How To Compost In A Barrel

When you are first starting out with composting, you need to get the proper ratio of “green” to “brown” material. Greens (also known as nitrogen) would be things like veggie scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and manure. Browns (also known as carbon) would be things like leaves, straw, wood chips, saw dust, and paper shreds. When you start composting an ideal ratio would be 30 carbon:1 nitrogen.

Whatever you are composting you want it to be as small as you can possibly get it. For example if I had an old dead log I wouldn’t just throw it whole onto the compost pile, I would put it through a wood chipper to get smaller pieces. Even with leaves you can get smaller pieces by running the leaves over with a vehicle to get them all crumbly. The smaller the pieces the faster it will compost.

When you are first starting out, it could be beneficial to add in a few handfuls of already composted material every 8 inches and dampen it with water. It should be damp enough to be compared to a wrung out sponge, wet enough that you can tell it’s wet, but dry enough that when you squeeze it no water comes out.

When composting in a barrel it’s important to add that you will still need to be able to turn it. Don’t fill your barrel to the top with compost, instead fill to about the 3/4 point. Once your barrel reaches the 3/4 point you should screw on the lid(make sure that there are aeration holes) of the barrel and roll it around weekly to turn it.

How to tumble your barrel

Be careful when tumbling your barrel to avoid personal injuries or damaging the barrel itself. To tumble the barrel stand on one side and start by rocking it back and forth. Once you have built momentum the barrel should start rocking harder, once you have finished tumbling your barrel check to make sure that the aeration holes are clear and set the barrel back down. Instead of doing it manually you can create your own compost tumbler by doing something similar to the video below:

If you didn’t want to make your own there are lots of tumbling composter options online for you to choose from. Here are just a few options that I found:

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Image from
Image from

I hope that this was a helpful post for those of you who want to start composting in a barrel! Thank you for reading!


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