A guide to composting for small and big space living

Composting is as simple as designating a space outdoors to store organic waste until it is eaten by insects and worms and breaks down into soil. However, this isn’t always possible when living without garden access, so here are a few different options.

Cone composter

Space needed: Garden space, where this can sit directly on grass or soil

Effort Level: Easy

Additional notes: No meat or dairy can be added

A cone composter are the plastic bins where they have no base, and are placed directly outside.

Set up the bin by layering twigs at the bottom of the composter and layering on dried materials such as leaves. This give the compost oxygen.

Next, layer up garden waste, like weeds or cut grass, with more dried materials

Now, you can add in your organic kitchen waste. This is things like vegetable peelings, banana peelings and cooked vegetables. Don’t add meat or dairy.

Cardboard and paper are great at absorbing moisture and can be added to the compost bin too. This organic matter rots straight into the ground, so is a great option if you don’t need the compost you make to use in the garden. You could keep a small tub or bucket in your house to collect compost in, so you don’t need to go into the garden with each piece of waste you have.

You can take out compost from the bottom of the cone composter, by opening the small ‘door’ on the front of the composter, though a cone composter usually makes enough soil for just potting some plants or adding on top of vegetable beds as a lot goes straight into the ground.

Get yourself a partner who looks at you like I look at my compost heap

Get yourself a partner who looks at you like I look at my compost heap

DIY composter

Space needed: Garden space, where this can sit directly on grass or soil

Effort Level: Medium

Additional notes: No meat or dairy can be added

A cone composter can be easily replicated by building a construction without a base.

Using found objects, such as 4 wooden pallets, can keep costs down too, or you can buy new wood from a hardware store. Hold these pallets or boards together with brackets and screws.

The advantage of building your own composter is that you can add additional sections onto it, if you find you are filling your compost bin a lot.

Turning the compost heap is easier in a composter like this. Turning a compost heap is required if you want to use this compost in your garden, turn the compost once a week, by inserting a spade into the compost and flipping it over. This aerates the compost, as if no oxygen can get to your compost, it will slow down the rotting process.

A Zero Waste Life. Composting

Wormery

Space needed: Indoor or outdoor space

Effort Level: Easy

Additional notes: No meat or dairy can be added. This one includes pets in the form of worms!

A wormery can be bought or made. This can be stored indoors, so could be a great solution for lack of garden space. A wormery could be built in something like a food grade bucket.

The basic layout of a wormery is a container where worms can live in darkness with soil and have organic matter fed to them. This container will need to sit in a lager base container, or be propped up in a way that moisture can be collected from the wormery. There will need to be holes drilled into the top of their container so they can breathe. There will also need to be holes drilled into the base of the container, so the worm ‘wee’ can be collected.

A special breed of worm is required, which are known by various names; brandling, manure, red or tiger worms. They live in rotting organic matter, where as earthworms live in soil. These worms will need to be added to the wormery with soil. Organic matter can slowly be added along with paper and card, which absorbs moisture.

I expected this to smell when kept indoors, but it didn’t. The wormery eventually got moved outdoors, as some worms escaped! Which is common when the worms are settling into their new wormery. Read my full review here.

A Zero Waste Life. Wormery

Bokashi bin

Space needed: Indoor or outdoor space

Effort Level: Medium

Additional notes: All foods (inclusive of meat and dairy!) can be added

A bokashi bin can also be homemade or purchased. This form of decomposition is a form of fermentation. You will need a container with a lid. It is ideal if you can drill a hole into the container and fit a tap, similar to what you would find in a water butt. This tap will be closed for the majority of the process as you need to keep out the oxygen for the majority of the fermentation process.

Start your bokashi bin off by layering a good 5 cm of bran which has been inoculated with bacteria that can break down cooked and uncooked foods. Add in your food waste, and layer the bran on top again. Leave this for two weeks whilst it ferments (you may want two bokashi bins so you can fill one up, whilst the other ferments)

The bran will need to be regularly purchased, so bear this in mind.

Add the soil you create to the garden or into a larger compost bin.

If you eat mayo by the gallon, save the bucket! And make a Bokashi bin

If you eat mayo by the gallon, save the bucket! And make a Bokashi bin

Hot bin

Space needed: Outdoor space. This is ideal when sat on a paving slab or

similar.

Effort Level: Easy

Additional notes: All foods (inclusive of meat and dairy!) can be added

A HotBin is a mini industrial composter, which is kept outside, but doesn’t need to be on grass. It is ideal if you want to make compost quickly and also to be able to compost meats, cheeses and milk, like in a bokashi bin.

This is quite a big initial investment, however, it creates fully broken down compost in the quickest time, and does not need any additional items added to aid the process.

A hot bin reaches between 40 and 60 degrees, so therefore can also kill of weeds easily.

You can collect liquid fertiliser from this bin. The compost which is created doesn’t need to be turned like in a cold composting method.

Do you have a preferred composter? Which have you tried?

This article links in with a weeklong Zero Waste food challenge, which aims to produce Zero Food Waste, which you can partake in whenever you like.