3 Reasons Why Compost Tumblers Are Great for Winter

We know that composting is a great way to prevent waste and spare the environment some harm, but composting in winter is slightly more complicated because of how long it takes to decompose matter. Because of the low temperatures, the pile cools down and stalls microbe activity, delaying the time it takes to create compost.

While many choose not to compost during winter, that doesn’t invalidate winter composting. There are ways to create compost, regardless of climate. It’s essential that you keep your compost pile warm so that the decomposition process is consistent throughout, and you mustn’t allow moisture to be accumulated in excess, which might result in the microbes’ demise from lack of oxygen.

This is where a compost tumbler may play a meaningful role and help you create compost even in such difficult conditions. In this article, we’re going to look at what a compost tumbler actually is, as well as the reasons why it is a helpful instrument for anyone trying to create compost in winter.

What is a compost tumbler?

A compost tumbler is a fully sealed container that can be rotated to mix the composting materials. Because of how it’s sealed, it helps insulate the heat that is generated by the decaying matter and protects your pile from elements and sneaky invaders.

Compost tumblers should not be mistaken with compost bins. Compost bins are designed to be vertically set on the ground, and most will have open bottoms.

Yes, they are less expensive than compost tumblers, but in a setting where the temperatures may drop drastically, compost bins might not be the best option for you during winter for several reasons:

  • Heat can be easily dissipated from the limited insulation
  • Rodents can burrow under the sides to gain access to the composting materials
  • Moisture can be accumulated more easily, especially if you live in a zone where it rains profusely.

For those reasons (and more), I believe compost tumblers may be superior, as they can make your life easier.

Compost tumblers: 3 reasons why they’re great for winter

When you’re faced with harsh climatic conditions such as freezing cold and heavy rain, it’s harder to produce compost, especially if you got a DIY pile created from old pallets, which lacks the characteristics that make compost tumblers less susceptible to the climatic conditioners I’ve briefly mentioned.

Here are 3 reasons why compost tumblers are more efficient and effective at decomposing organic waste than regular compost bins or piles during winter.

1 – Compost tumblers are well-insulated

Compost tumblers are fully enclosed and well-insulated units, which means they can work in cold temperatures quite well. This might vary between tumblers, and how they’re built, but in general, they’re more insulated than most containers.

If you look at the Jora JK270 (on Amazon), the sides have screened openings that provide aeration to both chambers, but they’re minimal and provide just enough air for the microbes to breathe while keeping the cold out so that the heat generated by the decaying matter is conserved inside. Heat speeds up decomposition.

To maximize the amount of heat in the pile you can move your tumbler into direct sunlight, or to a part in your yard where is warmer. Some compost tumblers are light or equipped with wheels, but others will require two or more people to move them around but are still more mobile than DIY piles or bottomless bins.

Important tip: Remember to chop or blend your scraps into small bits and pieces, otherwise they won’t break down as quickly.

2 – Compost tumblers prevent rain and rodents from reaching the compost

Compost tumblers are also advantageous if you want to protect your compost from rain and rodents. They’re tightly sealed which prevents rain from infiltrating the pile, and because they’re made from durable materials and have the compost compartment well off the ground, it’s nigh impossible for any rodents to get inside.


Compost tumblers provide you with several perks, but you still have to guarantee a healthy carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and set aside some brown (carbon) materials such as dried leaves, straw, and plant debris during the fall (when they’re most abundant) so that you have plenty of it saved for winter (when you need it the most).

It’s common for compost materials to accumulate moisture in winter, which is why having dry carbon in stock is crucial because it will help absorb excess moisture from nitrogen materials such as kitchen scraps.

3 – Compost tumblers are easy to turn and keep the compost aerated

Compost tumblers are known for being the most efficient closed-bin systems and make year-round composting relatively easy.

This is primarily because of how easy it is to mix the compost, which honestly makes compost bins and DIY piles very rudimentary in comparison. You don’t need a pitchfork to turn the compost. You just have to spin the composting compartment or use a handle to rotate it, which will obviously depend on the tumbler you have.

Tumblers always have some form of aeration, such as vents, spikes, or a perforated tube running up the center for airflow, so you don’t have to worry about your compost getting overly hot, which would endanger the bacteria. This is even less likely to happen in environments where it’s too cold.

Tumblers are also referred to as batch composters, as they break down one batch at a time, but some models like the Jora JK270 (on Eartheasy) have dual compartments so one batch can be added while the other matures.

Compost tumblers are the easiest way of keeping compost active through winter, and they’re very easy to use, making them an interesting choice for beginners.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big should my composter be?

Large compost batches are able to produce more heat, which means they’re less likely to be affected by the cold. However, since compost tumblers are usually well-insulated, you don’t need to buy the one with the biggest capacity.

That being said, for large families, schools, restaurants, or people with vegetable gardens or big lawns, the 12 cubic foot tumbler (like the JK270) might be the most appropriate choice.

The 7.5 cubic foot models are quite practical for small families, but if you have a larger family than average or a small garden, then a 9.5 cubic food model may be ideal.

Should I set my composter in the direct sunlight?

It’s logical that if you place your composter in direct sunlight, the materials inside will be warmer and this will speed the composting process. But I feel like this particular piece of advice is best applied during winter, where the sun is more scarce.

However, during summer or if you live in a warm location, and if your composter is made from plastic, it’s recommended that you place it in the shade or partial sunlight.

The hot sun can distort the plastic and the lid may not screw on easily. Some individuals also mention that the color of the plastic may become faded or blotchy after prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.

As long as you use your tumbler properly with a well-balanced mix of browns and greens, you won’t have to worry about this at all.