The Urban Compost Tumbler takes composting to the
Many people have neither the space nor the time to maintain a
traditional compost pile in their backyard. Add that to the growing regulations
concerning compost piles, neighbor complaints, and unwanted pests. Now, for the
urban and suburban gardener, The Urban Compost Tumbler fits nicely
into any lawn or garden setting while providing a unique
patented core aeration system that produces rich dark compost in
Given enough time, virtually all composters and methods will
work to break down food and garden waste into usable compost. However, most of
us do not want to spend an eternity waiting to harvest a usable compost,
especially when we have new materials ready to be added to the compost bin. The
Urban Compost Tumbler addresses the long waiting game by providing a method
for constant turning and aeration. When a compost pile has these two
"ingredients" in abundance, they simply work better and faster. The
reason is that the most efficient bacteria, called "aerobes", need
oxygen to do their work. Without oxygen the aerobes cannot survive and the
anaerobes take over slowing decomposition by as much as 90 percent. Tumbling
further exposes more surface area of the composting material to air, once again,
allowing the aerobic bacteria to flourish.
Below are just a few of the excellent
reasons why so many gardeners and horticulturists are taking advantage of this
- Easy, convenient way to dispose of garden refuse (often prohibited from
- Ideal for growing organic herbs, fruits and vegetables.
- Conserves dwindling landfill space.
- Saves money on fertilizer and other store-bought gardening products.
- A good alternative to chemical fertilizers for parents, pet-owners and
others concerned with safety and health.
- Helps wards off pests and weeds without chemical pesticides or
- Improves plant growth and quality.
- Reduces erosion and nutrient run-off.
- Restores nutrients back into the soil.
- Helps loosen soil and can be used as mulch.
- Breaks-down clay based soils.
The Urban Compost Tumbler (UCT) makes composting practical and
easy for gardeners in just about any urban or suburban setting.
What Makes High-Quality Compost?
High quality compost is compost that is completely "done" and ready to
use. It should resemble soil and have a pleasant, earthy aroma. It should be
easy to spread, not "balled up."
Lower quality compost is more sludge-like and bears a foul odor. It is usually
made of materials that have not fully broken down. Sometimes material that has
stuck together through insufficient aeration and mixing can result in an
unpleasant phenomenon known as "the nitrogen slime ball."
It is important that gardeners avoid using poor quality compost as it can leach
life-giving nitrogen from plants as well as contribute to environmental problems
through the release of excess nitrogen.
A unique feature of The
Urban Compost Tumbler is the center "Aeration
Tube." This tube provides for a method of bringing oxygen right
to the source--exactly where it's needed. In addition, the center aeration tube,
a cross- bar that assists in the break-up and separation of compost as it is
turned, prevents the materials from turning into a ball and just sliding back
and forth when tumbled.
There are four ingredients that are critical for effective composting of all
organic materials: carbon, nitrogen, water and oxygen. The unique core aeration
system of The Urban Compost Tumbler provides the essential oxygen for the
aerobic microorganisms and tool free mixing of the composting materials. This
nearly odorless, fully enclosed composter is ideal for both yard and kitchen
materials. Many cities now ban or are considering banning open compost piles
because of the pest control (e.g. rats, mice, raccoons and insects) and are
tuning to fully enclosed composters like The Urban Compost Tumbler.
Features and Benefits of
the UCT System:
- Ease of
use: No constant turning of compost piles
Central Aeration System: For faster composting time... it's the oxygen
maintenance: No cranks and rollers to get clogged up and no metal parts to
for today's fast paced lifestyle
- Child and
enclosed, off-the-ground unit avoids odor and problems with most composting
- Aids in
moisture control in excessively dry or rainy climates
insulation to aid heating of compost
Portability as the UCT can be moved about your yard
mixing and turning of the compost materials
These dimensions are for the composter
and stand: 32"L x 33"W x 42-1/2"H
These dimensions are for the compost barrel only:
- 38" Tall x 26-1/2" Diameter
- 9.5 Cubic Feet Volume
- 71 Gallon Capacity (7.6 Bushels)
For Calculating the Space Needed to Place a UCT
The base for the UCT's is 32" x 26". Also, you should allow for additional
clearance needed to work around a unit. The 9.5 units are made of 100% recycled plastic,
55% post-consumer and 45% post-industrial. They are Food Grade and UV protected!
Information About Your UCT Composter:
Compost is composed of organic material
ranging from leaves and wood chips to household refuse which, when broken down,
becomes one of nature's best garden fertilizers and richest mediums for potted
plants. It is made up of waste material that is generally high in either carbon
or nitrogen. For more specific information on composting, there are a number of
great books on the market and many good Internet sites to check out. One book we
particularly find helpful is Backyard Composting by Harmonious Technologies.
