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Turning Your Composting Bins

Turn, Turn, Turn for Better Compost

Compost is that wonderful combination of microscopic mineral particles and decomposed organic material that makes your garden thrive. Composting is what gardeners do to control, or assist, the naturally occurring decaying of organic matter.

In the forest, leaves, plant, fruits and nuts, animal waste, and other organic matter decay over time to return to the soil. This process continuously replenishes the soil with the nutrients essential for plant growth. But, natural or unassisted organic decomposition is usually relatively slow. Moisture content is inconsistent; the decaying plants, leaves, and animals can be relatively large; and the mix of materials in any given area can be somewhat unbalanced.

Turning your composting bins eliminates the problems associated with slow decomposition.

To make great compost in a relatively short time, you need a good combination of materials (see "How To Make Compost"), adequate moisture, critical mass, and help from nature (microbes, worms, and other bugs).

Turning your composting bin does the following:

  • redistributes moisture throughout the mix, since the outside of the mixture dries out quickly, especially in the summer.
  • redistributes the microbe population (and worms, if you have them) to fresh food supplies, where they will digest the organic materials and reproduce.
  • helps maintain a balance of green and brown materials (assuming you started with, and have maintained, a good mixture).
  • breaks up clumps, so that smaller particles are available for the bugs and worms that turn raw organic matter into compost.

Easy to turn compost

How a Mantis® Compost Tumbler and You can Make Turning Easier

Strive for Small Particles

You'll make better and faster compost if you add small particulate matter to you composting bins. Shredded dry leaves are much better than whole leaves. Coffee grounds are great. Grass clippings should be mixed with leaves, if possible, to prevent clumping. Chop up any stalks from tomato plants or any whole fruits. The little microbes and worms prefer smaller particles (their mouths are much smaller than ours!), and turning a large batch of small particles is much easier.

Maintain a Moist Mix

Just like your garden soil, your composting mix needs the right amount of moisture for optimum performance. Not too wet; not too dry. If your mixture is very dry... consisting of a large amount of dry shredded leaves, for example, add water. Turn the composting bins to distribute the water throughout the mix; then, turn the composting bins so that the ventilation/drainage vents are on the bottom. Excess moisture will leak out of the vents.

Be careful to avoid over-watering; a waterlogged mix will be harder to turn.

Break-up Large Clumps by Hand

While the Mantis Compost-Twin is easy to turn, and will mix the ingredients quite well, it may be necessary to break up some stubborn clumps by hand. If you've added a lot of grass clippings, they may form clumps or mats. Simply reach inside the composter bin to break up and mix any clumps. Using only well shredded or chopped up materials should eliminate any need to break clumps by hand; but, some folks actually like to get a close look at their composting activity.

Turn Your Composting Bins Whenever You Add New Material

Remember that whenever you add new material to one of your composting bins, you're resetting the composting clock to "day 1." If, however, you take several days or even a couple of weeks to fill the first composting bin, just be sure to give the composting bin a few turns every time you add fresh materials.

Do You Really Need to Turn the Composting Bins Every Day?

No. Turning your composting bins every day is ideal, but not absolutely necessary. Composting should be fun, not work. If you miss a day or two, don't give up. Just get back to turning the composting bins soon. With the right mix of composting materials, adequate moisture, and frequent mixing, you'll soon have sweet-smelling, wonderfully nutritious, disease-fighting compost working in your garden!

Start composting with Mantis today!