How to Compost in a Small Apartment
Composting is a great way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil, even if you live in a small apartment. With some planning and the right equipment, you can compost successfully indoors. Here’s how I compost in my small apartment:
Choosing the Right Composting Method
The composting method you choose depends on the space you have available. Here are some options that work well for small spaces:
Vermicomposting uses red wiggler worms to break down food scraps. A basic vermicomposting setup consists of a plastic bin filled with bedding for the worms. I keep my worm bin under the kitchen sink.
- Compact and odorless
- Can compost cooked food and dairy
- Produces “worm castings” that are a nutrient-rich fertilizer
- Requires regular maintenance
- Worms can escape if not properly managed
Bokashi is a composting method that ferments food scraps in an airtight bucket using a special bran inoculant. It doesn’t require a lot of space.
- Minimal odor
- Can compost cooked food, dairy, and meat
- No bugs or pests
- Requires purchasing bran inoculant
- Produces pre-compost that still needs to be buried or composted
Electric composters are self-contained units that use heat and airflow to accelerate composting. They are compact enough for apartment use.
- Fast composting time
- Minimal odor
- Small footprint
- Require electricity
- Can be expensive
- Limited capacity
Setting Up Your Compost
Once you’ve chosen a method, you’ll need to set up your composting system. Here are some tips:
For vermicomposting, get a plastic bin at least 18″ deep and drill some holes in the bottom. Add bedding like shredded paper or dried leaves along with some garden soil. Order red wiggler worms online or from a local bait shop. Start with about 1 pound of worms.
For bokashi, purchase a specialized bucket with a spigot and tight-fitting lid. You’ll also need a supply of bokashi bran to inoculate the food waste.
For electric composters, choose a model rated for your space and usage needs. Place it in a well-ventilated area on a nonflammable surface.
Feeding Your Compost
To maintain a healthy compost, you’ll need to feed it the right materials:
For vermicomposting, feed your worms a 50/50 mix of vegetable and fruit scraps and paper/carbons. Limit citrus, onion, and dairy. Bury new scraps in a different spot each time.
For bokashi, add all food waste to the bucket and sprinkle bokashi bran over it. Press out the liquid from the spigot to ferment the waste.
For electric composters, follow manufacturer guidelines. Most can handle fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and filters, eggshells, and more. Avoid large bones, fats, and meats.
Monitor your compost closely and troubleshoot issues as they arise. With proper care, you can compost successfully! Let me know if you have any other questions.
Troubleshooting Common Composting Problems
Even in ideal conditions, composting doesn’t always go smoothly. Here are some common problems and how to fix them:
Bad smells usually result from anaerobic conditions without enough air circulation. Try mixing up the compost, adding more browns, or drilling extra aeration holes if using a plastic bin.
To deter fruit flies, make sure to bury food scraps under 8-10 inches of compost. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on top. And avoid adding too many fruits/vegetables at once.
Mold is common in bokashi composting. It’s generally harmless but if you want to limit it, add less citrus and don’t let food sit too long before adding bran.
If worms are escaping their bin, the conditions may be too wet or overcrowded. Add more bedding, reduce feeding, and make sure the bin is properly sealed with no holes or gaps.
Slow breakdown of waste is often due to suboptimal carbon/nitrogen balance. Try adding sawdust, woodchips, shredded paper, or other high-carbon materials.
Stay vigilant, test your compost regularly, and make adjustments as needed. Proper maintenance will lead to great compost over time.
Using Your Finished Compost
Eventually, your compost will be ready to use! Here’s what you can do with that “black gold:”
Vermicompost and bokashi pre-compost can be mixed into potting soil for houseplants at a ratio of up to 20%. This adds nutrients and improves drainage.
Bokashi compost needs to be buried underground for 2 weeks before using. Then it can be dug up and mixed into garden beds.
Finished compost from electric composters can also be mixed into potting mixes or used as top-dressing in gardens.
You can even apply compost as a nutrient-rich face mask! Just combine compost with a little bit of water or honey to form a paste. Rinse it off after 10-15 minutes.
Compost improves soil health wherever it’s used. So put your finished compost to work and watch your plants thrive!
Final Tips for Small Space Composting
Composting without a backyard is achievable with the right setup! Here are a few final tips:
Start small – a small bin or bucket is sufficient for most apartments.
Find the right spot – keep your compost in a moderately warm area out of direct sunlight.
Layer browns and greens – balance high-carbon and high-nitrogen materials for optimal breakdown.
Tend frequently – aerate, moisture-check, and troubleshoot issues with your compost weekly.
Use compost liberally – work finished compost into container gardens, lawns, and houseplants.
Stay patient – composting can take 4-6 months with worms or bokashi depending on conditions.
With a little trial and error, you’ll be composting without odor or hassle. Turn your food scraps into free fertilizer! Let me know if you need any other composting tips.