Search for it on the Internet. Many sites still sell this great book.
The Urban Compost Tumbler
Ease of Operation with No Special Tools or Pitchfork Required
Many people simply do not have the time to turn their compost pile with a
pitchfork every weekend let alone daily. Many of the compost bins on the market
require tools to reach in to turn or remove material. What sets the UCT apart,
even from other tumblers, is its central aeration feature. With tumblers without
this feature, you soon discover that occasionally you need to open them up,
reach inside, and break up the nitrogen slime ball that develops in the center.
With baffles on the sides of the barrel, an aeration tube and cross bars in the
center of the UCT, you avoid this problem. Not only do you get and maintain more
oxygen in your mix, it allows the compost to mix when the tumbler is rotated
rather than just slide back and forth. When fully loaded with damp material,
some tumblers become unstable when rotated. The UCT has an exceptionally sturdy
and stable stand allowing it to be rotated with the heavier loads.
Ease of Maintenance
The UCT does not have rollers, cranks and gears to become clogged and wear
out over time. It is made of primarily food grade and recycled plastic that does
not rust when left exposed to the elements. Speed of operation A real
strength of the UCT and what makes it different than any other tumbler on the
market is how it gets oxygen into the mix. The most efficient microorganisms at
composting are called aerobes and require oxygen to live. Without good aeration,
the aerobes die and the bacteria called anaerobes take over the composting
effort. When this occurs, composting can be slowed up to 90%. This is why the
UCT with its core aeration tube can produce compost faster than practically
anything on the market today. In addition, the UCT allows for higher nitrogen
content than a typical pile would because odor is not a problem. NOTE: When
properly filled and aerated, the UCT will reach temperatures in excess of 130
degrees. Being a fully enclosed unit, the UCT helps smaller batches reach higher
temperatures that are important for speeding the composting process and
destroying unwanted seeds and root structures.
Avoids Pest Control Problems
Depending on what you put in your compost and how well you maintain it, it
is not uncommon to attract a variety of pests. Pests can include stray dogs,
raccoons, rats, mice, opossums and a host of insects. The UCT's lid screws on
and the aeration tube in the bottom is closed with a mesh screen/grate to
prevent rodents and large insects from entering the barrel. Again depending on
the composition of your compost, you can have some forms of active bacteria and
fungus you don't want pets or children around. The UCT is a fully enclosed and
elevated unit that provides a significant safety margin.
Avoids Odor Problems Even with Higher Nitrogen Ratios
Especially within an urban setting, many neighbors object to having compost
piles and bins next to their property due to problems with odors. Even when the
mix is Nitrogen rich (green stuff) which often creates an odor problem, by being
an enclosed unit, the UCT eliminates the problem.
Aids in Moisture Control in Extra Dry or Rainy Climates
Exposed compost piles and bins can become drowned in rainy weather and dried
out in hot climates. Compost exposed to the wind dries quickly slowing
composting. Being an enclosed unit, the UCT is impervious to rain, helps to
retain moisture content in hot weather while protecting the material from the
Provides Insulation to Aid Heating of Smaller Batches
When composting in the open, it is recommended you have a minimum 3' x 3' x
3’ pile to produce proper heating. Heating is an important element in composting
as it helps break down the material while destroying weed seeds and insect
larva. Composting in smaller batches requires more attention to the issue of
compost heating. By being a fully enclosed unit, the UCT provides the insulation
necessary for smaller batches of compost to heat and retain heat longer. Also by
being an enclosed unit, additives such as alfalfa pellets, cotton seed meal,
manure, and other natural ingredients can be added and mixed more easily to aid
in the heating and more rapid composting process.
Portability, as the UCT Can be Moved About Your Yard
Unlike compost piles and most of the composting units on the market, the UCT
(when empty) is portable allowing it to be moved into a shed or onto a patio.
Just slip a drip pan under the barrel to protect any surfaces from drips and
drops and you can compost year around.
Ascetically Fits Into Your Yard
In many urban settings, yards have been carefully landscaped and/or
neighborhood associations have strongly encouraged ascetics. The UCT is an
unobtrusive addition to the yard allowing a full range of composting activities
without having a "barnyard" look, feel or smell.
You can use almost any recipe or formula
for composting in the UCT you like. However, following some basic rules will
help. You need Carbon (brown stuff), Nitrogen (green stuff), Oxygen, Moisture,
and Time in the mix. The degree of attention you give to the materials you use,
the quality of those materials, their ratios in the mix, particle size and
moisture control will all influence the speed of composting and its quality.
