Hot composting in an apartment

Warm composting in an aåartmentIf you, like me, are living in an apartment in the city, it can be quite a challenge to get started with composting. But hang on a second, why would you want to compost in the city anyway? Well, there are many reasons!

  • I enjoy growing herbs and vegetables on my balcony, so I need to buy soil and compost. This is a yearly investment and it can be quite expensive. Having my own supply of high quality compost to mix in with the soil from the year before, lets me reuse the soil. Then I don’t have to throw it away, and buy new. And the plants get top quality soil to grow in and produce perfectly.
  • A lot of the soil that is sold commercially is actually not soil, but peat (or turf). Removing the turf from the marshes causes the release of climate gases. And by buying that product I support the entire industry – and I don’t really want to be a part of that!
  • Also I produce a lot of vegetable scraps, tea leafs, egg shells and other material that has to be disposed of. A lot of the garbage from my kitchen could easily be composted and reused for my balcony garden. Even though the kitchen waist where I live (Oslo) is collected and turned into biogas, I find it even better if I could reuse a part of it myself.

So, I started doing some research into how I could compost in an apartment in an easy way without a high investment. And I came up with hot composting in a small bucket. This should be pretty easy and straight forwards – and doable inside. I watched several videos and read articles about composting and decided to give it a try.

You need two buckets. In the first you drill small holes in the bottom, and a second one is to put the first in (to collect runoff). The most important thing is to get the combination of green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) material right. You add one hand full of earth to the bucket to start with. This will provide all the microbes necessary to start the composting process. Then you add your kitchen scraps which is green material, and carbon based brown material. Stir it once every day, keep adding material, and if everything goes well you will end up with compost in about half a year.

As this is an inside compost it is important not to put any processed foods in the compost, or it will stink. I put my bucket outside in the shade on the balcony, and then I had a small container in the kitchen which I dumped the scraps in during the day. In the evening I would empty my container in the bucket and add some carbon material with it.

I soon discovered that it was not that easy to get enough carbon based material to add. I used stuff like shredded newspaper, cardboard that I tore in small pieces, some leaves and material collected outside. It seemed no matter how much brown I added, the stuff got to wet and soggy and would go anaerobic and stinky, instead of turning into compost.

It took quite a lot of work to keep the balance just right. And it had to be adjusted and turned and double checked each day. When everything worked well, the content of the bucket smelled of nice wet earth, but as soon as it got to wet, it turned foul.

I didn’t have much luck with this method and gave it up after a few failed attempts. So the search for a good way to compost in the city continues!

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