Should You Put Your Compost Tumbler in The Sun or Shade?

(Last Updated On: November 12, 2017)

For many composters, the most rewarding part of the process is watching their garbage transform into something useful. This is the function of composting: it converts disposed materials into healthy compost.

This wonderful process is made easier with a compost tumbler which speeds up the composting process thanks to its rotation feature and favorable weather conditions. Any collection of organic materials will decompose, but favorable conditions can hasten the decomposition process.

After buying your compost bin, the next thing to consider is where to locate it for easy access and a faster composting process. You can either place it in the sun or shade. If you place it in the sun, the composting process may be quickened but too much exposure to sunlight may cause heat to buildup inside the tumbler.

On the other hand, placing the tumbling composter in the shade will keep it cool and slow down the composting process in cooler months. Therefore, you should consider the seasons and your local climate when deciding whether to place it in the sun or shade.

Placing it In The Sun

Placing your composter in the sun makes the process faster since heat enhances the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms which break down the compost pile. These microorganisms work faster at a higher temperature which is why sunlight is beneficial in the composting process.

However, if your bin is made of plastic, it is more susceptible to melting due to intense heat.

There are cases where the plastic parts of a compost bin, especially the lid or door, are deformed by the excess heat, making it difficult to easily open and close the lid or door. Malfunctioning parts can lead to a disruption in the composting process.

For instance, a deformed door may result in a messier tumbling process as the materials inside are not securely sealed and could fall out when you rotate it.

Other users also experienced some discoloration of their  due to overexposure to the sun. The colors fade when exposed too much sunlight. If the heat gets too intense, there are even instances when the pile burns, especially the brown materials,

If you live in a cooler climate, placing the tumbler in the sun is recommended so it can collect the required heat to decompose the material faster. When you place your composter in the sun, it is heated and the heat becomes trapped in inside which serves as an energy source to activate the bacteria which hastens the composting process.

This is quite useful when the temperature drops. Just keep in mind that you will need to shelter the it to protect the compost pile from freezing temperatures. However, the sun tends to cause excess heat to build up in the compost pile which is why you need to keep it moist.

Putting It In The Shade

Putting the composter in the shade is necessary if you live in warm, dry zones. This prevents the pile from drying out and causing excess heat from building up inside. If this happens, bacteria and other microorganisms necessary for decomposition will be destroyed.

A little shade is good, but too much shade will delay the composting process. Shade also minimizes water evaporation resulting in soggy compost. One solution is to turn it regularly to promote better aeration. This will dry out the compost.

If you plan to put your composter in the shade, don’t place it under a large tree or vine because they will pilfer the nutrients coming from the compost. The roots can work their way into the tumbler and leach away all the nutrients which would leave you nothing for your garden.

Also make sure that the shade doesn’t block the ventilation holes of the tumbler because that could impede the aeration process and decomposition. All tumblers have air vents, but they won’t serve their purpose if they are blocked.

Partial Shade

Of the two locations, sun or shade, it is best to place it in partial shade. In partial shade the composter will get both shelter and some sunlight. Partial shade is a nice option especially in winter because it offers enough shelter against snow and drying winds.

It also prevents the compost pile from being fully exposed to the sun which could overheat the compost pile or even burn it.

With the right amount of sun exposure, the decomposition process will be sped up. Partial shade will also help to keep the compost moist, which is ideal if you want to breed more microorganisms to help in the breakdown process of the organic materials.

The greatest benefit of putting it under partial shade is prevent rain from getting into the tumbler through the aeration holes. If it is in the sun and uncovered, rainwater may run into the compost pile.

Partial shade keeps your compost pile inside the tumbler dry even during the rainy season. If your composter is in the shade and still collects some rain, then when the rain stops you can turn it to mix the compost and water and increase airflow or open the door and let the sun dry out the compost pile.

If you live in a hotter climate, it is best that you partially shade it because too much heat and sun will overheat the compost pile. It may also spark a fire to the light materials inside if overexposed to the sun, therefore it is advisable to put it in a little shade to prevent overheating.

The right amount of sunlight helps quicken the composting process. If there is not enough sunlight, you can turn it frequently for better aeration, which is one of the benefits of a tumbler composter.

Mike Garretson