Composting on an Apartment Balcony

In honor of International Compost Awareness Week

… Welcome to a new series I’m going to call “Will It Compost?” (Think: “Will It Blend?” but more environmentally friendly).

About a month ago (March 28th, to be exact), Nate and I decided to embark on an experiment: Composting On An Apartment Balcony.

Nate has an apartment with a balcony and lots of hungry potted plants. So, he was game to try to make some compost to feed his plants.

Composting is really just organic matter decomposing. You don’t actually have to do anything to compost; it’s happening all the time. If not for composting we’d have landfills full of twigs, and leaves, and grass clipping. Can you imagine? The fancy gadgetery that is marketed for composting simply helps to speed up the process.

Nate and I don’t have any fancy composting gadgetery, but we’re composting anyway. We gathered our “greens” (kitchen scraps, eggshells, lots of orange peels) and our “browns” (dried leaves, cardboard scraps). The greens provide nitrogen and the browns provide carbon. You are supposed to have more browns than greens (more carbon than nitrogen). (If you want to go into the science of composting, Texas A&M and Cornell University have very comprehensive explanations.) Additionally, we got a little bit of finished compost, which I thought might be helpful as an inoculant, introducing beneficial microbes, and speeding up the process.

We used the biggest pot we had — I’m not sure of the exact measurements of this one, but I’d estimate that it’s about a 25-gallon-sized pot.

And then we layered the greens and browns in the pot along with the finished compost.

Browns (leaves)

Finished Compost

Greens (Kitchen scraps, including orange peels and eggshells)

More Browns (leaves, shredded egg carton)

More Finished Compost

More Greens

Last Layer of Browns

And that’s it. We left it on the balcony.

Nate gives it a stir every 5 days or so and gives it some water if its looking dry. And that’s it.

Here’s how its looking now:

Surprisingly, it seems to be working out well. The orange peels and apple cores have become completely unrecognizable. The eggshells are still identifiable, though. Nate says he doesn’t notice any smell. It almost seems too easy — there must be a catch, right? Any guesses as to how long we’ll have to wait until its ready to use? Or will his balcony be infested by rats and flies first?