Make Your Own Compost Turner for $2.

Composting is great, but if you leave your pile to just sit, it can take over a year to break down.  Wanna speed things up?  Use a compost turner.

Skip right to the tutorial.

I wasn’t going to do it.  Not again.  For once in my life I was going to be that person who walked into a store, pulled out her wallet and bought something that was fully assembled, ready to use and did not require an up to date tetanus shot.

Although of course my tetanus shot is always up to date because what kind of colourless life are you leading if you aren’t regularly coming face to face with the risk of tetanus?  I mean, ‘cmon.  But back to my earlier point, I wanted this particular thing – a compost turner – and I didn’t want to have to make it. I wanted to stroll into a store, hand over lots of money and buy it.  It’s the sort of thing I could imagine a lady of privilege doing.  (Or ordering her underpaid, illegal servant Svetlana to do on her way home on the bus.)  For once in my life I wanted to be that privileged, servant ordering lady.

I was not that lady.

3 weeks ago I went to a small talk on composting.  I already know a fair amount about composting (you can read some of my composting posts here and here) but I figured you can always learn something new from any kind of course.  Betty taught me that.  Actually Betty manages to work that into pretty much any conversation.

I learned 2 important things at the composting talk. The first thing was that if you’re going to an hour long talk that’s outdoors in the middle of a pile of dirt, you should always bring a chair.   The second thing I learned is that compost turners exist AND THEY WORK.

This is how happy such a discovery makes me.  Which is pretty good evidence that I’m more servant material than lady of privilege.

The guy who this belonged to told me it was a gift he got years ago but it was from Lee Valley Tools. Nope. Not anymore it isn’t.  They have a compost turner (also called a compost aerator)  but it’s a different style.

In the United States you can get something called “The Compost Crank” which is the same corkscrew design, but it has plastic handles, not wood. I might be made up of servant stock but I’m a servant who has enough class to know a wood handle is nicer than a plastic one. Besides the $54 Compost Crank isn’t available in Canada.

I had two choices. Buy the one from Lee Valley that was a different design, or make one in the style I liked.

A bottle of Windex, some cleaning cloths and an apron to whoever guesses which route I took.

I made one.  After thinking about a few different materials and designs I came up with this, the easiest and least expensive route.

But before I show you how to make one …

Why Do You Need to Turn Your Compost?

You don’t.  Scraps, weeds and whatever other matter you put in your compost pile *will* eventually break down even if you just leave it there to sit.  But it’ll take over a year to turn into compost.

Using a compost turner incorporates air into the compost pile which “activates” it, enabling it to heat up and break down more quickly.  Much more quickly in fact.

Turning your compost also gets your compost pile to decompose at a more even rate. This means instead of having one blob of useable compost at the bottom of your bin, the entire bin will be ready to use at the same time.

 

The $2 DIY Compost Turner.

Materials

  • Spiral tomato stake ($2 at dollar store)
  • Broom handle (I bought one for $4 but most people have old broom handles around. Don’t they?)

Instructions

  1. Cut two pieces off of your broom handle, each around 5″ long.  You can also use a large dowel.
  2. Drill a hole that’s 2 bit sizes larger than the size of your tomato stake through the centre of each piece of broom handle.

3. Slip one of the handles over your tomato stake.

4.  With the bottom (untwisted part) of the tomato stake in a vise, bend the stake so  you have an L shape.

5. Remove the stake, reposition it like you see below and bend it again.

6.  Bend the stake again by positioning it in the vise like you see below.

7. Make your final bend to complete your handle.

*It took me FOREVER to figure out the bending angles in the vise so make sure you follow the photos.*

8. Put your last wood handle on and secure it by screwing on a nut.  The tomato stake won’t be threaded, but if you use a wrench to screw on your nut, it will dig into the stake and remain tight.

I did absolutely nothing in terms of sanding or bevelling the edges of the handles, but feel free to pretty it up.

10. Finally put the end of the spiral into the vise and muscle into a tighter spiral. I just kept it in the vise and bent and hammered it until it was squished.  Again, not pretty but effective.  You can also heat the metal to bend it more easily and pretty-like if you want.  I didn’t want.

