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How To Compost Indoors Safely And Effectively

March 17th, 2012

Many of us associate composting with the big sandbox in our backyard filled with kitchen scraps and coffee grounds.  If you’ve never tried composting before, it entails taking organic waste materials like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee and tea grounds, eggshells, and even gritty materials like cornmeal, and adding them to a barrel to decompose.  In turn, a composting pile can produce a rich fertilizer for your home garden.  But how does one effectively compost if they are living alone and do not produce many kitchen scraps?  Or perhaps, have limited outdoor space and/or opportunities to change the land?  It’s also not easy to compost outdoors in inclement weather.  For many, indoor composting is the answer, and has become a safe, accessible and effective way to create rich, fertile soil for your garden.

Why Compost?  For one, it reduces the amount of organic waste that ultimately ends up in landfills.  In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency claims that 14% of food ends up in land mills each year.  14% may not seem like much, but remember that rotting materials eventually transforms into methane, which has 21 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.  If you already recycle your paper, cans and glass, why not do the same with food scraps? Every little bit helps!

Secondly, it’s more sanitary. Placing food scraps to rot in your neighborhood garbage can ultimately leads to rodents, raccoons and insects.  It can also be quite malodorous — which tends to linger until Tuesday’s trash pick-up day. When done correctly, composting in your home reduces the potential of these nuisances, while also posing less imposition to public health and safety.

Most importantly, composting can create a rockin’ fertilizer for your home garden. Not only is it money saving, but it’s also is rich in nutrients and acts as a soil fertilizer, soil conditioner, and even as a natural pesticide.  It’s commonly used in home gardens –- but many also use this key ingredient in landscaping, agriculture and horticulture.

Throw Them In, Don’t Walk On Them! Eggshells, and almost anything leftover from your garden is suitable for composting.  Yet other scraps, odds and ends from around the house also work well in your compost.  This includes coffee and tea grounds, gritty flours, weeds, cardboard, and even dryer lint.  What tends to not work well for less experienced composters are meats, oils, dairy products, animal droppings and overdoing it with liquids. See a full list of composting do’s and don’ts here.

 There are two popular methods to effectively compost indoors.  View the step-by-step instructions to make an indoor compost area of your own!

Aerobic Kitchen Composting: This method of composting requires two bins or containers designed for composting.  The organic matter in the containers ferments naturally using approximately a 70% moisture level, and without heat and oxygen. Each bin should fit either under a sink, in a closet, or can be left out in view.

Step 1: Create two composting bins by finding a leak proof, durable and reusable container with a sealable lid. The bin should be about 10 cubic feet, or 24×24 inches.  A small garbage can will also work just fine. The trick here is to avoid containers that are too deep, or it could lead to unwanted odor.

Drill holes at the bottom of the container for aeration.  Set the container on bricks, and place a tray underneath to catch any liquid.  Using two bins allows one for processing, and the other may be used to add more scraps to.  Once one bin is ready for fertilizing, the other will be processing.

Step 2: Add 1-2 inches of a dry mixture to the bottom of the container.  This could be torn newspaper, cardboard, straw, dead leaves, peat moss, sawdust from untreated wood, cartons, or a combination of these materials.

Step 3:  Distribute the daily kitchen scraps (or weeds, dryer lint) on top. Cover the scraps with more dry mixture.  Some practice adding soil and lime to the dry mixture for more odor control.

Step 4:  Turn the soil every few weeks with a compost aerator or something comparable to create air passages.  If your compost is prone to heavy leaking, or has an odor, simply add more dry bedding and mix it well with an aerator.

Vermicomposting: similar to aerobic kitchen composting (yet not for the faint of heart!).  Adding Red Wriggler Worms in the composting bin will attain an even richer, more fertile compost. Red Worms are built for eating organic matter, and can compost half of their body weight every day! If you’re worried about having worms in your home, keep in mind that these worms are odorless, and help to more efficiently decompose kitchen scraps.

Step 1: Line the bottom of the can with rocks to prevent any worms from escaping. Follow steps 1-4 for aerobic kitchen composting. Leave out any citrus, alcohol, or spicy foods like jalapeños and peppers to keep the Ph level at about a 7.  The ph level is is an important monitor for creating an ideal worm thriving environment.

Step 2: Once the bin has its first layer of kitchen scraps, place the worms in for a “welcome meal.” Continue layering dry bedding, kitchen scraps, and worms until the bin is full.  Most dry bedding works well for worms, but avoid acidic peat moss as it will bring the ph level lower than 7, making the environment too acidic.

PS ~ Vermicomposting for kids.

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4 Responses to “How To Compost Indoors Safely And Effectively”

  1. Kent says:

    “14% may not seem like much, but remember that rotting materials eventually transforms into methane, which has 21 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.”

    I’m all for composting, but it still is going to transform to methane no matter where it is disposed of. Whether in a compost pile or at the dump.

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