Believe it or not, anyone can compost no matter where they live. There is a type of compost container and method for you whether you live in an apartment or have a house with a large yard.
composting in an apartment

Irvine County Apartments

You may wonder: if you don’t have a garden, what would even be the point of composting? Because food waste does create a lot of trash, if everyone composted, there would be 1/3 less waste filling up the landfills. Once food waste gets to a landfill, it decomposes anaerobically in the trash bags its in. It then creates ammonia and greenhouse gases like methane. Ammonia will leach into streams, rivers, and waterways and poison the wildlife. Composting food and yard waste into compost is good for the environment, not good just for your soil!

 Types of Composting

There is a composting system for every kind of lifestyle, space, and budget. What it really comes down to is these three questions:
  1. How much waste do you create?
  2. What are your goals for composting? Creating soil or diverting waste?
  3. What volume can you reasonably compost?
If you start small until you get comfortable with how the system you’re using works, then you can increase your efforts. If you start big and don’t know what you’re doing, then you might not be able to keep up with the composting once everything starts to decompose. Biting off more than you can chew is where you can run into problems. Be realistic and choose the composing style that fits where your situation. There are many different commercial products you can buy to use in composting as well as a variety of DIY options.

Hot and Cold Composting

Most compost processes fit into two general categories – hot and cold. The differences are explained below.

Cold Composting

The easiest method of composting, but it does take a lot of time to mature, and this process won’t kill weed seeds. When using this method, you just keep placing layers on the top of the pile without turning it over. Balancing greens and browns isn’t necessary to compost successfully, but having both in a pile will hasten the process. You do need to have airflow, so anaerobic bacteria don’t develop. The air can get introduced by turning the pile, but it’s not necessary. If you pay attention to how you layer the collection, then air circulation can be obtained without much effort. If you place some long sticks in the center, it will lift up the material and help the airflow. Any type of soggy materials, like wet leaves, should be allowed to dry out a bit before being added to the pile. If air circulation is limited, then you can drive holes into the pile with a piece of rebar or a stake. As your pile decomposes, you should watch your moisture content. If you get a lot of rain, then you should cover your compost pile with a tarp to you don’t drown the good bacteria. If the weather is too dry, then a gentle hosing of the pile should suffice. Cold composting occurs very slowly, depending on how much material is there. It’s also dependent on the brown to green ratio and how often the compost pile gets turned (or how well-aerated it is). If you never maintain your compost pile, it may not ever hit even 90 degrees (which is the threshold for the beginning of a hot compost system). If your collection contains a good deal of green material and does get turned now and then may become a little warmer. Within your compost pile, the bottom of the pile decays first, which will leave the more substantial pieces which are on top still intact (and will need to be mixed in eventually).

Hot Composting

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A method that relies on using microbial activity in the compost pile at its optimum level. The result is finished compost in a shorter amount of time. It does require some special equipment, as well as your diligence and time. But if you want finished compost to top-dress a bed or to start a brand-new garden bed, then you might want to give this method a try. The size of the compost bed is essential for hot composting success.  If your pile is too small, then it won’t heat up to the temperature it needs to be. A manageable size of a bin or pile for hot composting is 4 feet wide by four feet high. Usually, the bigger, the better, but this size is doable for most gardeners. You can use a simple wire fence bin, build a container out of wooden pallets, or just heap everything into a pile. Keep in mind the pile needs to be placed in full sun as much as possible. If you put it in the shade, it will cool off and slow the whole process down. Of course, then you’ll need to keep it damp with periodic watering. The easiest way to start a hot compost pile is to have all the material you need on hand when you start your collection. You will need a large amount of organic matter with the correct ratio of carbon to nitrogen to get the pile heated up. It’s difficult to start small because hot composting requires mass needed to generate heat. The proper ratio of brown to green is essential to get the microbial activity going and heating the pile. The ratio for a hot compost pile should be 25 parts carbon to 1-part nitrogen (brown to green) It’s essential to chop up all the material, so it breaks down more quickly. The easiest way is to mow over it a few times. You can also add a couple of shovelfuls of finished compost to the pile. The addition of a little compost will act as an activator to start things a little more quickly. Make sure to mix all the ingredients together and water, so everything is evenly moist. For a successful hot compost pile, the temperature needs to be between 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This degree of heat will kill most of the weed seeds and other harmful bacteria in your pile. Once the temperature goes down below 130 degrees, then turn the pile. It’s essential that the compost pile is kept moist if it’s too dry, then water it with a hose. If it’s too wet, then add some shredded newspaper to soak up the extra moisture. After about three weeks of following this method, you should have dark brown and crumbly compost for your lawns and gardens.

Composting for Different Size Dwellings

Because everyone lives in different size homes, apartments, and other dwellings, you need to choose the method which works best in your space. Below are some examples.

Composting In Apartments/Condos

Compost Pick-up Services

If you want to compost but don’t have anywhere to put your kitchen scraps, check for local compost pick up services. Since most municipalities don’t offer the service, businesses have provided options to people who want to compost but don’t know what to do with the end product. Some services use a five-gallon bucket for their pickup containers, so you need to figure out how long it would take to fill up a bucket with your kitchen scraps. Most of the services will offer choices of weekly, twice a week or once a month option, or a combination of any. Which type of service you choose will depend on how many people are in your family, if you go out of town often and how often you cook at home. Find out what you can or can’t compost. If there’s too much contamination, then it will make the finished compost unfit to use. If you put items in your compost that doesn’t belong, there can cause problems with the pickup service. Contaminated compost can’t be used to grow food and will end up as a landfill topper. Be sure to remember the pickup schedule and place your bucket out the night before. The pickup company doesn’t want to make a trip to pick up only to find that there isn’t anything to pick up! The buckets tend to smell, however. Get one with a charcoal filter in the lid, or try to open it as infrequently as possible. Remembering to clean out the bucket after every pickup will go a long way towards reducing smell. Note that there is a difference between “biodegradable” and “compostable” products. Some compost pickups won’t accept biodegradable things like pizza boxes – just food scraps.

