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Guide To Small Space Composting

There are lots of good reasons to make compost. Save money, save resources, improve your soil and reduce your impact on the environment. Regardless of your reasons, composting is a...

There are lots of good reasons to compost.
Save money, save resources, improve your soil and reduce your impact on the environment. Regardless of your reasons, composting is a win/win scenario. Good for you and good for the environment.

Adding compost to your apartment or balcony garden will not only fertilise, it actually feeds your soil with a diversity of nutrients and microorganisms that will improve plant growth.
Chemical fertilisers, on the other hand, provide a quick burst of a limited number of nutrients that can wash away into our rivers and streams. Compost also increases soil stability, improves drainage and helps retain moisture.

City Living Composting

Apartment and Small Space Composting Saves Money

  • No need to buy chemical fertilisers. Compost is free!
  • Compost helps to retain soil moisture so you water less.
  • The nutrients from compost are not washed away by rainfall. No waste!

Save Resources With Your Composting Efforts

  • Keeps a valuable resource out of the landfill.
  • Waste less water 
  • Reduce costs for waste collection and thereby reduce fuel use.
  • Extend the life of landfills. Remember residential waste is 40% compostable materials.

Improve Your Container Garden Soil

  • Compost returns valuable nutrients to the soil to help maintain soil quality and fertility.
  • Compost is a mild, slow-release, natural fertiliser that won’t burn plants like chemical fertilisers.
  • It also improves texture and air circulation in soils and helps to increase the water retention of sandy soils.
  • Provides organic matter and nutrients which will improve plant growth and lead to better yields.
  • Compost supports diverse life in the soil bacteria, fungi, insects and worms which in turn imporive soil health and plant growth.

Small Space and Apartment Composting Reduces Your Impact

  • Reduce Green House Gases 
  • Reduce Carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles used to transport waste. Organics in landfills break down anaerobically (without oxygen) to produce methane gas, a greenhouse gas 21 times more harmful than CO2.
  • Reduce the impact of chemical fertilisers that run off into our rivers, lakes and streams.
  • Buried organics can react with metals in the landfill to produce toxic leachate, a potential source of groundwater pollution.

    By composting you complete the cycle by returning what you grow back to the soil to help you grow!

    How do you compost if you live in an apartment?

    Up on The Rooftop is an urban Balcony farm and composting our waste is an easy daily activity.While composting is a great way to add soil to your backyard plants, many of us live in an apartment where a yard or access to additional space is limited. For those in an apartment, follow these simple steps to successfully compost your food and plant waste.

    Composting can be achieved through Worm Bins, Compost bins and Bokashi Kitchen bins.

    Urban Worm Bins

    There are many ready-to-use compost worm farm systems available on the market which require little preparation. Just Google "Compost Worm Farms" or make your own

    1. Repurpose a plastic container. In order to allow ventilation and drainage, create holes in both the top and bottom of your container. Be sure to place a deep tray under this system to catch the "leachate" (worm wee). Place it on some pot feet or small blocks to all drainage from the bottom.
    2. Add strips of paper soaked in water and place on the bottom of the container. Layer about ⅓ of the container with the paper strips. This will be the start of your compost pile. Be sure to place a deep tray under this system to catch the "leachate" (worm wee)
    3. Then add worms, followed by your food scraps. Find a home for your compost bin! Preferably somewhere with not too much sunlight, such as the corner of a balcony or entryway.

    Continue this process making sure to scoop out compost once there is more soil than scraps into a smaller plastic container for distribution and start again! You can also stack containers on top of one another, as long as you create the holes on both the top and bottom. You can give this soil as a gift, use it for small indoor plants or sprinkle it on your lawn.

    On my Instagram and Facebook pages I have demonstrated several times my various composting systems used at Up On The Rooftop Balcony. Do take a look and don't let living in a small space deter you from making your own compost through your own household waste. Neighbours are often only too happy to donate their scraps to you too! Your spent potting mix can be mixed into your composting bin. 

    On the Balcony, I use the HungryBin Worm farm system. 

    Apartment Worm Composting

    Apartment Compost Bins

    There are many different types available on the market of varying sizes. You will need to select the type and size that is manageable in your situation. I'm fortunate up here on our oversized Balcony to have an area where I have a few different methods working concurrently, the worm farm concept I have already mentioned and I use the Jora " Little Pig" a compact tumbler bin. 

    You can easily construct your own compost bin using a garbage bin drilled with holes which is a method I have set up in the workspace Balcony area as well (yes, I have a lot going on!). 

    Bokashi Kitchen Bins

    The bokashi bin is a Japanese system that pickles your waste (bokashi means fermentation) and is perfectly suited to small spaces. You need two bins (they can be kept indoors) and special bran inoculated with good bacteria. In goes all your cooked and uncooked kitchen waste and a sprinkle of the magic bran.

    Personally I have not needed to use the Bokashi method as I have the worm bin and compost bin systems. Do note that after the final stage of the Bokashi method, it is necessary to still add the mix to compost or soil for it to further break down - it is too rich in that state to use as compost.

    Grow Bag Composting

    One of the simplest methods of composting is to use a bag! Composting in a porous fabric sack or bag is a fabulous way to save space and still be able to compost.  My preference is to use the Root Pouch 100% recycled PETE water bottle fabric bags. Aeration is essential to aerobic composting and the bags being porous provides a sufficient supply of air to support aerobic micro-organisms. Some folk advocate composting in plastic bags which is more like anaerobic composting due to the lack of breathability. I would not recommend it the main composting method where a significant amount of garden or food waste is produced.  The mix of the material being composted is the normal ratio of “brown” material to “green”.

    Your spent potting mix can be mixed into your composting bin. On the Balcony I use the Root Pouch composting bag to collect up fallen leaves and leave them to break down over the intervening months. If you are going to use the bag as a composter of kitchen and other waste, use the same principles as those for the bins ie continue to alternate layers of greens, browns and spent potting mix (if using) till the bag is full. The  contents of the bag then be soaked with water. Turn/shake up the bag every 2 weeks. One of the #78 (78 Litre) or #95 (95 Litre) bags with handles makes for a really manageable system

    To learn more about the Root Pouch grow bags click here.  I find the 78 and 95 litre bags perfect for small space composting!


    Want To Make Potting Mix With Your Compost?

    I have a great resource "How to Make Potting Mix Guide" which will walk you through the easy to obtain ingredients to make superb potting mix AND amend your garden patch with! Homemade compost is a key ingredient, (however, alternatives are suggested if compost is not available).


    More Apartment Composting Resources:-

    Compost Worms slow down their eating

    Feeding time on the balcony

    Compost worms living in plant containers

    Grow bag composting 



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