My Composter is Dripping!

My Dad

My Dad

A lot of our customers often start asking us the same questions about composting around this time of year. One of the most common concerns we hear is that their Lifetime Composter is leaking.  Long story short, this is normal.  But, to really give you insight into why this is normal, AND what you can do with the leaking liquid, I've asked our Geekstyle blogger Joe to give you the scoop.  (For those of you who don't know, Joe the Web Guy is also known as Joe the Green Guy when he's not on the Lifetime clock - with his own website called PathToGreenerLiving.com where he gives tips for going green including how to use some of Lifetime's Lawn & Garden products.)

From Joe:

A lot of people have jumped on the home gardening band-wagon and are interested in starting to make their own compost. And why not? If you have a garden you have garden waste. That "waste" can be easily turned into nutrient rich compost. All you need is a square yard to heap up your trimmings, cut lawn, and debris left over from last year's harvest. Turn the pile a few times a month, and by next year you'll have some nice compost to use as fertilizer in your yard and garden.

Before we jump into our topic, I'd like to take a personal moment to give you a little history about why I'm writing this -- after all, I'm Lifetime's "web guy", not their "gardening expert".

I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to my Dad, who passed away earlier this summer. My Dad (pictured here) was born during the low-point of the Great Depression. Although only a small child, he remembered everything his parents had to do just to  put food on the table.Lawrence L. Damewood, Sr.

He learned to be frugal and make use of everything he could -- wasting little, reusing a lot.

Back then a garden wasn't a hobby, it was a vital part of life and contributed significantly to feeding the family. Fertilizer back then didn't come in a bag or sprayer bottle, it was manure from chickens, horses, and cows that was piled in a corner of the garden to age and break down before being used to side-dress the precious crops. It wasn't called "compost", nor were there composters as we know them today.

He taught me how to plant a garden (including his very non-traditional tomato planting method), and how to save all the pulled weeds, trimmings, and end-of-year "waste" for composting. So, it's with that context in mind that I'd like to share some thoughts on composting, and answer some common questions.

Many either don't like the idea of having a head of "trash" in their yard, or would like their compost sooner than later. For those people there are commercially available tumbling composters that get your pile off the ground, contain it, make the "turning" easier, and generally make your compost faster than you can from an old-fashioned pile.

We recently received a few questions from customers about water dripping out of their Lifetime composter and thought now, the beginning of the composting season, would be a great time to answer a few questions about moisture, drips, and introduce you to "compost tea".

Most tumbling composters, including those that Lifetime makes, are not water-tight, nor are they designed to be. Too much moisture in your mix will increase the likelihood of anaerobic decomposition and rot. Although the mix will break down in those conditions it’s usually much slower – and much more smelly. By not making the composter water-tight, any excess moisture can drip out of the bottom, reducing the chance of a stinky, slowly decomposing mix. The “drippings” are sometimes called “compost tea”, are VERY rich in nutrients, and can be used as a liquid fertilizer. It’s so rich that if you collect this “tea” you must dilute is 19:1 with water before you apply it as fertilizer or it may “burn” your plants.

A down-side of this compost tea is that it is dark brown and can stain whatever surface the composter is sitting on (which could be a problem if it’s a deck or patio). I use a flat, plastic container (weighted down with a brick) to catch these drippings. This saves my patio from staining and gives me the opportunity to make compost tea – reusing even the "waste" from the composting process. Dad would be proud.

- Joe the Green Guy

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Darrin

Darrin

Name- Darrin 

Position at Lifetime Products- Product Marketing Manger – Lawn & Garden

How long at Lifetime Products- Since 2006

Topics I blog about- Gardening, Backyard & Garden organization, Home Organization, Garage Organization, Community/Service Projects. 

My favorite products from Lifetime-  Do I have to say sheds 

Read all posts by Darrin

Comments

Nessa Nielsen

8/12/2011 10:16:02 AM

Hello there. I dont have to many problems with it leaking from the center. My problem is the plastic walls are full within the cells it makes so heavy and it is very pungent in smell, it attracts alot of bugs. I do add to it daily and also spin it daily. Any suggestions for a cure to this problem would be awesome! This is my second season with my composter from Lifetime.

Reply

Darrin

8/12/2011 3:50:38 PM

Hi Nessa, a plug in one of the blow needle holes may have been knocked off. Replacement plugs can be ordered from our Customer Care department at customercare@lifetime.com or 800-225-3865. As for draining, try drilling a small hole, about 1/8” diameter, in the outside wall of the panel. Be careful not to drill all the way through both walls. It would be best to rotate the tumbler so the desired drain hole location is toward the top. That way, when the hole is drilled, water doesn’t squirt out. Then rotate it back into the normal position to drain. If the hole is facing downward, it can be left open, otherwise it should be plugged. Hope this helps!

