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Apartment composting for heavy producers

 
hannah ransom
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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So I just moved into an apartment after a few years of living on property where I could let my organic waste rot outside.

Well, now I'm in Los Angeles and there is not ANYWHERE to dump organic waste without someone getting pissed. Especially not at the rate I create it.

So I guess I need to do some kind of apartment composting set-up. I looked into vermicompost but They all seem to say that the worms can't eat as much as my husband and I produce. Is this true or can you add a decent amount of scrap to worms daily?

Ideally, I'd also like to make the finished matter as little as possible, since I don't know what I'm going to do with that after it's finished, anyway (not a lot of people have gardens nearby and I don't think someone would come very far for a couple of buckets of compost).

Ideas?
 
Galadriel Freden
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Maybe you could do more than one worm composter and use the resulting compost in some potted plants? I bet you could grow some great herbs or strawberries in worm castings.
 
hannah ransom
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Yeah I'm going to figure out what I might be able to grow. I have some great windows, but I'm on the North side of the building and that is the only side I have windows on, so NO direct sun.

The back area gets almost no sun, as well, because it is a thin strip in between a fence and this tall building.

The front there would be potential, but I think my apartment manager would go ballistic on me.
 
Susan Jensen
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Location: Surrey, BC, Canada
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Since your back area faces north and gets little sun, you could try a worm composter out back in the shade. I have 5 different worm composting bins pictured here: Worm Bins. The larger ones are for a sheltered, shady spot outdoors. The two plastic ones (worm factory and modified rubbermaid) should go indoors. The worm factory can take more trays than pictured (7 max) so you can add more worms to take care of your your organics. A modified rubbermaid can also take extra nested bins which could hold more worms. Hope this helps.
 
Sean Banks
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you could do bokashi........get a small garbage can and throw your organic waste in there and add some inoculant each time.....should decompose pretty quick

there are also mechanical composting machines for home use....these are a bit expensive but they take all your waste and compost it inside a chamber with correct amounts of moisture and warmth...you end up with finished compost in a matter of a few weeks.

What to do with the finished compost?...........place an ad on craigslist...if you end up making some high quality stuff you could sell it, perhaps you will make enough to counter the cost of the mechanical composting machine if you go that route.....or just dump it on the side of the road...the wild plants will be happy
 
Galadriel Freden
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There are potted houseplants which will do fine with little to no direct sunlight, so north facing is no problem for ornamentals; if nothing else they'll be cheerful to look at and improve your indoor air quality.
 
Matu Collins
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Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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If I were you I would try one worm bin and one bokashi and put some serious effort into making connections with permie people who own land. There's got to be an intentional community around somewhere that would love your compost. There's probably a community garden around too. Hang out at the "health food" co-op, put ads on craigslist, look on Facebook out meetup or whatever social media people use out there. Your people are there, the gardens are there, you just have to find them.
 
hannah ransom
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Thanks, I know there is a permaculture house semi-close (like w/in 10 miles), but I also don't have a car, so I need to find people to pick up, which is my challenge.

This is probably one of those scenarios that if I sold it people would want it but no one wants it free.
 
Julia Winter
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I agree with Matu--this is a job for community. Community can be hard to come by in Los Angeles, but the people are out there! When I lived in Hollywood I had a garden plot at a community garden just north of Hollywood Avenue and remarkably close to the Chinese theater. It was on the site of an old avocado orchard and hard to notice when you drove down Hollywood boulevard because they left a few rows of old trees at the southern border fence. When I found it and signed up they said it was a two year waiting list, but as it turned out I got a place in just a few months. That helped so much! Prior to that all I could do was raise cherry tomatoes in a half barrel on my balcony.

If you can find a cooperative grocery store you can probably post something on a bulletin board about looking for a compost buddy. Such a store might even have it's own compost system, or be willing to set one up if you pledged to help manage it. Since you are returning from the store with a bag of stuff, whatever travel method you use should be conducive to bringing a bag of stuff to the store as well.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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If you get a bin or two going and start meeting cool people, maybe you could have a party and get them to invite their cool friends. Then people would know the way to your house and when they come and see your worms or bokashi they will know how lucky they are to have met you and will drive over for tea and pick up compost while they are there. Maybe even dropping off some fruit or veggies for you while they are at it!

I am sort of a nutter about compost, I just cannot bear to throw it in the trash. I was on an island recently in a small town house with no composting system. I brought my compost home on the ferry. (I threw the coffee grounds out the backdoor surreptitiously, tee hee)
 
hannah ransom
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I'm actually a nutter about all trash (don't even own a trash can). I have a cutting board with my scraps sitting on it right now.. Just waiting. I am picking my husband up in San Diego tomorrow (I got out place in LA and he is working down there) and I am going to try to get a couple of buckets for a worm bin from my parents. I am afraid of killing off all of the worms with too much compost.