The reason you have to smash up the bottom spirals like that is you need something that “grabs” the compost at the bottom of the bin. With the loose spirals nothing catches in them so you’re just aerating the compost, not turning it.

 

To use the compost turn just screw down into the bottom of the compost and pull up.  It brings part of the bottom layer right up with it.  Do this 6 or 7 times and the pile will be completely turned.

See?  You really do always learn something new.

 

→Follow me on Instagram where I’ll be showing this compost turner in action later today!←

 

Making your own compost is insanely easy but it takes a longggg time.  Using a compost turner will speed things right up. Learn how to make one for $2 right  now (before you forget ... because we both know you will).

39 Comments

  1. Liz says:

    I’m really going to do this. I’ve been looking at things I still recognize in the compost on top of my garden beds this year, and I’m embarrassed to think that someone else will too. Thanks Karen

  2. TucsonPatty says:

    So cool! You are a wonder, Karen. My ex-**hole took the compost pile with him when we divorced. (yes, really) I have not started a new one, but this will be on my list when I do! Genius, once again.

  3. Charissa says:

    Karen,

    I just called to say, I love you.

    I was reading your latest installment and laughing and thinking of all the other times you made me laugh and how much I admire you and your ingenuity and style and sense of humor. And then I thought…OMG, I am a terrible person. Here I have been reading this wonderful lady’s blog for about a year now and have never said boo. I felt somehow like a creepy stealer of your soul somehow. I know you won’t blame me because you are that kind of cool person. Plus, I have reccomended you to all my friends and family(yes, i have friends, even though I am a terrible person) and they all signed up. That counts for something, right? Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for making me laugh out loud at 2 in the morning on nights I really needed a laugh, giving me courage to try things I normally wouldn’t, your awesome shopping recommendations (my husband does not thank you😉), and really for just being you. Okay, enough mush. It’s not my fault. It was a whole year saved up.

    • Karen says:

      Hahahah! Thank you! Loved that comment. I expect one like that from you every day from here on in. Wait no, then they won’t be special. But I’ll like them! But they won’t be special. omg. Can’t decide. I’ll leave it up to you. ~ karen!

      • Desiree says:

        Hello Karen,

        I too have been reading your blog for a while. I think about 2 years now, although I admit that I don’t read it every time you post because my life is busy and when I do get a break I seem to not have signal.

        You make me laugh all of the time and I just think you are great all around. This will sound pathetic but we have so much in common I know we would be good friends if we lived near each other. Anyway, keep it going. I love it and am so glad you found your chair. Your blog is funny and also helpful. I’m so sorry you lost your beloved fur baby.

        • Karen says:

          Aw thanks Desiree. On all accounts. (it’s very quiet around here without little Cleo) ~ karen!

  4. Charissa says:

    Also, so glad that you got your chair. AND I am so very sorry about Cleo. You are a good pet carer. I used to have my own petsitting business and this is what I used to give out if a pet passed. Maybe you might have heard of it… https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/Poem.htm

  5. Kari in Dallas says:

    I have that same composted and after months of dutifully adding stuff to it I had a lovely potato plant and no compost.

    Going to make one these now.

    See, Karen? That’s why I subscribe to your blog. I always lea something!

    • Karen says:

      Make sure you also read my post on how to hot compost Kari. Composting isn’t hard but there are a few tricks that help it along. ~ karen!

  6. Katie C. says:

    I’m not going to make one, but your post helped me figure out what to get my dad as a belated Father’s Day present! I mean, what else do you get the man who has everything and always says, “I don’t know” when you ask what he wants… Obviously, a compost aerator.

  7. danni says:

    Genius! Jeeze woman! You keep showing me things I never knew I couldn’t live without!!

  8. Mary W says:

    WOW – I never knew this existed and think back at how much I needed one. This DIY comes right next to the beautiful orb garden light! Genius – and a great picture of your happy face!

  9. jaine kunst says:

    And I’ve been turning my compost with a branch that fell off the tree next to the compost box. Must be why I’ve got “things” growing in there. Can’t wait to make one of these. Brilliant, Karen and thank you!

