Imagine you could turn 30 percent of your household waste, at no cost, into high-quality compost for your plants (plus reducing the carbon footprint and toxic emissions)! Composting is a natural and effective way to reduce organic food waste. But for city-dwellers who lack outdoor space, urban composting may seem a bit more challenging. Here’s all you need to know about composting if you live in a city.
According to some estimates, an average of 200 million pounds of waste has been produced in the US. Out of that, around fifteen percent is from kitchens and yards. It means it is an organic material, rich in nutrients that eventually end up in landfills and other trash sites where it is lost forever. If you don’t want to waste that kind of waste material, composting is always a great way to do so.
Composting is treating organic material and making it useful as a fertilizer. It speeds up the natural process of enriching discarded matter that can help flowers and vegetables in your balcony and kitchens to grow fast and fat.
There are apparent hurdles in composting if you live in a city, including the lack of space to let the materials go through the process. Now let’s explore how you can get into urban composting!
Myths Surrounding Composting
Probably you’ve considered getting into urban compost yourself, but someone has taken you away from this idea due to some common myths that surround the art of composting:
- First, compost is not dirty. When we provide ideal conditions for the bacteria and other microorganisms to work swiftly, they produce a black matter called humus which is rich in all the nutrients and minerals essential for plant growth. It’s completely natural contrary to artificial fertilizers.
- Second, artificial fertilizer is not better or even an alternative to this centuries-old process. Artificial fertilizers offer a temporary solution to the fertility of the soil, while compost enriches it in a natural way.
- Third, it does not “smell”. It means you can set up composting apparatus anywhere without worrying about foul odor making everyone nauseous in your surroundings.
- Fourth, it does not cost much nor is it labor-intensive. The setup is easy and the little things (microorganisms and worms) do the real work. You just let them.
Urban Compost [101 How to Guide]
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to compost like a pro in a city.
1. The Bin
Due to limited apartment space, you need to have a bin or a dedicated space for the composting process to take place. Since it takes warmth and moisture to decompose organic material to replenish the soil, a bin is a great candidate for the job.
There are a lot of options in the market in terms of utility and looks of a bin, including porous or those mounted on a frame for easy tilting. Also, keep in mind the interior of your apartment and your schedule for the location of that bin.
2. Green & Brown
The four main components of composting are air, water, carbon, and nitrogen. Since air and water are easy to get, you need to procure nitrogen and carbon for your proverbial bin.
An easy key to remember and sort material is this:
- Nitrogen comes from green waste
- Carbon comes from brown waste
The key here is to strike a balance between the two while providing microorganisms and worms an ideal culture to grow and multiply.
3. Covering The Bin
When greens decompose in the bin, they will produce an odor with a hint of ammonia in it.
To counter this, add carbon-rich browns in the bin and mix them thoroughly for an even fit.
If you are composting indoors, it is important to keep the lid of the bin closed to ensure no flies enter the bin nor the odor escapes from it.
Additionally, monitor the food intake of the worms, as if they are not eating much, it will contribute to that odor. Counter this issue by either feeding them less or adding more worms in the bin.
4. Securing The Bin
Rodents are the urban burglars that can infiltrate your compost bin. Here are some steps to keep them from creating a mess.
- Keep the lid of the bin closed.
- Refrain from putting meat and dairy products inside.
- Bury food under two to three inches of the compost.
- Turn the matter regularly to prevent nesting.
- Ensure there are no holes or entryways other than the lid of the bin.
5. Keep It Moist
If you do not add water to keep the water moist, it will decompose eventually. But, keeping it damp will catalyze the process and you can have swift results. Make sure it is damp and not soggy. As a rule of thumb, a wrung-out sponge is a perfect standard for ideal dampness in the bin.
For areas with hot, dry climates, your compost bin needs a little more water than usual. In case of rain or light shower, make sure to remove the lid of the bin and let the worms enjoy the rain. Keep in mind to put the lid back on to retain heat and moisture inside while keeping the pests out.
6. Let The Bin Breathe
Microorganisms do not need as much air as normal human beings. Still, if you turn your compost often and give more aeration to the residents of “binville”, this will help them grow faster.
Stirring it often distributes water and air evenly in the bin. Not to mention it will reduce the odor if there is any. Two to four weeks is the best duration for the bin to turn.
7. Speeding The Process
Since composting is the breakdown of the materials into their components, you can get quick results if you add smaller pieces to the bin. Use a cutting or shredding tool to cut small pieces and then add them into your bin.
Still, turning the pile is the most effective practice. Otherwise, it may take as long as a year for your fertilizer to be ready.
Composting is an ancient science of stripping waste material of its nutrients and using it as a fertilizer or growth booster for plants. In a city where domestic horticulturists struggle for ideal conditions to grow fruits and vegetables, you can have a home-grown, fresh supply. If you follow this urban composting guide and do everything right, it will take around three to four months for your compost to be ready. Use it while planting or during fall and winter in the base of a plant and you will see quantifiable results in the short run.