Vermicomposting and Worm Bins

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From the New York Times

Now before you get creeped out, worm bins are a great way to get rid of fruit and veggies scraps. You can use a storage tub or 5-gallon bucket that has air holes drilled into the lid. A bin can fit under the sink, in a heated garage, or even in the basement. You place carbon-rich materials like non-waxy paper and newspaper into the bin. Then you wet the paper until it feels like a wrung-out sponge. Next, you add some small portions of veggie and fruit scraps. The worms you purchase for your bin are called Red Wigglers, and you add about one pound of worms per 8-10-gallon of volume in your container. Feed them about one to two cups of food scraps to see how quickly they eat them. Feed them their next portion when you see the first feeding disappearing. You don’t want to overfeed your worms! The worms will reproduce, and you can add the compost they create (including worms) to your garden!

Window Box Composting

When you compost in a window box, it’s a form of mini trench composting. The window composting option is a technique that can be used in a yard but adapts well to a window box. What you do is bury food scraps during the non-growing season for your window box. You can hide such things like coffee grounds, tips of onions, and even banana peels. You cover them up with several inches of soil in the box, which serves as a pest and odor barrier. The compost made over the winter is then used to feed the soil that window box plants are planted into in the spring.

The Bokashi method

When using this method, food is fermented in a closed lid, airtight bucket that has a spigot. You add the food waste you have collected in one layer at a time. Sprinkle a dry substance, such as wheat bran, overtop the compost. The advantage of this method is that you can compost items you couldn’t usually compost in a “cold compost” system. Waste like cooked foods, dairy, meat, and condiments can become compost too! This mixture is not something you would add to your worm bin. It’s a two-step process because the food scraps are first fermented and then buried. Although there isn’t a smell when the bucket lid is sealed, the smell can be overwhelming when opened. It’s important to drain off the liquid which has accumulated, and it then can be used as a “bokashi tea” for houseplants.

Composting In Your Yard

There are also options when to compost outside if you have space. You can use a commercial compost bin for holding your compost or make your own container. Some of the options for outdoor composting are below:

Outdoor compost bin

You can either buy a compost bin or create your own. These types of containers come in two basic forms. There is the open bottom form that sits right on the ground so that it will encourage the flow of microbes, moisture, and an assortment of critters. The other type is a fully contained version, such as a garbage can that has holes drilled in it. This form may be desirable to gardeners who have a patio as opposed to a lawn. When you’re using a compost bin, you need to remember the ratio of what carbon to nitrogen ingredients are in your container. If you start with a ratio of 2:1 C:N  (which is two carbons to one nitrogen), then you can adjust it from there once it gets going. Everyone’s bin is different depending on what you add to it and the environmental factors surrounding it. Don’t add meat, cooked foods, or dairy products to it because you can create unsavory conditions and attract unwanted visitors, such as rats.


With this type of composter, it is a lidded outdoor composter and is mostly underground. You submerge it about 2/3 into a hole in the ground, and it has holes in the sides and at the bottom. The holes are so that organisms from the soil’s ecosystem can enter the composter, and liquids can drain out. To use it, simply open up the top and place your scraps inside. When you use a digester, the carbon to nitrogen balance isn’t as crucial because the scraps get placed directly underground. The lid will keep the odor in, so you just open the cover, deposit your scraps, close the top, and you’re good to go.


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From Pinterest

A tumbler is a type of composter that spins so your compost turns easier. You don’t have to turn your compost to be successful, but turning does help to mix the browns and greens, distribute moisture and aerate your material. When you turn your compost, you can also see what’s going on within the different levels of your bin. If you’re not a person who enjoys turning the compost with a pitchfork, you may want to use a tumbler instead. However, when you use a compost tumbler, the C: N will need to be regulated because the mixture contains moisture. A poorly controlled mix can make the contents of your composting tumbler smelly and sludgy.

Trench composting

Trench posting is precisely like what it sounds. You dig a trench in the ground and bury your food scraps. If you have room in your yard, this method can be a good one for you. You don’t have to worry about the carbon to nitrogen ratio, just make sure to bury your scraps with at least 8-10 inches of soil. By concealing the food waste at the level, it serves as an odor barrier and pest control, and the ecosystem takes over from there.

Uses for Compost

So now you have this beautiful compost, what do you do with it? Well, if you have a yard, use it on your grass and trees. Fertilize your vegetable and flower gardens as well as your houseplants. You can also pass some along to your neighbors or give it away on Facebook,, or other places. You can give it to a garden center or a daycare that has a garden as a teaching tool. If you have community gardens in your area, the gardeners would love some of the black gold to put in their gardening space. You can even contact your local Master Gardeners in your area and see if they can put it to use. Many times, Master Gardeners take care of gardens within the community as part of their community service. Your compost would be a welcome addition.
No matter where you live or in what type of building, you can compost if you want. With all the different options of containers and services at your disposal, there’s no reason not to start composting now!.