How To Compost In An Apartment

You don’t need a big backyard to start composting yard food waste or food scraps. You can make a nutrient-rich compost pile in your apartment. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can turn yard waste, egg shells, and other kitchen scraps for apartment composting.

What You’ll Need

  • Compost tumbler / bin / pail
  • Greens
  • Browns
  • Water
  • Redworms/manure worms (optional)

6 Steps To Composting In An Apartment

Done gathering the materials? Good. Now follow these simple steps and learn how to compost in an apartment.

1. Choose An Apartment Compost Bin

There are awesome composting systems to get you started.

You can purchase compost bins designed for small spaces and even some small compost tumblers starter kit that is great for beginners.

You can also opt for a DIY worm composter to save money. For apartment composting, you can use storage bins, 5-gallon buckets, cat litter buckets, or wood.

2. Make A Decision: To Worm Or Not To Worm?

You don’t necessarily need worms. However, if you live in an apartment and prefer an odor-free, worms are highly recommended. They speed up the process of breaking down kitchen scraps or food scraps, keeping the odor levels low (1).

Composting worms quickly and efficiently eat the organic waste. Therefore, vermicomposting can be done inside, or outside.

To do worm-free composting correctly, you’re going to need to have patience and monitor the compost extra carefully.

If you’re using worms, make sure to use a worm bin that has air holes at the top and bottom for airflow and drainage. You might want to put some mesh material around the holes, so the worms cannot escape. You will also need to choose a bin that is not see-through because red wigglers love the dark.

Worms like newspaper and need a bed of it. Place shredded newspaper at the bottom of the bin until it’s about two inches high.  

Then, place in an equal ratio of greens and browns. Make the browns gritty so the worms can use it to help break down food to eat.

Some gritty materials include sawdust (from untreated wood), eggshells, dried leaves, and fine sand.

Then add the worms!

Grab a handful of material from the top and place them in the hole before covering them back up.

You can learn more about vermicomposting by watching the video below:

Make sure you have an equal ratio of greens and browns. Every time you toss in scraps, throw in some paper or dried leaves as well to keep it balanced. A

The stuff will naturally decompose over 3-12 months.

3. Add Food Waste To Make Indoor Compost 

Once you have a compost pail, you can now start adding any organic matter like food scraps. However, you should bear in mind that you should have enough greens mixed with browns (2).

Composting food on its own or with grass cuttings will not work very well either and can lead to your compost turning slimy and smelly. If this does happen, mix in some browns materials to balance things out.

“Composting food on its own or with grass cuttings will not work very well either and can lead to your compost turning slimy and smelly. If this does happen, mix in some browns materials to balance things out.” – Stop Food Waste

You can also use greens and browns to troubleshoot the status of the compost. If your compost pile starts to smell, add in more browns. If your compost pile is really dry, add in more greens.

Do not add fresh manure or animal wasteto the compost pile if you’re using worms. While some aged manures are generally okay to use, fresh manure that contains ammonia and high salt levels can kill them.

If you have no experience composting in an apartment, you can also get a 50-50 compost from your local hardware store or farmers’ market.

4. Add Water To The Bin

Whether you are vermicomposting or using a 50-50 soil blend, moisture is crucial for thriving compost piles in an apartment. You don’t want it to be soaked but damp. The dampness should be like a wrung-out rag.

You may have to feel around to see if it’s getting enough water and if not, water a little bit at a time.

If you’re doing the worm-free method, be sure to stir thoroughly after watering, so you don’t have inconsistent moisture throughout.

Note: If you choose to compost on your balcony, you can set up a rain barrel for a small space and get some solar lights to spruce up the area. You can use the rainwater to water your compost and save on water! Make sure to purify your water first if it’s something you also use for drinking!

5. Stir And Collect

The worm-free method should be stirred up once a week to help with decomposing and to prevent rotting. Depending on the size of your compost, you can stir with a rake, shovel, mini shovel, or a large wooden spoon.

Material that can be used for compost

When stirring, make sure all material gets tossed and moved. It will help get new materials into the middle because the middle of the pile is where the magic happens.

After stirring consistently, in 3-12 months, you will have fertilizer! At this point, you can take out the fertilizer and use it.

Want to grow food fast? Learn how to grow microgreens indoor.

6. Do Steps 3-5 Again

The worm method does not need consistent stirring because the worm composters will do that for you, but what they do need is their bedding to be refreshed once they have turned it all into fertilizer.

If you no longer see their original bedding (at around 3-6 months), and their poop has taken over most of the space, you will have to collect the fertilizer, separate the worms, and refresh their beddings.

Once the original bedding is no longer visible, take everything out, lay down fresh bedding as described in step 2, and place the worms and some of the fertilizer back in. You can keep the rest of the fertilizer and add it to your house plants.

More worms will break down the compost faster, but you may want to control the population

Once everything is back in place, continue to add greens and browns to continue the cycle.

The worms will also multiply every 90 days or so. So, each time you need to refresh, don’t be surprised if they grew in numbers.

Although a high population of worm composters is a great indicator of a healthy and balanced compost pile, overcrowding can be an issue. Your little helpers might starve if you don’t produce enough scraps. This would be a great time to start a bigger compost or give some worms to a friend.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. Apartment dwellers like yourself can start and enjoy composting too! There are many options and techniques available to you to utilize in small spaces.

From storing scraps under the sink to composting in an apartment balcony, your small space will not limit you to creating less waste.

If you liked this article, please share it. And if you are composting in a small space, show us your setup!

FAQs

Compost should be stored in an apartment tucked away in a corner. Some common places to store your compost pail are underneath the kitchen sink and next to the recycling bin. However, it doesn’t mean that you should only stick to these places. As long as the compost pail is accessible and will not become a nuisance (smell and leaching liquids), it doesn’t matter where you’ll place the compost. If you live in a town that has a community garden or a waste collection policy, you can talk with your landlord first.

If you have a balcony, you can also store your compost there. However, keep it away from the sun. Heat can speed up the composting and dry out your pile.

In most cases, you don’t need to cover your compost pile. Having a lid or cover will restrict airflow, which is necessary for the composting process. However, if you have already finished compost, you should definitely cover the bin. An exposed compost will result in a decline of nutrients and eventually break down the compost completely.

No, a compost bin does not smell, provided that you have the right balance of greens and browns. If your compost smells bad, there’s an imbalance in your mix. If you have more green food scraps like apple cores and banana peels, you’ll have higher nitrogen levels in your compost. This basically means your compost is heating up faster than it should be! You will need to add browns such as dried leaves, hays, and sawdust to balance it out. However, adding too many browns can slow down the fermentation process. The general rule of thumb is to use 50% part greens and 50% part browns. This small thing can affect your compost, regardless if you have a backyard or an apartment.

Food scraps that are good for compost include any organic matter like vegetables and fruits. However, avoid putting too many citrus peels and onions and garlic, simply because compost worms do not like them in general. You’ll be left with huge chunks of untouched rotting orange peels in your pile! Other food scraps you can put in your apartment compost are coffee grounds, uncooked grains, and even tea bags.

  1. What are the Benefits of Composting. Retrieved from: https://unclejimswormfarm.com/benefits-composting/
  2. Composting A Household Guide. Retrieved from: https://www.dlrcoco.ie/sites/default/files/atoms/files/composting_-_a_household_guide.pdf
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