Reply

Sharron

12/30/2011 2:10:42 PM

My problem is I can't seem to get enough dry stuff in the composter to keep it from being downright wet. I turn it regularly and try to keep a good mix of dry leaves and clippings to kitchen scraps. I also add shredded newspaper on a regular basis but it's still wet. On sunny days I open it up and let it get air to help keep the mold down. I've thought about drilling holes in the ends to help with air circulation but don't want to compromise the strength of the container. Any ideas?

Reply

Darrin

1/1/2012 11:04:30 AM

Hi Sharron, if the material being put in the composter is “too wet”, keep adding dry stuff to keep the moisture down, or think about pre-drying… weigh down a tarp and spread out the stuff to be composted on it… Leave it out on the tarp (in the sun) to dry for a few days before adding it to the mix. I’d advise against drilling holes through the composter because it would allow moisture into the blow-molded core of the walls. Hope this is helpful!

Reply

jenn reeves

11/12/2016 11:25:29 PM

This is just a lousy design & always too wet. The water must come in at the top. And that aeration tube does not let in enough air at all. Many friends and clients have this composter, from San Diego to Oregon and the compost is always too wet. The liquid dripping out rusts out the hinges. You are better off layering in a ring of hardware cloth!

Reply

Justin

3/19/2012 8:01:05 AM

Having a tough time screwing the plastic wing nuts flush onto the screw tips (crooked screwing I bet). Are these nuts integral to the structure or composting process?

Reply

Darrin

4/10/2012 7:24:06 PM

Hi. Sorry you are having trouble. The plastic wing-nuts serve two purposes: First, to cover the end of the screw so as to not leave any sharp tips. Second, they do provide structure and strength to the composter. I spoke to the engineer and he said it may be that you are putting the screw all the way in first and then trying to put on the nut? If this is the case, the composter panel is designed with divots which help prevent the wing-nut from spinning. It is best to start the screw and then hold the nut in place to drill into it. It the nuts are not completely flush, it is not the end of the world.

Please let us know if you have any more questions.

Reply

Tanya

7/5/2012 4:55:10 PM

Hi there, I have a rotating composter which is making some lovely tea that I am catching at the bottom. I saw in an answer above that the ratio is 19:1, but I'm wondering how often I can apply the tea to my tomatoes and other plants ( annuals and perennials)?

Reply

Darrin

7/6/2012 12:03:58 PM

How often can you apply compost tea? There are many, many variables involved… What is in the tea, how strong the tea is, what kind of soil you’re putting the tea into, how much soil is present, the type of plant rooted in the soil, the acidity or alkalinity of the soil, the temperature, humidity, health of the plant, yadda, yadda, yadda…

 

So that’s the long answer. The short answer? Listen to you plant. Add a little but of compost tea and watch it for the next day or so and see how she responds. If she wilts, your tea is probably too strong, or she simply doesn’t like it. If she doesn’t respond within a few days, or starts to “perk up”, add a little more and watch her for a little longer. Keep adding compost tea until she starts to look ill.

 

Good Luck.

Reply

Anita Pratto

10/5/2016 5:50:45 PM

Well so far I'm doing fine assembling this by myself except that now it's dark out. It helps that I was taught in school to read the entire instructions before beginning so I can see the whole picture and know what's in store for tomorrow when I finish and load it up. I don't understand what the plugs do but they're there so I figured out how to put them in. The holes are smaller than the plugs and I could not force the plugs in so I got some needle-nosed pliers and a hammer. I held the plug near the cap and lined it up with the hole--one tap (that's a light tap for you upper-strength folks, a light-to-medium tap for the rest of us) and it set the plug in the hole. I could then remove the pliers and give it one more tap to seat it all the way down. If you're not sure how light to tap it, tap it too lightly at first. I erred on the side of caution and on a couple of them had to hit the plug twice after removing the pliers to set it all the way. It should be a given but let me state it anyway--the panel needs to be down on the ground or another firm surface and no, I didn't use a rubber mallet but a 16 oz. nail hammer (for those who don't know, if you have just one hammer in your house it's probably this one). I can't see outside anymore so if I come up with any other handy tips tomorrow I'll post them as well.

Reply

Mark

10/1/2017 6:59:33 PM

i thought the dark brown liquid that seeps out is called lechate. I also have researched this and the general consensus is that it can be harmful to your plants, especially if it had a pungent odor which indicates that out may have bad bacteria. I was disappointed to read this especially because I have been watering all my shrubs with it. (diluted in water) please let me know any other information about this stuff and wheather it is in fact toxic to plants or safe for furtilizer. thanks, Mark

Reply






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