What to Compost:
With only a few exceptions, if it is a plant and grows out of the ground or
in the water, you can compost it. All organic material contains carbon and
nitrogen to greater or lesser degrees. Materials high in carbon generally are
brown in color (autumn leaves, straw, dry grass, etc.) and materials high in
nitrogen are frequently green in color (fresh cut green grass, kitchen scraps,
etc.). By weight (not volume), a good rule of thumb is to have roughly equal
amounts of "brown" and "green" material. This is known as the 50/50 rule and
will tend to balance the carbon to nitrogen ratio to the appropriate level. The
optimum ratio by volume is about 30:1 (carbon:nitrogen). Since measuring and
weighing all your material can be tedious, the 50/50 by weight rule is simpler
and usually accurate enough. A reason many people recommend a 30:1 ratio is for
odor and pest control. While a 20:1 or even a 10:1 ratio will typically provide
faster and more nitrogen rich compost, the odor and pests can become a real
problem. Also with higher concentrations of nitrogen, compost may heat more
rapidly burning off the oxygen quicker.
Compost must be turned more
frequently to get oxygen back into the mix when using higher nitrogen ratios. A
real advantage of the UCT is you no longer need to be quite as concerned with
this ratio. Odor and pests are not a problem as the UCT is an enclosed unit and
turning the tumbler daily requires very little effort as opposed to turning a
compost pile. One caution in using higher nitrogen ratios is not allowing the
compost to become too wet. Frequently, with a very high nitrogen content mix, it
can turn into a very unpleasant slug. The moisture content should be equivalent
to the dampness of a wrung out sponge. Another rule of thumb to remember when
mixing material for composting is the more varied the materials, the richer the
compost. When practical, try using a variety of "greens" and "browns" in the
mix. Below is a general guideline of example materials to use and not use in
composting. This will vary based on materials available and the individual's
experience in composting.
Egg shells (crushed)
Fruits or Vegetables
Grass clippings (fresh, not chemically treated)
Manure (from healthy herbivores only)
Weeds (not bearing seeds or with pervasive root
Brown Paper bags (shredded)
Egg shells (crushed)
Dry leaves and grass
Hay (dry - chopped)
Paper plates (non-coated)
Shredded paper (untreated only)
Wood chips or shavings (untreated)
Wood ash (from untreated wood only)
Any plant or wood material that has been chemically
Charcoal or ashes
Cheese or other dairy products
Diseased or insect-infested plants
Fat (oils, grease, etc.)
Manure from dogs, cats, humans or sick herbivores
Treated paper (slick or glossy)
Weeds that have "gone to seed" or with pervasive root
Non-organic material (plastics, styrofoam shipping
How to Compost Using the UCT:
Collect and prepare the material: Gather
together enough "brown" and "green" material to fill your UCT all at once. Using
the 50/50 rule, by weight, use approximately half-green and half-brown material.
For ideal composting results, prepare the material so the particles are
approximately 1/2" to 2" inches or less in size. Cutting up or shredding
material increases the surface area of the material thereby increasing the speed
of composting. For dry leaves and small yard clippings and trimmings, try laying
them out on the lawn and run over them a few times with a lawn mower. For some
of the larger items, consider getting a small yard chipper to run them through
first. The smaller the partial size, the faster it will compost.
Filling the UCT:
It helps to start by leaving a little compost (seasoning) in the barrel from the
time before. Begin putting in equal amounts (by weight) of "brown" and "green"
material. About every 5" to 8" you may want to add a handful of a natural
compost starter, alfalfa pellets, or manure, and then dampen if needed. If you
are using over 25% fresh grass or vegetable scraps, you probably will not need
to add water. If 50% or more of your material is fresh cut grass, consider
letting the grass dry a couple days before putting in the unit to avoid excess
water build-up. When you add water, if possible avoid using chemically treated
water (i.e. municipal water) but instead use natural rainwater. Your mix should
be damp as a wrung out sponge. It should feel wet but you should not be able to
squeeze out water. In climates that are very humid, avoid adding any water.
Being an enclosed unit, water will collect inside the unit from humidity. It is
important to avoid packing the material down too much, as it will impede mixing
when the unit is tumbled. It is IMPORTANT to leave a little empty room in the
barrel to allow mixing. Also remember that a full barrel will turn easier than
when half full. The contents should not exceed about 130 lbs as the unit will be
harder to turn.
While not required, you will get the best results by gathering
up enough varied material and loading the UCT all at the same time:
Batch composting is the most efficient as it allows for rapid heat build up
all at once. It is ok to add material to the UCT as it becomes available, be
aware if you do, the overall composting time will take much longer and you will
not get the same concentrated heating of the compost batch if you add the
material too slowly. Also, continuing to add material to the UCT can be
deceptive since the volume of composting materials can drop rapidly.
