of bins is their larger capacities, which make them ideal for anyone with lots of food waste or grass clippings. They’re also a bit less expensive with most bins costing from $50-$200.

Compost bin pros

A bin keeps things simple with a basic design that heats up for faster rotting. While they can take a bit more time, the result is a big, healthy heap of garden food. 

  • The higher capacity is better for a large garden or a household with lots of food waste. 
  • Heat plays a major role in composting, and bins tap into this element as well as a pile.
  • Because the pile is still in contact with the ground, beneficial organisms can work their way into the waste to break it down and add nutrients.

Compost bin cons

The main drawback of compost bins is that they work a bit slower and can be less attractive, but there are a few other points worth noting.

  • Turning a bin means reaching in with a pitchfork, which can be awkward with taller bins. You must also turn the pile thoroughly, mixing up the recently added waste to aerate it. 
  • A bin generally can’t be relocated due to the open-bottom design.
  • Because of their larger footprint, you may not have space next to your garden for a bin.
  • The open design allows for pests to get in and maybe even make nests in the pile. Additionally, the bin might smell.

Best compost bins

EWJOX Garden Compost Bin

This BPA-free composter is 80 gallons, which is large enough to support most households. It features a door on the bottom to easily access compost, and the black plastic helps to draw heat. 

Sold by Amazon

GEOBIN Compost Bin

This affordable, no-frills bin is adjustable to fit your capacity needs, topping out at 216 gallons. Vents cover the sides, and the open top allows you to add waste and turn easily. 

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Greenes Fence Cedar Composter

If the look of your garden is important to you, this untreated cedar bin is a good choice with a large capacity. Multiple bins can easily be connected with straightforward construction. 

Sold by Amazon, Home Depot and Wayfair

Should you get a compost tumbler or a compost bin?

A compost bin offers the best way to naturally break down organic waste with the help of earthworms and other organisms. They also have larger capacities, making them a more flexible option than tumblers. 

However, a tumbler may still be a good choice if turning a pile with a pitchfork may be difficult for you. Besides the composting speed of a tumbler, a compost bin is the better choice for most gardeners.


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Peter McPherson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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