How to create a compost bin even if you live in the city

In my twenties, my goal was to be the ultimate recycling, composting, vegetarian woman. No word of a lie; I was even taking out library books (yes, we used to do that) to fill my head with all the essential information about veggies, herbs, and even chicken poop! 

I lived in a similar environment to where I now live, but I was not quite as informed. Today, in my forties, I’m very proud of my beautiful compost bursting with wiggling earthworms. Granted, it’s not exactly a normal thing to get excited about, but to me, it is. This is because it essentially grants me tastier and better vegetables! What more could you ask for? 

Being a composting enthusiast, as I like to think I am, people always approach me with the same question, “How do I start composting?” so I’ve put together some basic points so you can begin your composting journey today.

Let’s dive in…

  1. Composting must become a habit. Get your family involved! Do whatever you can to encourage them to take part. 
  2. Place a bucket next to your normal rubbish bin, so you remember to actually separate your trash. 
  3. It can also be helpful to place a small bucket next to your kitchen cutting board. That way, you will remember to keep the scraps. 
  4. For composting in a flat use a 20 litre bucket with an airtight lid (an old paint bucket is ideal.) Make holes in the lid and some on the sides. This is for the compost to breathe and to help prevent a bad smell. If you can place the bucket outdoors, this would be helpful, but if not then make sure the contents of your compost bin is not too wet or soggy. If it is, then add some sawdust to dry it out.
  5. You will need a space outside, not too close to your house, to dump your precious scraps. In a farm environment, you can create a structure out of pallets and recycled materials so long as there is some breathing space. The ideal size is around 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep. (I started my compost area in the outside area of the chicken coop. A corner of the fence was used to build a structure out of recycled materials. A bigger area is also used for composting, where the chickens can help themselves to scraps while also contributing with poop!)
  6. You can still compost in a smaller area, such as a flat, since tonnes of composting products are available on the market. I recommend buying a compost bin in this instance. 
  7. Remember to always TURN your compost. Usually, around once or twice a week is good.
  8. Similarly, keep your compost nice and moist but NOT wet! 

What Can I Compost?

Another question I am often approached with is “what can I compost?” so I’ve included a handy list below for you to follow. 

Greens (Nitrogen) 

  • Food scraps
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Teabags / Coffee grounds
  • Chicken / Livestock manure
  • Stale bread

Browns (Carbon)

  • Leaves, straw, hay
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Crushed eggshells 
  • Egg boxes – remember to remove any glossy stickers on those boxes!
  • Ash from wood (not charcoal ash, though)

What Should I Not Compost?

Below are items that should NEVER enter your compost.

  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Fish
  • Milk products
  • Pet poop
  • Glossy paper

So, After All That Effort, What Are the Benefits?

There are many benefits to composting at home. These include better soil health, reducing greenhouse gases, and recycling nutrients. In addition, composting helps you keep your kitchen bins as stink-free as possible. 

Likewise, the uses of your new, beautiful soil are endless. It can be used as a mulch or added to potting soil. Alternatively, it can be worked into crop beds, used on your lawn, in pot plants, and even around your fruit trees. The soil also suppresses plant diseases and pests while retaining moisture. 

While I only have a small greenhouse, it was transformed into an experiment lab with all my different kinds of soil. The soil we have on our property is not great; however, I can see the crops getting better and better within two seasons. 

Composting is a slow process but very worthwhile. Studies claim you will increase the water-retaining capacity of your soil by 30%-50% by adding 5% organic compost to your garden. Of course, this does depend on the type of soil in your garden. 

There are also compost toilets, a kind of dry toilet that treats human waste via a biological process. A carbon additive can be used too, such as coconut coir or sawdust. In addition, you can produce soil-building fertiliser for trees to thrive. Hopefully, this will be used more in the near future as currently, they are mainly used in places such as eco-tourism resorts, rural areas in developing countries, and off-grid homes. 

With so many choices at our fingertips and how easy it is to get started, composting is a small sacrifice for our stunning planet. After all, we must make individual contributions to saving our world and what’s more, composting packs a punch, allowing us to reduce our impact in many ways. 

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