by Matt Gibson
Composting is the perfect solution for getting rid of food scraps while simultaneously enriching the soil of your garden. An outdoor composting setup is easy to use and even easier to maintain. Gardeners usually prefer an outdoor composting center to an indoor composting center for several reasons. In an outdoor scenario, gardeners need not worry as much about their composting unit attracting bugs. (Pests are much less annoying when they are not in your home.) However, many people don’t have the luxury of an outdoor garden area or even a patio. Small studio apartments are the norm in most urban areas today.
You Can Compost in an Apartment
Just because you are limited in space, a beginner to composting, or you don’t have an outdoor area in your living quarters, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your love of gardening. It does mean that you are going to need to get creative, though. Having a fully functional indoor garden and composting system in a studio apartment is not impossible.
Why You Should Compost in an Apartment
Even if you aren’t gardening, turning your food trash into compost is one of the most important things you can do for the environment. All that nitrogen in your food scraps turns into methane when lack of carbon means it can’t break down. That’s why almost one fifth of the world’s methane emissions come from landfills. Composting is simply doing your part to reduce the carbon footprint. Do it for the future-of our planet and our families.
Many gardeners swear by the benefits of composting, but when faced with the choice of composting inside of a studio apartment, some decide that it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Thankfully, a few brave gardeners decided to pave the way and try out indoor composting methods. By now, they’ve perfected systems that work wonderfully.
Using The Worm Bin in an Apartment
A worm bin is probably the most common setup for indoor composting because it is both efficient and easy to maintain. A large plastic container with two lids and a drill for cutting ventilation holes are all the supplies you need to make the bin itself.
To watch the magic happen, collect your compost materials. Paper, food scraps, soil, water, and worms will be all you need to fill it up and watch the magic happen. Cut or drill holes in the top of your selected composting container for ventilation. (A large storage bin or Tupperware is perfect for the job.) Add holes to the bottom of your container as well to provide drainage and help keep your compost dry.Use the extra lid under the container to catch any drainage so it doesn’t soak your carpets or damage your floors.
In order for the compost mixture to thrive, you will need a healthy and balanced mix of nitrogen and carbon. Gardeners recommend a one to one ratio of these materials, which they often refer to as “greens” (nitrogen) and “browns” (carbon). As you create your worm bin, for the carbon element, use paper scraps, dried leaves, cardboard, old bills or receipts, and newspapers. The nitrogen part of the mixture includes the food scraps and kitchen trash you would otherwise throw away. Check out this YouTube video for creating an indoor compost bin.
After you have the holes drilled in the top and bottom of the container, make a bedding for the worms by tearing strips of natural paper-that means paper that is not dyed or bleached and has no ink printed on it. Soak the paper strips in a bit of water.
Add a layer of dry leaves and other dried organic materials. The worm that you need for composting is called the red wiggler. You can find them at most any bait shop. Add in the worms with a small amount of soil. Then add in food scraps. Stir it all together-gently, so as not to injure your worms.
Placement of Worm Bin Composter
When you have your worm bin put together and you have a good mix started up, it’s time to find a home for your compost bin. You want a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight. The sunlight will kill the worms, even with proper ventilation. Compost shouldn’t have an unpleasant smell if you’re doing it right, but don’t expect a bouquet of roses, either. Therefore, a dark closet is a great location, or place your bin tucked away down low, in a corner away from high-traffic areas.
The “No” List of What Not to Compost
Unfortunately, not every scrap of kitchen trash should go into the compost. It’s just as important to know what not to put in your compost as it is to know what you should put in it. Avoid composting any animal products, especially fish or meat scraps. Save those for making stock for soup.
Feces is a common fertilizer, but dog and cat poop should never find its way into your compost bin. Horse pellets, chicken poop, rabbit pellets, and cow dung, however, are great additions to the mixture.
Used coffee grounds and tea leaves are great for compost, but avoid putting the filters or tea bags in with the mix. Most paper is fine, but there are synthetic materials and chemicals (such as bleach) in tea bags and coffee filters, and you don’t want those in your compost. Also avoid any glossy or embossed paper, or the stickers that come on fruits and vegetables.
The point of the compost pile is to break down both the carbon and nitrogen elements, so generally, anything that doesn’t break down at all or just takes too long to break down should probably be avoided. Dry leaves and small chips of wood are good compost buddies, but large branches will take too long to break down-and they would be unwieldy indoors, anyway.
Avoid using materials in compost that have been treated with chemicals or other unnatural substances. Sawdust from natural wood is great, but sawdust from treated wood is toxic-as are any synthetic fertilizers, which you should not be using anyway.
The only food scraps you should avoid composting (besides the animal products already listed) are onions and the peels of citrus fruits, such as oranges, limes, or lemons. The pungent aroma of these scraps can drive away or even kill worms and slow decomposition of your compost mixture.
As you’ve discovered here, composting in an apartment is not as hard as it seems. Do your part to help reduce your carbon footprint while cultivating a nutrient-rich compost that will allow your garden to thrive. Go natural, and breathe easy knowing the compost fertilizing your garden is a safe, healthy, and sustainable addition.
Want to learn more about composting in an apartment?
Eco Watch covers How to Compost in Your Apartment
Going Zero Waste explains Composting for Apartments
The Kitchn covers Yes, You Can Compost in Your Apartment
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