Making great compost takes a lot of trial and error. During different seasons there are different materials available, making it seem like you are constantly relearning how to combine materials to make the compost you had last fall. I have received quite a few questions about making compost using a ComposTumbler. I have reprinted some of them here with my replies. I hope this is helpful.
Q: I would like the ComposTumbler to generate compost with a faster turnaround time. I have a large yard that produces a lot of grass. I also have leaves from last fall. I mix these 2 components, in the ratio suggested, with various bits of vegetable end products, and other suitable materials. It seems I am doing everything “right” but the mixture does not cook down fast enough. A: Adding manure, compost starter or blood meal (found at most garden centers) will help get your compost cooking. Shredding your leaves will also help speed up the process. If you do not have a shredder, run over them with a lawn mower. I have found that the more chopped up the materials are the faster it composts. Don’t forget to turn your tumbler 5 complete rotations once a day.
Q: My compost is a “mushy, gummy mess” and smells bad. Isn’t it suppose to smell like earth?A: Yes, it is supposed to smell like earth. It sounds like there is too much green fresh material. Your compost in the Tumbler should be a combination of fresh green material (nitrogen-N) and dead brown material (carbon-C) with a ratio of 4:1. There should be four parts fresh green material to one part dead brown material. Some examples of green materials are green grass clippings, kitchen waste, and fresh weeds. Examples of brown material are straw, dead leaves and sawdust. Try adding chopped straw or shredded dry leaves to the “mushy, gummy mess”. This will help with aeration and bring the C:N ratio to where it should be, as well as get rid of the smell.
Q: I am getting clumping in my compost.A: I have found that there are a couple materials that clump – fresh grass clippings and hay. Adding these materials by spreading in a thin layer as opposed to throwing in a clump seems to help. I also keep a hoe nearby to chop up clumps if I notice them forming. If clumps are already formed, try breaking apart what you can and adding wood chips. The wood chips will break down very slowly, but will help with aeration.