  10. Sheila Turchyn says:

    Heck, yeah I’m doing this. Or should I say that my husband’s doing it. He just doesn’t know it yet! I’m tired of trying to turn compost with a garden fork. Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      I also saw a stick in the ground drink holder at Canadian tire today that might work!~ karen

      • Sheila Turchyn says:

        Another great idea! I do have some extra tomato stakes though so will give that a shot. I actually love the look of the curly post. I have 3 composers that need turning right now!

  11. Joshua R. Meehan says:

    Hi Karen,

    I love your spirit and ‘Function-over-Form’ attitude. I actually have spare broom handle and spiral tomato stake but already have a tool I repurposed for turning compost. I’m actually relocating my compost pile this summer, just haven’t chosen a spot yet. It’s kind of a big deal. 😉

    However, what truly inspired this comment is your restraint. More often than not when I follow a link to someone’s blog, I’m bombarded with popups asking for personal information or demanding I subscribe before even reading a single post. So, thank you! More bloggers should follow your example.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Joshua! (yet I still get complaints daily that I run ads and that the subscribe box that drops down is bothersome. And I must admit that now I’ve made this compost turner and found out it works great I may make another one and heat the metal to turn the bottom nicely, lol. Good luck with moving day. ~ karen!

  12. Lindy says:

    Have I told you lately that I love you Karen? If not, how remiss of me and I must immediately correct such a lack in my character. I LOVE YOU KAREN.

    • Karen says:

      I think you have told me that. I’m not sure, but doubling up is never a bad idea. ~ karen!

      • Lindy says:

        Bwaahahahahah, humour, it gets us through life and your articles are a surefire source of same for all of us fans.

      • Lindy says:

        Bwahahaaha, humour, the source that gets us through life and your articles are guaranteed for same which I think every one of us fans agree upon.

  13. Leeuna says:

    You never cease to amaze me. 🙂

  14. Lindy says:

    Hey K, here`s a simple trick to simplify your turner…lay the handle end of the turner on top of the closed vice & take a hammer to the last inch or so. Once flattened slightly bigger than the hole in the broom handle, you won`t need the muscled-on nut. FWIW. Cool tool, by the way. Thanks, LB

    • Karen says:

      Hey Lindy! The screwing the nut on is actually easy, but the hammering is a great idea for someone who doesn’t have the right sized nut handy. ~ karen!

  15. Carswell says:

    I am lazy. I spent $30 at Lee Valley for this tool. I have had it for years and it works very well.

    You’re welcome. LOL

    http://www.leevalley.com/us/garden/page.aspx?p=10028&cat=2,33140&ap=1

  16. Robyn says:

    That chicken looks concerned!

  17. Heather Sykora says:

    That is so impressive !! What a fabulous way to make a compost turner.
    That’s the main reason I haven’t started a compost pile yet- researching which thingy-ma-bobber to spend my pennies on, that I can turn myself without the help of male upper body strength!!
    You took my final excuse away….
    Thank you!!!

  18. Susan says:

    Great idea…. but I think you meant to use the word vise “a metal tool with movable jaws that are used to hold an object firmly in place while work is done on it, typically attached to a workbench.” rather than “vice= immoral behavior”. Altho— maybe not!

  19. Heather says:

    Another clever idea from Karen – thanks! 🙂

  20. Abby Todd says:

    Let’s say, in a fictional world filled with painless tetanus shots and free vodka, you were to fork over the dinero for a compost tumbler… which one would your high-falutin fanny buy if your trust fund manager said you could only spend $150?

    • Karen says:

      Do you know what? I wouldn’t. Mainly because those tumbling compost bins don’t hold very much, they’re usually very small. The smaller the compost pile, the longer it takes to turn into useable compost. Having said that, faced with $150 I’d buy the BIGGEST one you can get for that price. ~ karen!

    • Sarah McDonnell says:

      I got a free 50 gallon food grade barrel and told the kids it was a pony. They saddle it up and roll it around the yard. They are something like $10 on Craigslist,normally…barrels, not actual ponies.
      I have too many children to get involved with anything that incorporates the word “tumbling”. But the tool looks nice for other people.

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