What to Put in a Compost Tumbler for Optimal Results

What to Put in a Compost Tumbler: Tips for Successful Composting


Composting has become an essential practice for environmentally conscious individuals who want to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil. One popular method of composting is using a compost tumbler, which offers convenience and efficiency. If you’re new to composting with a tumbler, you might be wondering what exactly should go into it. In this blog post, we will guide you through the materials suitable for your compost tumbler.

The Basics of Composting

Before diving into the specifics of what goes into a compost tumbler, let’s review some basics about composting itself. Composting is essentially the decomposition process of organic materials under controlled conditions. It involves mixing carbon-rich (browns) and nitrogen-rich (greens) materials along with moisture and oxygen.

Carbon-Rich Materials (Browns)

One crucial component in any successful compost pile or tumbler is carbon-rich materials, commonly referred to as “browns.” These browns provide carbon necessary for microorganisms’ growth that break down organic matter. Here are some examples:

Dry Leaves:

Dry leaves are excellent sources of carbon due to their high fiber content. Make sure they are shredded or broken down into smaller pieces before adding them to your tumbler.


Torn newspaper strips offer another valuable source of carbon; however, avoid using glossy pages or colored ink as they may contain harmful chemicals.


Cardboard adds both structure and carbon content to your compost mix. Tear it up into small pieces or shred it before including it in the tumbling chamber.


If you have access to sawdust from untreated wood, it can be an excellent carbon source. Be cautious not to include too much as it tends to compact and reduce airflow.

Nitrogen-Rich Materials (Greens)

Nitrogen-rich materials, commonly known as “greens,” provide the necessary protein for microorganisms involved in the decomposition process. These greens help maintain a balanced nitrogen-to-carbon ratio in your compost tumbler. Here are some examples:

Grass Clippings:

Freshly cut grass is rich in nitrogen and adds moisture content to your mixture. However, if using grass clippings, ensure they have not been treated with pesticides or herbicides that could harm beneficial organisms.

Vegetable Scraps:

Kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels or leftover salad greens provide valuable nutrients while reducing food waste.

Coffee Grounds:

Used coffee grounds are highly sought after by gardeners due to their nitrogen content. They also enhance moisture retention within the tumbler.

Plant Trimmings:

Trimming excess leaves or twigs from your plants? Don’t throw them away; instead, chop them up into smaller pieces and add them directly into your compost tumbler.

Avoid These Items

While there is a wide range of materials you can put into a compost tumbler, certain items should be kept out of the mix:

Dairy Products:

Dairy products tend to become rancid quickly and may attract pests or cause unpleasant odors when decomposing.


These protein-rich items require higher temperatures for proper decomposition than what most home tumblers can generate. They are better suited for industrial-scale composting facilities.

In Conclusion

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of what to put into a compost tumbler, you can start your journey towards creating nutrient-rich compost for your garden. Remember to maintain a proper mix of carbon-rich browns and nitrogen-rich greens, along with adequate moisture and oxygen levels in your tumbler. Happy composting!