Want to grow a healthy garden free of growth chemicals?
Tired of throwing away food scraps?
Imagine using your scraps to create nutrient rich fertilizer. You may think this is a great idea, but don't have a yard to do it in. This article covers the basics for indoor composting. Yes, you can create amazing compost from scraps, even in a small apartment. In only three to six months, you can use the compost in your container garden, and you'll be on your way to urban homesteading!
Handling your trash may sound disgusting, and you may think that any container you use will attract flies. Fear not. Food scraps are gross, so we’ll avoid touching them as much as possible, and the issue of flies will be completely eliminated. Many people keep a compost container right on their kitchen counter without anyone ever knowing. There is no smell, no flies, basically nothing gross about it.
You have two options for composting indoors: vermicomposting and aerobic composting. Let’s go over the basics of each:
Vermicomposting is the use of worms to decompose matter. Red wriggler earthworms are kept in a container and fed scraps. By providing the worms with their ideal environment, they stay busy processing scraps into fertile soil for plants. Worms don't require a large amount of space and are low maintenance. You also don't have to handle the worms, unless you want to.
Worms eat at least their own weight in matter each day. The result is their droppings, called casts, which actually contain eight times the microorganisms that they initially ate. Bacterial pathogens are killed inside the worms’ intestines. They actually take in our waste and multiply its beneficial properties during the process. Their casts are also rich in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. These minerals are necessary for decomposing matter and result in soil that is ideal for plants.
How to do it:
- Drill holes into the bottom of a plastic tub. Place on a tray of the same size. This bin should be set on top of wooden blocks to allow air to circulate below it.
- Add worm bedding, and moisten until it feels damp. Worm bedding includes organic materials like shredded paper and sawdust.
- Put about 1 lb. of red wiggler worms into their new home and cover with a lid.
- Bury food scraps under the bedding to avoid odor problems. To help your worms digest their food, you can add a tablespoon of sand or soil each time you add scraps.
Once your bin is full of dark brown compost, you can remove the worms and move them to a new home. You now have a bin full of nutrient rich topsoil that your plants will love.
If you'd rather skip the worms and all their glorious droppings, you can use the aerobic method for composting. This method relies on air and the rotation of compost to process the matter.
How to do it:
- Choose two garbage bins. They should be either plastic or rubber, and one should be smaller than the other. The smaller bin should fit easily into the larger. The larger can needs a lid.
- Drill holes into the bottom and sides of the smaller bin.
- Put a brick in the bottom of the larger bin, and add sawdust around it. The sawdust should cover the bottom and come up to the top of the brick.
- Set the smaller bin on top of the brick. You’ll be putting your compost materials into this smaller garbage bin.
- Add 2 parts brown compost material for every one part green material. Replace lid.
Examples of brown material:
- Dry Leaves
- Shredded paper (no colored ink)
- Cardboard cartons
- Peat Moss
Examples of green material:
- Coffee Grounds (with filter)
- Tea bags
- Mix the compost regularly with a gardening fork to allow air to travel through. It should be kept moist and new green material should be buried deep below the brown material to reduce the risk of flies or odor.
Your compost is ready to use once it’s all dark brown color and uniform in texture.
Turning trash into fertilizer is a uniquely rewarding experience, and your plants will thank you for it!