Friday, September 23, 2011

Balcony Composting -- Give it a Try!

One of our master composter/recycler volunteers, Marilyn K., has been practicing composting on her balcony for nine years. When Marilyn moved from her house to her apartment, she looked at finding ways to continue composting without the space of a huge backyard. She soon developed an innovative method to compost in a small space.
She can produce four Rubbermaid totes of compost every year by using organic food scraps, coffee grounds, and some shredded paper. It’s easy to do, it doesn’t smell, and it doesn’t require too much effort. The end result is a lot of rich and healthy compost.

Here is Marilyn’s recipe for success:
2 Rubbermaid tote bins
2 containers (ice-cream bucket size, one for compostables, the other for dirt)
1 bag of leaves
1 small hand-held rake
1 pair of rubber gloves

Take the two Rubbermaid tote bins and drill holes in the lid.

- Collect kitchen scraps in a container that you store in your freezer. When the container is full, place it on the counter to defrost; then dump the materials into one of the bins .

-Cover the food waste (vegetables only) with a sprinkling of dirt, and then with a layer of leaves. Add water if necessary.

-Mix the layers often by hand (using the rubber gloves) or with your small raking tool.

- Monitor the moisture level. If there is too much water, add leaves and/or shredded paper, moistened cardboard or box board. Or take the lid off to let materials dry in the sun. If it is too dry, add some water or some more frozen veggie-mix from the freezer. Repeat until the bin is full and then start the next bin.

-In the spring, summer, and fall, with frequent mixing, a bin will turn into compost in two months. In the winter, the materials in the bin will freeze solid, so both bins will freeze solid. However, when the temperatures rise, composting will happen, the materials will break down and the volume will reduce.

-The more often you mix the materials, the faster it decomposes and the fresher it smells.

-Occasionally, when you mix the materials in your bin, you might smell a faint odour. Stir it up when escaping odours won’t interfere with people on their balcony, like in the early morning or late evening after supper. When the lid is back on there is no odour.

-Get leaves from a friend or relative, or visit a nearby park and help yourself. Marilyn cleans the park in return for the gift of leaves.-If you go on holidays, by layering the materials, your bin will still compost.

-Freezing basic materials helps them break down faster.

-Keep the contents as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Use your compost as a top-dressing for house plants, lawn areas, or around shrubs.

Mix some in your watering can and let it sit overnight to make compost tea.

Fill a zipper-style storage bag with dry compost and craft a fancy package out of reuse materials for a wonderful and completely home-made gift.

When you are at the Reuse Centre collecting materials, say hello to Marilyn sorting in the volunteer room – she will be thrilled to share tips on her balcony composting techniques.

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