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Apartment Composting: Step by Step Instructions

June 11, 2017

Today marks only the second week on my journey of composting my food scraps in my apartment on a tight budget. Though I am new to the game, I wanted to share the steps I took in an easy-to-follow format. Hopefully this will help others have a lighter research load and can avoid the pitfalls I went down on their journey to a successful compost experience!

 

So what is composting?

 

Composting is a mixture of decaying organic substances that can used as a natural fertilizer. The best part is you can make it yourself for free aside from any initial setup costs.

 

Why compost?

 

The thought of decomposing food, not to mention hundreds of worms sharing your apartment, may be off-putting. However, if done correctly, the benefits of composting far outweigh any apprehensions. By composting food scraps not only are you prolonging the amount of time until you have to take out the trash, you are being a friend to the environment! 

 

In landfills, food quickly rots, producing methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Composting reduces these emissions while improving the health of the soil and the plants where you use your finished compost. Using compost on your plants also reduces the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and even additional watering. 

 

These are the steps I took to create what looks and smells (or lack thereof) like a successful compost pile!

 

1. Find a suitable bin.

After shopping around, I determined that it was unnecessary to buy a bin designed for composting. I ended up using a large plastic tub that I already owned. It fit nicely in the bottom of my pantry. I drilled holes in it so my worms could breathe and it was ready to go. I laid a smaller plastic bin with holes inside. This way the finished compost can fall through the holes.

 

2. Save your scraps

 You can save anything from apple cores to tea bags! These will be the nitrogen materials (or greens) needed for your compost. Here is a list of everything that can be composted.

 

3. Find a brown that works for you!

The composting process requires you to layer browns (carbon materials) in with your greens (food scraps). I originally was using shredded copy paper and newspaper for my brown layers. However, this was irritating my worms and causing escapees. I switched to more natural materials (leaves and twigs) after about two days.

 

4. Get your worms!

After much research, I settled on red wigglers as my worm of choice. I was shocked at how expensive composting worms could be on some websites. They were out of my price range so I purchased my worms from a place where live bait is sold for fishing. Even so, I could only afford to buy a total of 120 worms. This is less that what was recommended on other sites, but my compost pile is also small by comparison.

 

5. Put it all together!

 

Your pile should begin with a layer of brown, then green, followed by brown, etc. The green layer should not be as thick as the brown. If you get the balance right, it should smell like soil, not rotting food. I read in some places that it is a good idea to water each layer to ensure moisture throughout the pile. I did that but found that my pile was a bit soaked the first time around. Be careful not to push your pile from moist to wet (your worms can drown). 

 

Once you have your first layers (I only did three layers to start, two brown and a green in the middle) it is time to add the worms! Put your worms on top and they should make their way into the pile. If they aren't getting with the program, shine a light on the pile, that will encourage them to go down. 

 

6. Wait and keep composting.

 

It will take at least a few months before you have finished compost. In the meantime you can continue building your pile by adding layers of green followed by brown. You should also turn (which I took to mean dig around in) your pile about once per week. It is as easy as that!

 

Thank you for reading, good luck composting!

 

 

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