Monday, 10 August 2015


I am obsessed: I want to garden again. In what used to be my bachelorette's pad, I had a compost bin under my kitchen sink (and friends can testify that there was no stink usually associated with composting) and a window garden. I grew tomatoes, basil, sweet bell peppers, ficus bonsai, holly bonsai and some other plants. But it's been two years in this new apartment and I have not yet tried my hand at growing stuff.

Okay, to be totally honest, I did impulse buy a couple of herbs during last winter season but they quickly died from exposure. But that urge to plant plus this growing, nagging guilt about throwing biodegradable items in with general garbage has really made the itch to practice my green thumb so bad!

Like a seed trying to sprout, this urge grew out of dirt or thrash to be exact. Without any conscious plans to start a garden yet, I started segregating biodegradables again. And because I did not have any gardening materials at hand, save for a set of garden tools which my uncle gave me, the segregated wastes quickly turned into a stinky mess. So I had to get a sack of soil to cover it up. Luckily, my mom gave me a shredder a few months back, so I also had shredded paper that I could toss in to control the smell. More brown materials in the compost like dried leaves, paper and dirt helps avoid stink. If you're interested to get more information about it, here's a very nice infographics about what you can or cannot put in the pile. You can view the full version here.

Since I lived in an apartment complex, I was very concerned about the compost bin becoming smelly. I took extra precautions, specially since I did not (and still do not) use any special bins designed for this purpose. I placed my compost in a garbage bag inside a garbage bag, inside a plastic bin. This makes it possible for me to tie up the first bag to contain the smell, tie up the second bag over it for a second layer of protection and then close the plastic bin cover over the whole set-up. I'd go in, check moisture, add water if needed and try to rotate everything at least once a week. Though mostly anaerobic, the compost turned into dark, moist, rich soil.

This time though, I am using a standard bin composting design because we have a balcony where I can store the compost. I used a cheap plastic bin from the hardware store, punched in some holes for air circulation and filled it up with browns and greens.

If I have the space, I would love to make this DIY rotating composter. This would give my compost that much-needed aeration. A quick Google search led me to this simpler bucket project: DIY on using Home Depot buckets.

Some composters would have a pretty tub that they'd leave by the sink where they can deposit their biodegradable materials before dumping it in the compost pile, but if you're not finicky, then any tub would work. If you don't leave it too long, even a small open top dipper would do. I use an old coffee tin can with a plastic cover.

This waste segregation reduced our garbage immensely! In the first week, we only threw out a couple of small bags of thrash, mostly product wrappers. It was a huge difference to see how much less garbage there is.

Unfortunately, I don't have that much space. I've already started storing some biodegradables in the freezer. I read that freezing them first then thawing and placing in the compost bin helps degrade them faster. However, I would need to stop collecting compostable materials soon.

There's a vast difference between the amount of brown (carbon-rich materials) versus green materials (nitrogen-rich) you can throw in. The Compost Guy says the ratio range of Carbon to Nitrogen (called C:N ratio) is 20:1 to 40:1, so that's a lot of browns (which are my paper, soil and errant dried leaves that drop in the balcony) versus greens (my kitchen scraps). That math just means one thing to me: everything adds up to a full bin and I have no more space. A backyard would be lovely, fairy godmother.

It will definitely not be quick. Composting guides say compost can be ready in three to four weeks (I wish!) because normally compost is ready to use in six months to a year. And I do like to err in the side of caution. I left my first apartment compost in the previous residence for a year before I started using it.  I'm also considering vermicomposting to get it done quicker.  In the meantime, I can start germinating seeds and arranging the space for our burgeoning garden, which right now is just a compost bin and some seeds.

I do wish my apartment community has vegetable gardens or pea patches. Found out recently that Liv Apartments, one of the newer apartment communities in Redmond offers pea patches and for me, that's a stroke of genius! I've often mentioned it to hubby, that with all these landscape grounds around apartments, offering residents vegetable gardens and composting space should be a staple. I hope it works out for Liv Apartments so that hopefully, the trend will catch on.

Recycling, composting, gardening -- ahhh... it feels good to be back in touch with earth.


Enie Dub said...

Greetings from Ireland!

I only have a small garden so am unable to compost. However, our kitchen waste is collected by our garbage company in our brown bin. We also have a green bin for our recycleables and then a regular bin for all other rubbish.

Ria Mendoza said...

Hello from WA! You're a genius! I never thought of looking up collection of food wastes. Never occurred to me since I've never noticed collection bins for it. But they do collect food wastes here too and there's even a company that offers free Food scraps buckets (I love Google!). This quick search also gave me the idea to just store the frozen food scraps in paper bags so I can drop them directly into my compost laster instead of the current plastic bags I use which I would need to throw out later. Thanks for stopping by, you led me to more learning. :D