Compost is a fancy word for nutrient rich soil. That’s all there is to it. This nutrient rich soil is created by recycling natural materials that decompose together. Essentially you of send half your waste to the composer instead of the trash can and in turn you are rewarded with the best fertilizer in town! Lots of us, myself included, live in urban areas and so our composting abilities slightly more limited. In this post I’m going to be chatting to the those of you who are interested in urban composting who live town house, triplex, home dwellers- not high-risers.
Whether or not you have a green thumb is irrelevant since there’s even an option to dump, rake, and water it right into your front lawn. Don’t have a front lawn, don’t like plants, but still interested in making a difference with your food waste? Find a green thumbed friend to donate to in exchange for a portion of their produce!
The Reality of Urban Composting
Going out on a limb here to assume you’ve gotten this far because you’re possibly interested in compositing. I started out the exact same way. Clicking and reading my way through different blogs and reputable sites to figure out what I needed and how to get started. As mentioned in my post on why I started caring about food waste, I was somewhat mortified. By all of it. Especially because no one had mentioned the steep learning curve, the nasty smells, or the general frustration a seeming waste of time.
To put it plainly, despite all my research, I had been blindsided and was not happy about it.
Firstly, you need to sort out 2 ways to make this thing happen. One for your kitchen counter. One for the yard. To save time and energy, knowing that you will read at least 5 more blogs or websites to confirm I’m not crazy, I will provide you with the methods I chose and why. Primarily because it’s the life experience I have to offer… which is all anyone really has to offer!
The Counter Top
After a few smelly weeks of throwing my scraps into a stainless steel bowl and fighting with my makeshift composting trashcan, I caved and bought an actual countertop composter from OXO. I’ve linked it just below! It has great reviews for a reason. It’s durable, doesn’t take up much space, seals up well to climate any unpleasant odors, and can be thrown in the dishwasher if you feel like it. I haven’t even tried another one it works so well.
In an attempt to save money I purchased a $16 trash can with locking lid (this part is super important if you decide to go this route) from my local hardware store. Took it home and drilled a billion holes all over and put it out back. Ta-Da! The savviness was strong and I started dumping away.
Except, this cheaper method I had found online was no bueno. With a capital N and a capital B. I had to turn the can on its side every other day and roll it around, which was cool for like a month… until it got heavy and gross. I can’t tell you how many times I doused myself in nasty brown gooey liquid. Not to mention the process was SLOW. But, for the sake of the Earth I kept going. Enter, a neighbor who decide to throw out their standing rotating composter because a handle had broken. Hello new composter!
This little dude was a total game changer and I immediately noticed my mater decomposing at a faster rate. Which left me feeling accomplished- not defeated while covered in brown gooey liquid. If you live in a city and have a yard, even if it’s a small one like mine was, this is what you need in your life. All the other methods out there are cool, but not when you have wall to wall homes stacked for miles. Who wants rats or coons or stray animals clawing their way into their yard for a midnight snack? Nope-nope-nope. Especially not when it would put said animals on my back door step. #cityslickerandwhat
What You Compost Matters = Science
Secondly, you should make sure you’re tossing the right stuff in your composter. Even though it’s temping to just chunk stuff and forget about it, composting does require a bit more than just that. Not a lot more, just a bit more.
The building blocks of compost are:
For a super in-depth look at the science behind all of this, I strongly recommend checking out this composing cheat sheet!
Water is necessary for sustaining the microbial life in the pile and oxygen maintains aerobic conditions. Nitrogen-rich materials, commonly referred to as “greens,” are typically moist and contain a higher ratio of nitrogen to carbon. Greens are food wastes, grass, coffee grounds, and others. Carbon-rich materials, or “browns,” help balance the green materials and are typically dry, brittle materials like leaves, straw, newspaper, and wood chips.
- Fruit scraps
- Veggie scraps
- Dirty paper napkins and paper towels
- Soiled paper plates
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags
- Cut or dried flowers
- Grass clippings
- Shredded newspaper and non glossy junk mail
DO NOT Compost
- Grease of greasy foods
- *Chicken, fish, read meat*
- Dairy products
- Fat or oil
- Colored or glossy paper
- *Animal/human waste (yes I know there are composting toilets, but we aren’t talking about that!)
- Diseased plants
- Rice (can bread bacteria similar to anthrax!)
- Walnuts (can be toxic to plants you will later be using the compost on)Acidic items (too many limes, lemons, tomatoes can kill the bacteria needed to decompose)
*These items are only recommended to be composted by those experienced enough to do so- which I am not. Even more so when urban composting… think close proximity of rodents to your home/yard.*
A general rule of thumb is that your compost should not smell.
If it starts to smell, you have too much green or too much brown involved. So just add more of one or the other! You know what you’ve been tossing in, so it should be an easy fix that rectifies itself in a couple of days. You’ll see recomendations about blending all your scraps together before dumping them, or cutting up scraps smaller for quicker results… none of that is wrong. So much about how we spend our day is a choice, and I simply choose not to make any more dirty dishes just so I can have compost ready a month earlier. I’m not about that.
***Friendly reminder here. Composting is a natural process that you are just helping facilitate. Much of how quickly matter decomposes is based on temperature, which naturally will rise to 170F. You WILL NOT have compost next week, or even… next month. It could take a year. Could. Be patient, and keep doing your thing. It will happen. Because nature. And because urban composting, naturally, takes a bit longer ***
When’s Compost Ready?
Here’s another super handy cheat sheet you can check out after taking a read down below!
Look like crumbly top soilHave an earthy smellHave shrunken considerablyReturn to the normal temperature of 50F
Have recognizable matter (except maybe a small piece of wood here and there, if you’ve composted wood chips and such)Smell sourBe hot (this will actually stunt or kill the growth of your plants)
Now comes the fun part! Finding ways to use your compost to beautify your yard, flower pots, or container garden to name a few!
Let me tell you, when that first scoop of black gold comes off your compost pile, you’ll be smiling ear to ear! I can’t wait to hear all about your composting whys, hopes and dreams, success and failures… so spill down below!
Hugs, because handshakes are awkward~