Also, for worm bins, what options do I have for extra carbon material? As I said, I'm a nut about trash and don't have extra newspapers or anything like that. I am assuming treated sawdust would be bad (because I would think I could get that free somewhere)? In fact, why isn't newspaper too toxic for the worms? Kind of weird.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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That is tricky, I had the same issue with my worm bin. If you don't keep it well covered you can develop a serious fly population. I wonder if some buckets of soil would do the trick. The worm population is very variable depending on conditions. They tend to live in the upper inches of the bin, so wide bins will give you more space for them.
Trash is an issue that can make me crazy. I can't stand throwing things away. I saved my broken cups and plates for years knowing that someday I would think of something to do with them. Now I bury them in my hugelbeets to help with erosion control. it's like my own personal potsherd mound.
Perhaps finding ways to become friendly with the apartment manager will serve you well in this endeavor...
 
hannah ransom
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That's one of the problems, he already hates me.

We had a bit of a brouhaha when I was signing the lease and I told him it was illegal to take a non-refundable deposit.
 
hannah ransom
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Well, I don't think the worm thing is going to work.

I've had the worms for a week and they are still working on 3-4 days worth of compost that I gave them initially I was able to blend it all into a really thick "smoothie" for the worms and it was probably a 1/2 gallon from those few days.

I have tons of veggie and fruit scraps on "back-up" in my fridge waiting to be turned into compost. Maybe 3 gallons of valume? We have probably been eating less produce than normal for us, too.

I'm trying to find community gardens around here (doesn't look like there are any close enough to actually take the scraps there via bike). I took a bucket full to the farmer's market before I got the worms, but they were super hesitant to take my scraps and didn't want me to keep bringing them scraps (more for them to carry home).
 
Julia Winter
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How about black soldier fly larvae? Then you'll have to find someone with a lizard, or chickens, or big fish, to eat the pupae. Of course, if you could find somebody with chickens your problems would be solved! I guess you could just liberate the pupae. . .

Looking into Bokashi is also a good idea.
 
Dale Hodgins
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There are probably people on the upper floors on the south side of your building who could use the stuff. Most people who choose those locations are likely to have plants in mind. An ad in the laundry room or lobby should get the word out. Rather than marketing castings, you could market house plants growing in castings. This could lead in 100 directions - meeting neighbors, meeting gardeners and other like minded people, apartmentscaping business ...

I found this garden for friends who live in a condo. All compostables go there. The balcony is also filled with plants. http://www.permies.com/t/27910/projects/Dale-Day-Garden It will be more difficult to find in your area, but I guarantee that there is unused space nearby. It may be on a balcony or rooftop.
 
hannah ransom
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Julia Winter wrote:How about black soldier fly larvae? Then you'll have to find someone with a lizard, or chickens, or big fish, to eat the pupae. Of course, if you could find somebody with chickens your problems would be solved! I guess you could just liberate the pupae. . .

Looking into Bokashi is also a good idea.


I wish! That was what degraded all of my stuff when I used to compost outside. I am on the 4th floor and my windows are all screened up, so I'm thinking the chances of them just getting in here aren't very good, though?

The problem is never getting to the castings part. I'm POSITIVE I could find someone on craigslist to come pick up castings. It's a way to deal with my refuse that I am worried about. Worms don't seem to be enough for the amount of scrap I produce. It's not that I throw a bunch of good food away, I just eat a lot of produce and have well over a gallon (blended!!) weekly.

 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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hannah ransom wrote:
The problem is never getting to the castings part. I'm POSITIVE I could find someone on craigslist to come pick up castings. It's a way to deal with my refuse that I am worried about. Worms don't seem to be enough for the amount of scrap I produce. It's not that I throw a bunch of good food away, I just eat a lot of produce and have well over a gallon (blended!!) weekly.



Sure, someone will take your finished worm castings. Maybe even pay you for them.

Which neighborhood in LA are you?

A handful of worms won't be able to handle huge volume of compost right away, but they will increase in number quite rapidly if happy and become an impressive composting force. Enough worms and a big enough bin and they will take care of whatever you give them.

The biggest challenge is finding enough 'browns' to go with your 'greens'. Cardboard, newspaper, used paper napkins, dried leaves and woodchips are all candidates.
 
hannah ransom
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I am right off of WIlshire in between Fairfax and La Brea... Miracle Mile neighborhood.

Yeah, the browns are definitely tricky for me. I also try to make as little waste as possible so I don't get paper, I take myself off all junk mail lists, I buy things in bulk, etc.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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hannah ransom wrote:I am right off of WIlshire in between Fairfax and La Brea... Miracle Mile neighborhood.


Ron Finley is putting in gardens all the time in South Central... a little ways from you, but no doubt could put some compost to work.
 
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