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Composting in the city

 
pollinator
Posts: 291
Location: Nevada
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I have an apartment in Beijing now - one more year...I have a south facing balcony and want to know if I can do some kind of composting - most likely in some kind of container.  Odor is certainly an issue.  I make a vegetable juice every morning so have some of the pulp from that (I do use a lot of it in other food dishes).  I am going to be getting either a rabbit or guinea pig very soon, so the new pet is likely going to be making generous contributions to the cause.  I have table scraps, though many of the fresh fruits and vegetables will first be "processed" by my new pet.  My goal is to reduce my impact on the environment, as well as to make some nice compost for house plants.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3625
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hey Tom.

I have a Flemish Giant Rabbit, and my compost has never been happier. She free-ranges in our kitchen, and we let her out to explore and hang out in the rest of the apartment when we're home (she's still a rabbit, and loves to nibble furniture, shag carpeting, wires, spider plants and even leaves off of our avocado trees).

I love the rabbit manure because it can be applied directly. If you can get a sifter that lets the droppings through but retains the bedding, you could separate them out to some extent. We use a wadded paper bedding, new paper processed from the pulp paper waste stream, that the worms in my garden just eat up.

Incidentally, the high-carbon nature of the bedding portion can be a great benefit when adding high-nitrogen kitchen scraps, and if it lacks the nitrogen to get composting, all you need do is pee on it.

I have a ground-connected composter in the backyard of the flat I rent, along with a nice, though shady, raised bed, but I have thought about how I would deal with my rabbit's litter in close-quarters short of throwing it out, and I think I would use the largest drum-composter, one of those that are mounted on a frame to allow it to turn easily, that I could fit in the space available, and I would make the hottest compost there as I could, perhaps keeping sealed buckets of overflow scraps to add at need, as the one thing you won't be short of is carbon.

To this I would add at least one planter or large pot that would primarily act as a vermiculture bin, with perhaps squash, courgette, or other heavy-feeding fruit-producer living in it. The resultant worm castings could be harvested at need, to make room for the next finished hot compost contribution.

But this is highly dependent on space, and whether or not you can get a composting worm there.

I think the other obvious choice is to see if bokashi will work in your case.

But keep us updated, and good luck.

-CK
 
gardener
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Location: South of Capricorn
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I have a bokashi bucket, which is closed and really only generates any smell when you drain off the liquid (which you can use as fertilizer) or empty/bury it. I have seen people take the bucket contents, mix it 50-50 with dirt, and then use that as potting mix. I think that may take a long time, so I'm not sure about how effective that may be unless you have someone you can "gift" the bucket contents to- burying in an urban garden and then planting on top of it in a fortnight would be optimal.

I also have rabbits, which eat most of my veg scraps-- compost was an ongoing problem for me for a variety of reasons (space, lack of browns, etc) and now between the bunnies and the bokashi it is all sorted.
 
gardener
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hau Tom, Chris and Tereza have given some good choices for inner city composting, the Bokashi does have the opportunity to offend the olfactory sense but usually it is contained by the lid used to seal the air out.

If you get either, the rabbit or the cuy you have a ready to go composter, simply use their manure as you would any compost, no need to further process it unless you just want to.

there is also the option of creating a worm farm (a simple plastic tub will work, no need for fancy "worm bins") I use two bins stacked, the top one has 2mm holes covered by window screen material to keep the worms in the upper bin, the lower bin collects the excess water.

Redhawk
 
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The method I have been using for many years now is what I call 'Mulch shakes' (or garden smoothies in current vernacular). I have a blender that I bought at a garage sale (50 cents!) where I put all my vegetable trimmings as I prepare meals. Basically anything that can go down a garbage disposal can be pureed in a blender. I even add banana peels, celery and asparagus by cutting these into 1/2" (>2mm.) pieces ACROSS the fiber grain. The blending action knocks down most of any odor that builds up and the resulting slurry can be blended directly into soil with a little hand garden cultivator ('claw'). I used to have problems with animals (raccoons/squirrels/skunks etc.) messing around in compost piles not to mention flies etc.. But there is no odor nor 'food' size pieces to attract anything. This method could be used by even apartment dwellers with container gardens on their porch/balcony.
 
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Location: Hillsdale County, Michigan, zone 5B
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For what it's worth...I pee in a bucket of sawdust. Normally it gets dumped into a compost pile outdoors. This particular pile has no large "stuff" in it. Only coffee grounds with paper removed and urine soaked sawdust. If I stir it often, after a few months it makes a fine compost I don't have to sift. This is just one of my indoor/outdoor systems.
Well, one winter it got too cold during a certain week to dump the sawdust bucket. That is, it got too cold for me to want to go outside to do that chore. I set it aside and started another bucket. I set it aside for a whole year!

I discovered it a few weeks or months later and noticed there was still a little odor but weaker. It wasn't stinking up the extra bathroom I had it in by any means. That's because it wasn't overly saturated with urine for once. I got a wooden spoon and started stirring it every week. It was just the right moisture. It became darker and darker. Finally there was no odor at all. The last few months I would only stir it once in a while, always checking to be absolutely sure there no odor I could detect. I was quite amazed that sawdust would actually decompose in such a small container and with no worms to help it. Finally last week I used it in a potting mixture for some plants I am starting early.

Not that any apartment dweller would do this, but it did cross my mind to leave a bunch of cooking buckets in the large bathtub I never use in the bathroom I seldom go. Marilyn Kefirlady
 
pollinator
Posts: 205
Location: WNC 6b
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Worms. Get yourself a bucket of worms Rabbit manure can be added directly to the worm bin. Even the rabbit hutch could be placed over the worm to simplify even more.
There are lots of images online for this sort of thing.

There's always a way to make compost.
 
Posts: 173
Location: Temperate coniferous forest (Oregon) - zone 8b, 94" rain/yr
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One more easy idea for those who are stuck in a large city. We are in Boston and there is more than one Whole Foods store near us. We have been taking our compost there for years. I learned this from a B&B owner who lives across the street from a Whole Foods store. They take a large five gallon bucket of kitchen scraps to Whole Foods regularly. There are usually compost collection points inside and outside at Whole Foods, in the table/eating areas. Or you can dump directly into their large collection bins behind the stores. You can include anything organic: dairy, bones, meat, citrus peels, etc.
 
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Location: Tecate, Baja California
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Hi there! We live in a small apartment on a second floor and there's no garden available to us at the moment where we can put our scraps. Since odor is an issue and there's not much space we decided to use this design which has been working pretty well so far. It's a 50 liter container with a hole drilled and a water valve at the bottom and the top is a piece of spare cloth fitted on top using the original clamp. We collect leaves from the local park every week or two and we layer it along with the food scraps, I had to buy some soil to place between the food scrap layers and leaves but it's working great so far. I just took it out and removed some of the leachate and it doesn't smell bad at all! We like to open the valve to aerate the compost every now and then as well. The top lets the excess moisture evaporate also. Here's a quick pic:

 
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