Urban composting

If this kids gets it, shouldn’t we? Every time I throw egg shells or vegetable scraps in the garbage I know I’m throwing away good calories. I want to convert those calories into something good. Perhaps tomatoes or herbs or hot chili peppers!

Challenge: I live in an apartment.

I started to research into composting on balconies and such. I’m figuring that it will have a smell so I don’t want to do an indoor system.

So that narrows it down to a balcony or an outdoor window hangar.

Challenge: In the winter it is extremely cold.

I suspect that it will freeze during the winter and then start composting in the spring. I bet it will compost well after thawing because the freezing might break up the plant cells a bit.

A friend of a friend of a friend who is studying urban agriculture and food systems says that if it is about 4 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet, it may generate enough energy to keep going in the winter. Two problems there. That’s huge! Plus I don’t think I generate enough material to fuel such a system.

I considered using a heater but here’s an excerpt from Answers.com:

60 watt bulb consumes 60 watt•hours in one hour, or 60 Wh x 24 hr/day = 1440 Wh per day. That is the same as 1.44 kilowatt•hours (kWh). If 1 kWh costs you 25 cents, then leaving a 60 watt
light bulb switched on for 24 hours straight would cost you 1.44 kWh x 25¢/kWh = 36 cents.

That comes out to about $10 per month. I’m not sure about the calculation or if that’s a good price for electricity but I think it the composer uses electricity it will cannibalize the benefits.

I also considered grabbing heat from a balcony window. I went on a balcony and put my hand against the glass. I couldn’t feel much heat. This might have to be tried to see if it keeps the temperature in a good range. If it works it will be increasing insulation from part of the window and will be reusing the lost heat. Pretty cool idea so we’ll see if I can make that one come forward.

Apparently there are two types of compost methods. One is aerobic and the other is using worms (Vermi-composting). The vermi one is using worms to do the work. Because I’m hedging towards a system that will run in a seasonal fashion, it may eliminate the vermi-composting method. We’ll see if I can find a heat source.

So my initial impression is that my solution will be an aerobic compost system that will sit on a balcony. I think I should have two or three going so I can use one to feed the other. During the summers I may try a worm one outdoors for kicks.

I’m reading that you can use an aerated plastic bucket. You add some soil, leaves or paper to the bottom, then sprinkle waste on it. When it piles up a bit, more soil/leaves/paper. You stir it once in a while. After it is ready, it is soil. You can use the soil to grow stuff or reuse some of it to to make the layers for more composting.

I’m not going to use paper because its not for eating and is likely full of chemicals, inks and bad stuff.

Challenge: Can the compost system be automated?

A friend told me that ideas for automation may be found here: http://www.sun-mar.com/tech_drum.html

Suggestions for an aerobic composter are:

A friend of a friend uses ‘bokashi’ and  suggests “It can definitely work in smaller zones, though its nicer when you have a bit of garden somewhere to dig the bokashi bucket into after 2-4 weeks.   (apparently in high rises in Japan, for lack of gardens, people bury the fermented waste into houseplant pots).  Also, don’t be mislead by the notes about ‘no smell’… there is a smell, though less offensive than traditional compost…  more pickled than rotten… Also note, you don’t have to make your own bokashi mix, you can buy it from places like Richie’s Feed and Lee Valley (though its marketed as compost accelerator).

Here are some links about bokashi composting:

Suggestions for a worm based composter are:

Cathy’s Crawly composters (people say this doesn’t smell).

Question: I wonder why meat and oil can’t be composted.

So I guess I need to get some plastic pails and some starting soil!

I’ll report back!

First batch of Kitchen Scrap.

Dec 14: Okay, I’ve got my first pile of scrap. I don’t have the compost system yet but I have a pail so I will add holes. This evening I will go look for some sort of soil to put in the bottom of my composter.

Yummy onions!

Jan 4, 2011 Up to a couple of gallons

I’ve now got quite a bit. I’m keeping it frozen outside. I’m figuring come the thaw this spring it will compost quickly and then I’ll use it to grow some vegetables and stuff.

I figure it doesn’t have to be aerated yet since its so cold outside.

I’m tempted to try and keep it inside for a bit to see if it will smell. As it stands now it smells good because I put some great fruit in it. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Urban composting

  1. Pingback: Hydroponics? | Mambohead

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