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Compost in an apartment

24 March 2023

Of course, you can cultivate your own soil even if you live in an apartment. Let tomato vines, over-flowering geranium flowers and coffee grounds become part of your own cycle within the four walls of your home. Here we suggest two possible methods.  

A broken twig on the tomato plant, a cucumber plant that didn't quite make it and maybe the occasional apple peel. Even if you grow in a small area, you will still have dead plant parts to deal with. It's likely to have some vegetable scraps from the kitchen too, even if you use most of them.

Decorative spice box in the living room. Let your spice cultivation get a boost with the help of nutritious compost that you have created yourself. Photo: Lovisa Back

Many people now have the option of disposing of their green waste in an equally green (or brown) bag, which is taken care of by the waste collection service. It is, of course, better than your organic waste being burned on the landfill, but don't you think it's a shame to give away things that could give great nourishment to your cultivation?

A composter is simply a place for the decomposition of dead material from the plant or animal kingdom. If you like, you can still compost and grow your own soil even if you live five flights up.

Bokashi compost

The Bokashi method means that your organic material (food scraps and dead plant parts) is processed by microorganisms in an oxygen-free environment. Simply put, you ferment your waste in an airtight container before burying it in the ground to turn it into soil. Step one, the fermentation, can easily be done under the sink. Step two, the soil factory, can also be kept indoors but requires a slightly larger box.

It takes between one and a few months from filling your container until you have finished soil. It depends primarily on how warm it is inside. The heat accelerates step two.

Withered tulips break down in the composter. In a bokashi composter, you speed up the decomposition process by sprinkling in a special mix. Photo: Lovisa Back

Worm compost

In a worm compost, the worms do the work of turning your food scraps into soil. If you are handy, there are plenty of instructions on how to build your own worm compost. There are also ready-made worm compost solutions for the urban grower.

A worm compost can be kept both indoors and outdoors (for example on a balcony). A well-kept composter neither smells nor attracts ants or flies. Indoors, particular care may be needed to avoid such problems. Outdoors, the container needs to be well insulated for the worms to survive.

A worm composter that's up and running can turn your food scraps into ready-to-use soil in a month. In the beginning, however, you should allow a few months for your small soil factory to get up and running.

Grow box on the roof garden overflowing with green leaves. With your own compost, you keep a circular approach to your roof garden. Photo: Lovisa Back

Other composting methods

In a warm composter, food waste and dead plants are broken down by bacteria and fungi under high heat. It is important that the container is insulated and without large holes. In a garden composter, the temperature is not as high and worms also help to break down plant parts and garden waste. A garden composter does not need to be very dense and can effectively just be a pile on the lawn. These two types of compost are best suited for outdoor use.

Permission from the local authority

In some local authorities, you must report that you are starting a composter for household waste. You may also need a permit. Check with them before you get started.