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  • Tumbling Barrel Not Heating Up

    Created by mcrouser on

    Hello Composters!

    I’m new to composting, and bought a tumbling barrel. I really enjoy the process, but I’m worried that my mixture is too cold.

    I started loading up the barrel in the early spring, and I tried to be careful about starting with mostly brown materials like shredded leaves and dried grass from the previous year, collected from a meadow (I probably should have shredded this more than I did).

    Over the last month or so I have added pulp/fiber from my juicer, plus other vegetable trimmings. I turn the barrel a few times every two days. Some of the pulp seems to “disappear” pretty quickly, other but other parts clump up in golf ball sized bits, and seem to stay in their original form. The whole mass of material has decreased, to just below the halfway mark, and seems to be turning into something, has turned brown and a bit syrupy, but I still see some leaves in there, too.

    As I mentioned before, the material has never gotten warm or hot….it’s still cool outside here in Minnesota, still hasn’t gotten much above the 50s most days…and I only get sunshine on the barrel in the morning. I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts…does it sound like I’m on the right track, and have to be patient with it, or should I be adding some more brown materials to dry it out and such?

    Thank you!

  • Author
  • #233872

    Eric Vinje

    Hello –

    It sounds like more brown material and a little patience is needed! Afterall, it’s still cool in Minnesota so the process will take longer. But don’t fret… it will happen!

    Something that can help speed the decomposition process and re-invigorate the microbial population would be Bokashi or Compost starter. Both will speed the breakdown of your kitchen scraps, as well as increase your microbial population. An actively decomposing microbial population is what creates heat in a compost pile. The more microbes you can add, the better.

    If possible, I’d suggest moving the composter to a slightly sunnier spot as well. Extra heat will only help the process. I’ve also attached an article that should help:


    Good luck!


    I am confused. I looked at the chart you provided with C:N ratios and guidance that the ratio of C:N to cause heat is between 25-30:1. THe chart shows brown materials being way over that (brown leaves at 60:1), whereas grass clippings, green scraps, etc. are maybe 20:1, so to get the desired 25:1 ratio, the amount of brown should be maybe 1/4 that of green stuff.

    So in the above how would adding more brown when the mix is mostly brown to begin with help stimulate heat? BTW, I have a small pile just of grass clippings and it has gotten quite hot!

    Please advise.

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