By Tyler Weaver
For balcony container gardeners who live in a city or have limited space, look no further than the balcony to begin processing food scraps into compost for the container plants in the garden. While a balcony is usually reserved as a comfortable, relaxing area for enjoying a drink or reading a book, just a small portion of it can be used to process your waste.
Most kitchen scraps (no meat, dairy or fish) qualify for composting as nitrogen or "green" material. To balance out the food, shredded cardboard or newspaper is a good carbon or "brown" source of material. An effective working ratio is about two parts brown to one part green material. If the ratio is off, it's not a big deal. Too dry? Add water. Too wet? Add more brown materials.
There are several methods that may be used to compost waste, but doing it yourself is recommended, as it's cheap and hands-on. The most popular methods for composting are using a compost tumbler, a modified garbage can or even a garbage bag. The chosen method will depend on factors such as cost, space, time spent per week and aesthetics.
- Compost tumbler. A compost tumbler (click on the picture above for compost tumbler product information on Amazon.com) will require the least amount of time and effort, but it may have a high price tag. Benefits of compost tumblers include cleanliness, ease of rotating material and garden pest resistance. Attention to moisture in compost tumblers is key, as its easy to saturate the contents. Compost should be finished in about three to four months, depending on how often it's tumbled.
- DIY composting unit. The most common do-it-yourself composting method involves a garbage can or bucket, a few bricks, a basin and a drill. Simply drill holes in the bottom and sides of the can or bucket, and place it on top of some bricks with a bowl underneath to catch the excess drainage. Add a layer of sawdust or straw at the bottom of the can or bucket to assist in absorbing excess moisture, then begin adding your food scraps. After each addition, throw in a layer of shredded leaves or potting soil and add a little water. While these units aren't very easy to obtain finished compost from, they are the quickest and cheapest method to get started…and that's what matters, right?
- Anaerobic composting. If in the experimenting mood, anaerobic composting (anaerobic bacteria works in the absence of oxygen) might be a fun thing to try. Fill a garbage bag one-third full with soil, then one-third of food scraps and top it off with one-third of shredded leaves, grass or shredded paper. Add water to make the contents that of a "wrung out sponge" and tightly tie off the bag. Note that this doesn't work in the colder months, but it's great for summer simplicity and testing your sense of smell when you open the bag in six weeks!
Composting in tight spaces can be difficult, but there are several options to make this easier and enjoyable. If you want to use the compost in your balcony garden, a compost tumbler is definitely the best option because it is the easiest method for obtaining compost. If you do not want to use the compost, a do-it-yourself composting method is preferable to avoid the landfill. Either way, balcony composting is a great way to reduce waste at home and create some fertile soil as a reward for your garden.
VIDEO: How you can start composting in your balcony garden in less than 15 minutes.