Be Careful Not to Keep Putting Material in Until it is Too
Heavy to Easily Turn the Barrel:
We recommend not going over 130 lbs in weight. You can usually tell when you
are approaching or have exceeded this limit as the top of the barrel starts
becoming oval in shape and the lid becomes difficult to get on. Depending on the
materials used and particle sizes, it is not uncommon to have a fully loaded UCT
weighing 100 lbs or more - compost down to 20 lbs that is about 12" to 15" deep
in the bottom of the composter. Empty the compost out and start a new batch.
Composting with the UCT:
Once the unit is filled, screw on the lid (be sure the aeration holes are
(open/clear) and let it sit. At lease weekly, rotate the tumbler 2 or 3 times in
each direction - daily rotation is even better. Remember that oxygen is the key
to rapid composting. Especially during the first week or so, check to be sure
that the material was not packed so tight that it is not mixing when tumbled. If
the material can't move around enough to allow fresh oxygen into the mix,
composting will be slower. Remember to keep an eye on moisture content. If the
material becomes too dry, add water. If it becomes too wet, remove the lid until
it dries some. Having two or more UCT's works even better. In effect, you double
your capacity with two units and cut your composting time in half. Two units
allow you to either load twice as much at one time if you have a lot of
material, or to load a unit every 1-2 weeks to have a more even flow of finished
compost ready for use.
Adding Supplements To Your Compost:
There are good reasons to consider
adding supplements to your compost. The nutrients added to compost are then
added to the soil where you put the compost. For example, we recommend using
only all natural organic supplements like a Compost Activator. An activator
speeds composting while adding nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to the
finished product. Add Prilled Dolomite Lime to the mix to "sweeten" soil when
too acidic. Most plants grow best when the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0.
Dolomite Lime is a good source of calcium and magnesium, two important plant
Pointers & Cautions In Using The UCT:
Setting up the UCT
It is VERY important that the UCT be
setup on a level firm footing. If the unit is sitting with a tilt it can become
unstable when rotated. If set on the ground or lawn, be sure it is level, firm
and dry. If set on a deck, patio, concrete floor, decorative blocks, or similar
material, consider using a "drip pan" beneath the unit to catch occasional
drips. One suggestion is setting the UCT on firmly positioned patio stones or
Loading the UCT
The principle behind the UCT is to fill it all at once and produce a compost
batch fast… empty and repeat the process. A lot of small batches faster is the
key to effectively using just about any tumbling composter. The UCT can do
batches gather over time but it will take much longer to compost. The content of
the UCT should not exceed 130 lbs. Usually a balanced load of green and brown
material weigh does not weigh this much, however when adding large amounts of
water, vegetables/fruits, green manure and the like, it could exceed the weight
limit. While a little additional weight may not hurt the UCT, it will become
more difficult to turn for some people. You can usually tell when you are
approaching or have exceeded this limit as the top of the barrel starts becoming
oval in shape and the lid becomes difficult to get on.
Tumbling/Rotating the UCT
Care must be taken when rotating (tumbling) the barrel to avoid possible
personal injury or damage to the unit. To rotate, stand to one side and begin
"rocking" the barrel back and forth a couple times to build momentum. Then as
the barrel swings forward, using the force of the momentum of the barrel, "push
down" to complete the rotation. It is important you push down on the barrel and
NOT outward or sideways. Pushing outward may cause the unit to tip over and
lateral (sideways) movement may cause damage to the stand. The UCT is easier to
turn when full rather than when just partially filled. The barrel turns around
the center shaft so the more weight you have on both sides of the shaft (top vs.
bottom), the more "in balance" the barrel is. However, you do not want to fill
the barrel to the very top as you need some space to allow for mixing. Remember
after tumbling to be sure the aeration holds are open/clear.
Breaking-in or burning-in your UCT is important. The first couple batches of
compost produced by the barrel usually takes a little longer than normal and is
of lower quality compost. It seems to take at least a couple good batches of
compost to season the barrel. It is a good idea that in your first few compost
batches you liberally use a good quality all natural compost starter.
Excess Moisture in the UCT
Several things can cause excess moisture in the barrel. It means either too
much water has been added or too much green material (fresh grass, vegetables or
fruit) was in the mix. If you keep getting too much moisture in the mix, you
must change your recipe to use more brown (carbon rich) material and avoid
adding water. In some humid areas excess moisture can build up in the barrel as
the temperature varies between night and day. If the compost becomes too moist,
remove the lid until it dries out some. To speed drying, replace the lid
periodically and tumble the unit to keep wet compost exposed. Let the barrel
rest at an angle to expose as much compost as possible. When the lid is on,
remember to keep the vent holes at the top of the barrel clear to allow air
Please allow approximately 1 to 2 weeks for delivery