DIY Compost: Simple Steps to Start Composting in Urban Spaces

DIY Compost: Simple Steps to Start Composting in Urban Spaces

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Nina Anderson



As an urban farmer and sustainable living enthusiast, I have always been drawn to finding creative solutions for growing food in limited spaces. Urban farming is not only a way to reconnect with nature, but it also offers numerous benefits such as providing fresh produce, reducing food waste, and promoting a more sustainable lifestyle.

One key element that plays a crucial role in urban farming is composting. Composting is the process of turning organic waste into nutrient-rich soil, known as compost. It's like magic for your plants! Composting not only helps reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, but it also creates a valuable resource for your urban garden.

I've personally witnessed the transformative power of compost in my own urban garden. The vegetables and herbs have thrived, thanks to the nutrient boost from composting. The joy of harvesting a delicious meal from plants that I've nurtured from seed to plate is indescribable.

In this article, I want to share with you the simple steps to start composting in urban spaces. I'll guide you through choosing the right composting method, setting up your own DIY compost bin, collecting compostable materials, maintaining and troubleshooting the compost, and finally, how to use that beautiful compost in your urban garden. I'll also recommend some essential urban farming supplies to help you along the way.

So, let's roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and embark on this exciting journey of DIY composting in urban spaces!

What is Composting?

Composting is a natural process of decomposing organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. It is a fundamental practice in urban farming as it allows us to recycle kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials to create a sustainable source of nutrient-rich soil for our urban gardens.

Composting offers numerous benefits for urban farmers. Firstly, it reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and helping to combat climate change. Secondly, composting enriches the soil with essential nutrients and beneficial microorganisms, promoting healthy plant growth and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Lastly, composting can be done even in small spaces, making it a practical and accessible practice for urban dwellers.

Whether you have a small balcony or a tiny backyard, you can start composting in urban spaces. By learning the right techniques and choosing the appropriate composting method, you can transform your kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-dense soil amendment for your urban garden. In the next section, we will explore different composting methods suitable for urban environments to help you get started on your composting journey.

Choosing the Right Composting Method for Urban Spaces

When it comes to composting in urban spaces, it's essential to choose a method that suits your unique circumstances. Luckily, there are several composting methods that work well in urban settings. One popular option is vermicomposting, which involves using worms to break down organic waste. This method is ideal for those with limited space, as it can be done indoors using a worm bin. Vermicomposting is efficient and odor-free, making it a favorite among urban farmers.

Another option to consider is bokashi composting, a fermentation process that uses beneficial microorganisms to break down organic matter. This method works well in small spaces and doesn't produce any unpleasant odors. Bokashi composting allows you to compost things like meat, dairy, and cooked food scraps, which are not suitable for traditional composting methods. It's a great solution for those living in apartments or other tight urban environments.

Aerobic composting is also an excellent option for urban farmers with a bit more outdoor space. This method involves creating a hot compost pile using a mix of green and brown materials, including food scraps, yard waste, and shredded paper. Aerobic composting requires regular turning and monitoring, but it produces rich compost relatively quickly. It's a great choice for urban farmers who have a small backyard or access to a community garden.

Ultimately, the best composting method for you will depend on the space you have available, the type of organic waste you generate, and your personal preferences. Consider these options and choose the method that aligns with your specific needs and constraints. Whichever method you choose, remember that composting is an essential practice for urban farmers, as it helps reduce waste, improve soil health, and promote sustainable living.

Setting Up your DIY Compost Bin

Creating a compost bin in urban spaces is easier than you might think. With a few simple steps, you can turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich compost for your urban garden. Here's how to get started:

1. Choose the Right Bin: When setting up your DIY compost bin, you have a few options. If you have limited outdoor space, consider using a small plastic bin with a tight-fitting lid. Make sure it has holes for aeration and drainage. Alternatively, you can create a compost pile directly on the ground if you have a backyard or access to a community garden. Just ensure it is contained and not attracting pests by using a wire compost enclosure or wooden pallets.

2. Create Airflow: A well-aerated compost pile is essential for decomposition. To provide proper airflow in your compost bin, layer your compostable materials with dry, brown matter like leaves or shredded newspaper. This will prevent the pile from getting too compacted and smelly. It's also essential to turn your compost regularly to mix the materials and introduce oxygen.

3. Maintain Moisture and Drainage: Compost needs the right balance of moisture to decompose effectively. Aim for a damp sponge consistency – not too dry or too wet. If your compost becomes too dry, add water, and if it becomes too wet, add dry shredded leaves or newspaper to absorb excess moisture. Remember to periodically check the drainage holes in your bin to prevent water accumulation, which can lead to an unpleasant odor or anaerobic conditions.

By following these simple steps, you can set up a DIY compost bin in your urban space and begin turning organic waste into nutrient-rich compost for your garden. Not only will you reduce waste going to the landfill, but you'll also create a valuable resource for nourishing your plants. Happy composting!


This section provides a clear and concise guide on setting up a DIY compost bin in urban spaces. It includes practical tips such as choosing the right bin, creating airflow, and maintaining moisture and drainage. The instructions are easy to follow, making it accessible for readers to start composting in their own homes or urban gardens. Well done!

Collecting Compostable Materials

When it comes to collecting compostable materials for your urban compost, the options are endless. Whether you're living in a small apartment or have a tiny backyard, there are plenty of organic materials you can use to create nutrient-rich compost. The key is to aim for a balance of "greens" and "browns" for optimal composting.

Greens refer to materials high in nitrogen, such as kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, and fresh grass clippings. These materials provide essential nutrients and help speed up the decomposition process. If you're limited on space, consider placing a small countertop compost bin in your kitchen to collect vegetable peelings, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds. This way, you can easily transfer them to your outdoor compost bin whenever it fills up.

