Saturday, September 13, 2008

Composting on the balcony?

Can you compost on a balcony? I've always wanted to. In my garden in London there's a compost heap, and when we're there kitchen waste, as well as plant waste from the garden, is rigorously recycled. But on a balcony?

Some websites, like this one from the
City of Toronto, say yes. But I've always had my doubts. Is there enough room? Wouldn't the smell be too bad? Even if I could cope with a compost heap outside my bedroom window, I'm far too scared of the neighbours to risk it. (And if you think that's wimpy, you've never met my neighbours).

I've thought of a wormery, but they'd roast in the summer. The temperature on the balcony can go up to 50°C in full sun. So every night there's nothing to do but throw away the vegetable peelings. The hamster does her best, but how much can a three inch long creature be expected to consume?

Then the other day, when browsing Amazon's Home and Garden section, I came across this kitchen waste composter. It seemed the answer. Small - the exact size isn't stated, but it's supposed to "fit under the sink" so fine for the balcony - and promises of "no smells". It went straight to the top of my Christmas wish list.

And then the downer. This product can only be delivered within the UK. Rats.

But I decided to browse a bit further and found that it's sold by a company called
Just Green - and they deliver anywhere.

How does it work? It uses a product called bokashi, a bran based mix containing micro-organisms which break down the waste, producing both compost and liquid fertiliser. And it's only supposed to take a few weeks.

It's not cheap. Apart from the initial outlay it will mean constantly buying the bokashi to keep it working. But gradually it should start to pay for itself, as I no longer have to buy either soil for the containers or fertilisers.

But it's the ecological advantages which are most important :

  • reduced waste to be transported and disposed of - so a saving in energy

  • no more agonising over the ecological soundness of packaged soil - which has already clocked up goodness knows how many transport miles, which - here at least - inevitably contains either peat or coir, and which comes in plastic bags which then have to be thrown away.

  • no more chemical fertilisers to contaminate the soil - which even if it is originally in containers eventually gets thrown away, so that any chemical contents leach into the ground.
So it's back on my Christmas list, as are several other things from the site, and we'll see if it works as well as it promises. Watch this space for updates.


LadyLuz said...

A great find, Sue, and just the job for your limited space. I hope you manage to get one and the replacement supplies of bokashi are easy.

I'm still repotting as per your experiment - without crocks at the bottom - and growth is still good. I add a bit of vermiculite to the soil to help conserve water and help drainage.

Anonymous said...

I'm so enjoying discovering things alongside you, as I go through your wonderful blog.

Yes, bokashi is expensive, but you are inventive, and I reckon you could find a way to source bran for free, and inoculate it with your last purchased batch, like making yoghurt.
I would love to hear the results.

Still, I'm a huge fan of worm compost, and if it is impeccably kept, there is no reason for it to be banished to the outdoors. If you chop the kitchen scraps small enough, they munch it into wormcast before it gets a chance to smell. Just keep cabbage contributions to a minimum.
You can keep your scraps in the fridge till they are ready for a weekly blast through the blender.
Don't add new food until old food is eaten.

You may be so impressed with the results, you could honor the worms by getting out a set of paints and
decorating the container to match the couch. Or whatever is blooming on the balcony.

I once met a lady with a wormfarm-blender set on her kitchen bench, which inspired me to blend my own.

Another option is to outsource you wormfarm. Ask the neigbours if you can use a corner of their garden, or keep it at your sisters. Weekly visits are all you need.
Its really fun, deciding to be unstopable with your worms.
Please enjoy my blog too.

kompoStella said...

very interesting, Sue, thanks for sharing this idea. i'll be checking for updates on your compost project even though my balcony is way too small for any of that - but i'm curious and you never know; a bigger balcony might turn up one day ;-)

Susan Tomlinson said...

Hi Sue--

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog! It was quite a nice surprise to find a post from Italy there this morning.

Would you mind telling me how you found it? I'm new at this, and would like to link into more of a network...

I've been reading some of your blog as well, and have really enjoyed it. It makes me want to grow more in containers, though they tend to dry out very quickly in our heat.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Interesting little composter. I had heard these mentioned a while ago on a forum about composting.

Anonymous said...

That's just the information I've been looking for.

Your comment on these not being delivered outside the UK is exactly why I haven't started an open compost: 'rats'! (Too scared of attracting them.)

Also, I haven't seen water butts here. So now I have to take a closer look at your link.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

Sue .. I have always shied away from compost containers because they are so big .. i didn't want to give up any space in my garden .. but now you have made me think about it again .. thanks !

Susie said...

What a great idea for a small space. Will be interested in seeing how it works for you.

Unknown said...

You will have to tell us how it goes after a few months. I'm looking for a composting system for my patio garden. I think I'm going for red worm composting, but maybe in an insulated container to protect them from temperature changes.

Unknown said...


First of all, thank you for the wonderful welcome you gave me. :)

Although I haven't tried the composting method you're using, I really have heard great things about it. Hopefully I will be able to add that to my collection of composting methods I use.

I use vermicomposting as one of my composting methods. I've found it so clean that it wouldn't even hurt to keep this in the house instead of on the balcony. The key is to make sure you don't add too many scraps at a time. The problem of it heating up due to break down and killing the worms would be bad. Otherwise I haven't had problems at all with smells.

Another resource that has been helpful to me is They use bokashi as one of their methods of composting. They are very helpful in answering questions too. :)

Related Posts with Thumbnails