When composting in a city apartment, the number one thing people worry about is the smell & the flies or sometimes the mess. There are some good ways of composting to keep the smell bearable & keep the pests away. Let's see some ideas together.
What to put in the compost
If you want to keep the smell down, then avoid putting stuff like meat, milk, cheese, fish, seafood or high-protein/high-nitrogen foods in your compost. While decomposing, these matters tend to give off a very unpleasant smell. It's much more disagreeable than the smell of fruits or veggies while decomposing.
A good recommended ratio of the browns & greens for a compost is 3:1. The browns are stuff like cardboard, brown leaves, wood clippings, etc. These contain lots of carbon and give the structure & body for your compost. It also creates good channels for air circulation.
The greens are the young tender stuff like green leaves, veggies, fruits. These contain lots more nitrogen & are the foods for the decomposing bugs to feed on. They tend to rot much faster than the browns & give out more water in the compost. A 3:1 ratio is a good balance to give your bin good air flow, moisture & heat for decomposing.
There's a little rhyme to remember this (shared by a YouTube viewer):
Too much green smells like a latrine. Too much brown slows it down.
From this ratio, in a box we can mix for example:
3 parts brown:
- egg carton
- Amazon boxes
- toilet paper core
1 part green:
- banana peels
What to do with these food waste
In a traditional hot compost, people usually don't put in meat, cheese or cooked foods, bones, onions, citrus because of the smell & the high acidity. But what can we do with those food waste then? If you're living in an apartment & have some of these stuff in your trash can, then we highly recommend trying bokashi composting.
The basic idea of bokashi is like fermenting. It's cold composting the food waste with the help of some incredibly useful microbes. The compost can be done much faster in about 2-4 weeks.
As there is little heat or gas generated, the initial nutrients of the food waste will still be kept more wholly for your next gardening use. The best thing of all is that there is no bad smell.
Even if it goes bad sometimes, here are some ideas to quickly deal with the problem:
How to keep the smell down
If it starts to smell putrid, then check if there is:
- Too much moisture
- Too little oxygen
- Too much nitrogen
To deal with the smell fast, you can mix some sourdough starter with warm water. Spray this mixture around the compost. It will get rid of the odor & the compost will smell much nicer. If you can't find sourdough starter, bread yeast or beer yeast also works. It's the little microbes in these things that help ingest the smell.
If you find there's too much moisture in the compost, then add in some more browns. Throw in some more cardboard or shredded paper to help soak up the water. If you have brown packaging paper, crumble it up before putting in. This helps create some air pockets for oxygen.
If you're thermal composting, the lack of oxygen may also be an effect of too much moisture. The excess water traps the oxygen down. It helps if you turn the compost once a week or every other week. If we put in too much greens, it can smell very bad. The nitrogen, or the protein, is one main cause for this.
You can also see:
How to keep the flies away
If you don't like flies buzzing around your area, one practical way is to keep the lid of the compost box on. Also, try aerating the compost a bit more. If there's a good supply of oxygen, the compost will not smell too bad.
Without a putrid smell, flies like houseflies won't be attracted to come. The foul smell signals to the flies that there is food for her babies. She'll then be attracted to come & lay eggs there.
You can try taping around the lid to avoid any gaps. Flies love laying eggs in small, dark gaps. If we also use some microbial spray, the pheromone will help keep the flies or flying insects away. The sourdough yeast + water mixture also works great for this purpose.
Also, check out this one little thing:
Where to put the compost bin
From many folks experience, it is almost always better to keep the compost bin near the food waste source. For example, your kitchen will do. Or somewhere around the balcony. The idea is to make this an easy task so we don't have to think too much about doing it and it doesn't feel like another chore.
When you're done cutting some fruits/veggies, you can throw the peels right in the bin next to you. Or when you have collected quite an amount of waste in a day, you can take it out & dump it in the bin on the balcony. We then don't have to walk too much too far or carry anything too heavy up & down stairs. This helps make composting fun & less labor intensive for everyone.
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