As a small-space urban gardener, composting was a practice I long though was "off the table" for me.
Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong.
Not only am I composting successfully in my small urban space, but I'm producing more than I need in my garden! Here are four of my top tips for composting well in a small space.
Choose the Right Composting Method For You
When you don't have much space, you're looking for composting methods that either:
- Don't take up much space
- Create compost faster than normal
Compost tumblers take up a bit less space than your average hot compost pile, but they also create finished compost much quicker, because you can turn and aerate them more efficiently, leading to quicker breakdown of your organic matter.
Worm bins, as their name suggests, use worms (usually Red Wigglers) to process food scraps much faster than a hot compost pile. They also take up a smaller footprint.
If you have primarily green waste to process, I'd recommend dipping your toes into vermicomposting. If you have both greens and browns, a compost tumbler is an efficient way to generate rich, "black gold" for your garden.
Use a Compost Thermometer
If you decide to go with a standard hot compost pile, make sure you are checking the temperature with a compost thermometer at least once per day.
In a perfect world, keeping your compost pile at around 140°F for 3 days is the goal. After 3 days, it'll start to cool down, at which point you'll turn your pile to move finished compost out to the sides and bring unfinished materials into the center where they can break down.
The better you track the temperature in your pile, the quicker you'll be able to turn your greens and browns into dark, nutrient-rich compost for your garden. And the faster you can make compost, the quicker you'll be able to amend your soil and grow incredible amounts of fruits and veggies.
Pre-Compost Your Food Scraps With the Bokashi Method
To really super-charge your small-scale composting, try out bokashi composting. It uses an inoculated bran to start to ferment your food waste before it even makes it into the compost pile.
In fact, many gardeners will use the bokashi method and then directly bury their fermented scraps in their soil, where they'll break down in a matter of days or weeks instead of the usual months.
You can also throw your bokashi compost scraps into a vermicomposting system or your compost pile for even quicker breakdown and inoculation of beneficial microbes.
Store Your Food Scraps in a Countertop Compost Bin
Surprisingly, one of the things I hear from fellow small space gardeners is, "I have the space, but I don't really feel like taking all of my scraps out to the garden every single time I cook."
Makes sense! It can be a hassle. The solution is to get a simple countertop compost bin for your kitchen, so you can store a few days worth of scraps and then transfer out into your composting system all at once.
This streamlines your cooking and composting processes, and believe me when I say that we humans like to take the easy way out. So why not give mind and body a little break by making the composting job easier? I like to collect about 4 days worth of scraps - any more and they start to rot in the container, which is no good for the smell in my kitchen!
Well, there we have it: Four creative ways to make the most of a small urban space, and yet still maximize the amount of compost you're producing. If you do your job right, you won't need to buy too many amendments for your garden, because you'll be creating almost everything you need from materials you'd have otherwise thrown away!