Composting is a great way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil, even if you don’t have access to a backyard. With a little creativity, you can compost in small spaces like apartments, balconies, patios, and community gardens. Here’s how to compost without a backyard:
Choose the Right Composting Method
The composting method you choose depends on the space you have available:
Vermicomposting uses worms to break down food scraps into nutrient-rich worm castings. It’s very compact and can be done indoors or on patios and balconies. You’ll need a worm bin, bedding, worms, and food scraps. The worms feed on scraps and produce castings that can be used to fertilize plants.
– Compact and odorless
– Can be done year-round
– Produces high-quality fertilizer
– Regular maintenance required
– Can attract flies if overfed
Bokashi composting involves fermenting food scraps in an airtight bucket using bokashi bran. The fermented scraps can then be buried or added to a regular compost pile. It takes up very little space and can be done indoors.
– Very compact
– No odor
– Can compost cooked food, meat, and dairy
– Requires purchasing bokashi bran
– Two-step method
Small Compost Bins
You can compost in a small plastic or wooden compost bin on a patio or balcony. Look for a bin with at least a 3 cubic foot (85 L) capacity. Turn and aerate the compost regularly for proper decomposition.
– Simple and inexpensive
– Fairly compact
– Requires frequent maintenance
– Slow compost production
– Can attract pests
Choose a Good Location
Pick a spot that gets some sun to help heat up the compost. Avoid windy areas that can dry it out. For vermicomposting, choose a shady, temperate spot indoors or outside.
Ideal locations include:
- Patio or balcony
- Community garden plot
- Near your kitchen for food scrap collection
- Indoors or in a shed/garage for worm composting
Follow these tips to start composting without a backyard:
- Compost bin or worm bin
- Bedding like shredded paper, dried leaves, straw, or coco coir for worms
- Aeration tool like a pitchfork or compost aerator
- Bokashi bran if bokashi composting
Add Brown and Green Materials
Create optimal conditions for decomposition by adding carbon-rich browns and nitrogen-rich greens.
Browns include dried leaves, straw, sawdust, shredded paper.
Greens include fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds and filters, crushed eggshells.
Maintain Proper Moisture
The compost should have 50-60% moisture, similar to a wrung-out sponge. Add water if it gets too dry.
Turn or stir the compost pile or bin weekly to aerate. This provides oxygen for the microbes.
In 6-12 months you’ll have finished compost or worm castings to use.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
| Problem | Solution |
|Odor|Turn and aerate compost, add browns, reduce greens|
|Pests |Cover compost, secure lids, place rodent mesh underneath |
|Slow decomposition|Chop materials, aerate, monitor moisture, turn more often|
Uses for Finished Compost
- Fertilize houseplants and garden beds
- Create compost tea to boost plants
- Top potted plants and container gardens
- Mix into potting soil for new plants
- Mulch around trees, shrubs and plants
So with a little planning, anyone can compost, even without access to a backyard! Composting helps reduce waste and creates free fertilizer for plants, making it a very rewarding practice for any gardener.