Because I live in a townhouse, I don’t have the vast amount of yard space my family had growing up in the suburbs, so what I do with that space is crucial. I want to cover every inch with flowers or vegetables without sacrificing any of that space for composting. So, I’ve found a way to compost without disturbing my garden.
If you’re reading this blog, you hopefully already know why composting is a great addition to your garden. If you need convincing, check out my previous blog on, 6 Reasons to Start Composting.
Through trial and error I have found an effective way to compost without sacrificing garden space. Using a homemade compost bin, I am able to produce and neatly store nutritious compost. Follow these steps to make your own compost bin at home!
GATHER THE SUPPLIES
- 1 plastic storage container (depending on how much you want to compost, you can pick anything from 3 to 30 gallons), I chose a 25 gallon bin
- 1 power drill (I borrowed my sisters) – use the larger twisted drill bit
- 1 bag top soil (you want plain soil, don’t get potting soil because that typically contains added nutrients which you do not need)
- Worms (go to a bait shop or find them outside)
Creating your compost bin is easier than you’d think. With the above supplies and green mindset, you’ll have your very own compost bin in 15 minutes or less!
- Make sure the bin is empty and with the power drill you will want to drill holes along all 4 sides of the bin and the lid. Drill into the bin and not vice versa, that way all the plastic pieces from the bin fall inside the container. Then you can dump them into the trash can, rather than allowing them to fall on the ground outside.
- Fill ¼ of the container with the topsoil. I also scooped a little soil from my flowerbed too, that way I was adding in other bacteria that will help decompose the food scraps I add.
- Add the worms to the soil in your container with whatever food scraps you accumulate in your kitchen!
- Every other day (or whenever you add food scraps) toss the soil around inside the bin. Remember, organic matter needs oxygen to decompose safely (which is why we had to drill the holes in the sides) and stirring around the soil will help oxygenate the compost.
WHAT I LEARNED
Avoid the flies and gnats.
When I started composting, the bin started to attract a lot of flies, gnats and ants. I thought this was normal at first, but after a little research I learned otherwise. The best ways to rid yourself of these unwelcome visitors is to avoid overloading the bin with food scraps. Keep it at about a 50/50 ratio of decomposing material and dirt. Also, don’t keep the soil too wet, this will attract fungus gnats.
If you do get gnats, let the soil dry out a little bit and they should go away. Make sure you keep mixing the soil! Every time you add food scraps, mix it up! And finally, no animal products (except eggshells)! All of the critters you don’t want in your compost love decomposing meat or dairy products, so be sure not to add those items! Worms should be your bins only residence.
**Find a list of compostable items at the bottom of this post.**
Two is better than one.
I had one bin for the first month of composting and quickly realized that that was not enough. As I mentioned in my last post, composting motivated me to eat healthier. My fiancé and I started piling up the food scraps faster than I expected. At that rate, I would never have composted soil but instead been left with a bin filled with food scraps and lots of nasty critters.
Rather than having one bin, I alternated by months between two bins. For one month I put all of my materials into bin 1, and then the next month only put the scraps in bin 2. Then at the end of each month I would empty out the compost to make space for more!
In a small apartment? No worries!
It’s easier to keep your bin outdoors, but if you don’t have outdoor space, and you may think that you can’t do this. But you can! You can follow the same instructions above, including the addition of worms! I would suggest opting for smaller bins because it saves on space and you can keep them in smaller places out of sight. You will still get the occasional fly and/or gnat, which again is completely fine. If you do get a couple of these pests, they won’t be buzzing around your living room because they will prefer to stay in the bin. For the apartment, my fiancé and I used to live in, I would have kept the compost in our spare bedroom/office space. It was in the back of the apartment and not a common place for guests to go. I suggest keeping the bin on top of a piece of cardboard because a few sprinkles of dirt tend to get out every now and then when you have to mix the soil.
Keep the compost slightly damp.
Whenever you add about a cup of food scraps, add a cup of water too. The soil needs to be slightly moist to decompose properly. I can’t stress it enough, but you need to mix it well each time too. I pick mine up and shake it really good, or I grab a small shovel and stir it about.
If your bin is outside, don’t worry about winter.
The compost stays warm inside the bin and the decomposing process continues throughout the entire year. I thought composting would only be a warm weather activity, but I was wrong! During the winter is when I add compost to my indoor plants and anything left I try to leave in the bin until gardening season returns.
What about the holes? Will the dirt fall through?
Compost tends to clump and stick together better than soft, dry dirt. You won’t lose any of the soil through the holes in the sides of your bin. You may get a few small sprinkles when you shake it around, so if it is inside be sure to put it on top of a towel or cardboard.
Don’t fret, there’s no stench.
You would think a bin full of worms, soil and food scraps should smell exactly like… well, a bin full of worms, soil and food scraps. But to my surprise it doesn’t! It has minimal odor at all and the smell it does produce is a soft fresh dirt aroma. If it does smell, that means there is too much wet produce that is rotting. At that point you will most likely have unwanted bugs, so follow the fixes to insure bug-free composting.
Chop it up!
Everything you put into the bin, be sure to chop it or tear it to small pieces. They will decompose faster that way so you can use your compost sooner.
I hope this helps with your gardening process, I know it has definitely helped me! I no longer throw away compostable food scraps (which reduces the amount of methane in the atmosphere) and it has been wonderful for my garden! I hope what I have learned through my research provides you with a smooth, effortless composting experience!
- ALL fruits or vegetables
- napkins or paper towels
- unwaxed cardboard
- nail clippings
- dog hair and dust
- coffee ground
- coffee filters
- tea bags (remove the staple!)
- leaves, straw and grass clippings
DO NOT ADD
- any kind of dairy
- any kind of meat
- excessively greasy items
- Heavily processed foods such as chips, pastas and candy
- My rule of thumb: When in doubt, throw it out.