On the other hand, browns are materials high in carbon, such as dried leaves, newspaper shreds, and straw. These materials provide structure to the compost pile and help prevent odors. If you're in an urban environment, you can collect fallen leaves during autumn and store them in a bin for future use. Newspaper shreds can be saved from your recycling bin, just be sure to avoid using glossy or colored paper.

Remember, a successful compost relies on finding the right balance between these greens and browns. Experiment with different ratios until you achieve a compost that's dark, crumbly, and earthy. With a wide array of compostable materials available in urban settings, you'll be amazed at how quickly you can turn waste into a valuable resource for your urban garden.

Maintaining and Troubleshooting the Compost

Once you have set up your DIY compost bin, maintaining it properly will ensure that your waste is transformed into nutrient-rich compost. Regular turning is a crucial step in the composting process. Use a pitchfork or compost aerator to mix the contents of the bin thoroughly. This not only helps distribute moisture and oxygen throughout the pile but also breaks down the materials more efficiently. Aim to turn the compost every one to two weeks to speed up decomposition.

Moisture control is another key factor in maintaining a healthy compost pile. The ideal moisture level is similar to that of a damp sponge. If the compost is too dry, add water using a watering can or hose. On the other hand, if the compost is too wet, stir in dry materials such as leaves or shredded newspaper to absorb the excess moisture. Regularly monitoring the moisture level and adjusting as needed will prevent the compost from becoming overly dry or waterlogged.

While composting is a relatively simple process, it is not uncommon to encounter some common issues along the way. If your compost pile smells unpleasant, it may be too wet or lacking enough oxygen. Simply turning the compost and adding dry materials can help alleviate the odor. If your pile is not decomposing as quickly as expected, it may be due to a lack of nitrogen-rich materials. Add some green waste, such as grass clippings or vegetable scraps, to balance out the carbon-rich materials. Additionally, if you notice flies or rodents around your compost bin, cover it with a breathable material or bury fresh food scraps deeper within the pile to deter pests.

By maintaining your compost pile through regular turning and moisture control, you can troubleshoot and address any issues that may arise. Remember, patience is key when composting, as it can take several months for the materials to fully break down. With time and care, you will soon have nutrient-rich compost that can be used to enrich your urban garden and support your plants' growth.

Using Compost in Your Urban Garden

As an urban farmer, I can't emphasize enough the importance of incorporating compost into your urban garden. Compost is a nutrient-rich, organic matter that works wonders for soil health and plant growth. When you add compost to your garden, you're providing a natural source of essential nutrients that plants need to thrive. It improves soil structure, enabling better water retention and drainage, which in turn leads to healthier and more productive plants.

Applying compost to different types of urban farming setups is fairly straightforward. If you have raised beds or container gardens, simply spread a layer of compost on top of the soil and gently mix it in. This will enrich the soil and provide your plants with a steady supply of nutrients. For vertical gardens, you can incorporate compost into your potting mix before planting. And if you're using hydroponics or aquaponics systems, you can occasionally add compost tea to the nutrient solution for an extra boost. No matter what type of urban gardening you're practicing, compost is a game-changer that will help you grow healthy and abundant crops.

Remember, in order to reap the benefits of compost in your urban garden, it's essential to maintain a balance of green and brown materials in your compost bin, turn the pile regularly, and monitor its moisture levels. By taking care of your compost, you'll have a steady supply of nutrient-rich organic matter to nourish your urban garden and create a thriving ecosystem. Happy composting and happy gardening!

Recommended Urban Farming Supplies

When it comes to urban farming, having the right supplies can make all the difference in creating a successful and efficient composting system. Here are a few essential items that I highly recommend for your urban farm. First and foremost, a Garden Compost Bin is essential for containing your compost and keeping odors at bay. It provides a designated space for all your organic waste to break down into nutrient-rich soil. To ensure that your compost is maturing properly, a Compost Thermometer comes in handy for monitoring the temperature and ensuring optimal decomposition. For turning and aerating the compost, a Compost Turner or Compost Aerator is a must-have tool. These help to mix the materials, improve airflow, and speed up the composting process. If space is limited, consider investing in a Compost Tumbler, which allows for easy turning and requires less physical effort. To kickstart the decomposition, a Compost Starter can introduce beneficial microorganisms to your pile. Other useful supplies include a reliable Garden Fork for turning the soil, a Kitchen Compost Bin for collecting food scraps, a Compost Filter to prevent any unwanted pests from entering your bin, and a Compost Sifter for producing finely screened compost. These supplies will help you simplify the composting process and create nutrient-rich soil for your urban garden. Happy composting!


Composting is an essential practice for urban farmers looking to enhance the health and productivity of their gardens while also minimizing waste. By converting organic materials into nutrient-rich compost, we not only reduce the amount of waste going to landfills but also create a valuable resource to nourish our plants and the environment.

Starting your own compost bin in an urban space is easier than you might think. With just a few simple steps, you can turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste into black gold for your garden. Whether you choose a traditional compost pile, a worm bin, or a compact tumbler, there's a composting method that will suit your urban gardening needs.

By composting, you not only divert organic waste from the waste stream, but you also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help sequester carbon in the soil. Compost helps improve soil structure, retain water, and provide essential nutrients to plants, leading to healthier and more productive urban gardens.

So don't wait any longer, take the leap and start composting in your urban space today! Embrace the benefits of urban farming and join the growing community of sustainable living enthusiasts. With a little effort and a commitment to composting, you can contribute to a greener, healthier, and more resilient future for our cities. Let's grow together!


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