*Rotating Composter: Rich Soil 10 Days*
By: TooshieGalore
14 May 2015

Normally, composting requires months. You can speed up the process greatly with a black rotating composter and this recipe for composting beer.

A rotating composter takes up a small footprint in a small garden and spinning it is less work than pitch forking a big pile. But if you're thinking of buying a rotating composter be prepared to shell out some bucks 'cause they are not cheap. I elected to DIY one.

I selected a recycled 55-gallon olive drum. I like this one because it is black and because of its large lid. A black composter keeps the composting bacteria warm, which helps to generate heat, killing unwanted (weed) seeds. The large lid means grass clippings go in and retrieving the processed compost is easy. My drum is 45" tall.

I drilled air holes along the sides of the barrel for air circulation and a few small holes in the bottom for drainage.

I needed a base to hold the drum off the ground during rotation. Pressure-treated 2x6 legs are joined with bolts. Removable pieces interlock in the front and back of the legs adding stability during rotation. Being able to dismantle the base makes it easy to reposition the composter when empty. Plus, I can remove just the front stabilizer and position the wheelbarrow in close, for easy compost emptying. And, when the season is over, everything fits neatly inside the barrel for storage.

Before cutting the vertical legs, decide the correct height for your axel. The correct height is high enough so the barrel rotates freely but not so high that it's unstable. Plan the vertical leg to be tall enough to have at least two to three inches above the axel. My legs are 36" tall. Stabilizers are also 36" long.

I used a 36" long piece of 3/4" galvanized pipe with threaded ends as an axel. A shorter piece of pipe would have worked better but I don't have the tools to cut and thread the ends, so I just have some overhang. A 7/8" paddle bit makes the perfect size hole. Drill holes for the axel in both legs and in both sides of the barrel. Take your time with this and assure your drill stays perfectly parallel to the ground else your axel won't slide straight thru from one side to the other! (…And, if it appears that I might know about this …yep, I messed up the first time!) The height of my axel is 31" above the ground.

An air-circulation chamber is not necessary but I'm going for max air to minimize time to compost. My chamber is a piece of 38" long 4" PVC, because I had scrap, but any size will do. Drill holes for circulation along the chamber. Remember to drill holes on each side for the axel.

Cut a hole in the bottom of the barrel, insert a PVC flange and screw the flange directly into the barrel bottom. The flange on the bottom and the axel near the top keeps the chamber in place inside the barrel, while heavy debris rotates around it. To help break up large pieces of debris I installed a short piece of 3/4" PVC across the chamber. (Notice the black crossbar in the photo above). Cap the PVC so that debris doesn't fall into the chamber.

To assemble, set up the legs and stabilizers on level ground, in the sun. Insert the center chamber into the flange. Pass the axel thru the leg, the drum, and center chamber. Secure each end with a threaded cap. She's ready to work!

I aim to compost as much as I can, as quick as I can. So, I feed composting bacteria a concoction of 1/4 can of beer, 1/4 cup ammonia and 1/4 can of coke cola mixed with five gallons of water. The yeast in the beer and the sugar in the coke feed the bacteria. The concoction will keep for a few weeks - no worries if you don't use it all. I mix and store it in a yard sprayer for quick and easy access.

Primarily, I compost grass clippings. After adding about three inches of clipping to the composter, I add something brown like shredded leaves, about one inch will do. Then spray the concoction to wet everything thoroughly. Rotate the drum two or three times. Repeat as desired. This concoction makes beautiful, rich, live, soil in about 10 days.

Of course, it's better to compost on the ground but a small suburban yard has no room for that. A rotating composter that can cook soil quick is the next best thing. And, oh yeah, Hubby and I bargain over who gets to finish the beer and who gets the cola!


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