Dear PoP

Composting, originally uploaded by rynosoft.

Dear PoP

I was wondering if composting is a topic that’s ever come up on the blog. Everyone is going green these days, but I grew up out in the country and everyone had a compost pile. We’ve looked for “urban composters” online but they are all HUGE. Our little yard is the size of a postage stamp – you would think there would be options for us too. Any chance you could ask the question and see if anyone has a solution?

Small Composter

Anyone have any ideas? And a question of my own – is it possible to build a compost pile in the city without attracting rats and other creatures?

17 Comment

  • I am composting in a garbage can in my backyard. I drilled holes in the sides and the bottom. However, it’s not easy to get enough oxygen in there. It’s difficult to turn it too. Try to make the holes bigger. Some folks have also talked about worm composting on the DC Urban Gardeners list. I recommend you join the list and also ask folks if they have suggestions.

    I wanted one of those nifty (and expensive) compost tumblers, but the price of the product always stopped me in my tracks. So my husband and I decided to build our own compost tumbler using things we had around the house. We found a plastic trash can and drilled holes all over the can. We also drilled four holes in the rim of the lid and secured it with four nuts and bolts.

    I just add my compost ingredients to the can and mix them by kicking the can over and turning it. Our tumbler was cheap to make and is easy to use. Best of all, we have finished, usable compost in several weeks.

    M. Terifay
    Fleetwood, PA

  • The issue of rodents isn’t really one just for the city; in the country your nuisance creatures are just bigger and less afraid of you.

    With composting, you’re always mixing everything up, not just throwing a pile of banana peels in your backyard. You may get some interest in whatever scraps are on the top, but no more than your garbage can sitting out. The heat from the breakdown of the materials (the difference between composting and landfilling) should deter any pests.

    On a side-note, you never want to put meat or other animal products in your compost. They can create breeding grounds for disease, as well as attract vermin.

  • I have a compost tumbler in my yard – here’s a link to a website that sells them:

    At $139 this is a lot cheaper than most (a lot of them are $250 or more)…still a chunk of change though, but I’ve been happy with it. It’s nice because it keeps everything contained and no creatures can get inside.

  • There are lots of options. A friend of ours has a tumbler. we walk there once a week and drop off our perishables. They have an amazing garden as a result.

    What do you do with your compost in the city? try this:

  • We have an Enviro-Cycle, which takes up about the same room as a trash can, and produces compost-tea as well, which is awesome stuff. – intensely annoying site with horrible music. Probably just Google it for a distributor to avoid the pain.

  • I’ve been debating what to do for a while as well (we have a small yard and also don’t want to attract any rat attention). If you don’t want to pay a lot for something, you could always go the DIY route. My coworker recently tipped me off to this:

    They have pretty good info on what they did and how, and what they did wrong. It’s a little fancier than most DIY compost bins.

    (That said, I will probably just get lazy and save up and get something pre-made.)

  • I have a bigger yard and a big compost pile but I do worry about rodents. The key is to bury scraps as soon as you add them to the pile.

  • i just started vermicomposting (worm) this year and LOVE it. it doesnt smell (okay it does, but only like the rain forest!). its super easy and requires little attention (some, but not overwhelming). it doesn’t occur to most people to worm compost, but its tons of fun and great for apartment and small home dwellers.

    i live in an apartment with NO yard. I keep it on the porch, but many keep bins in the kitchen, a closet, the garage, etc… the worms eat the critters that break down the kitchen scraps. the other day i put a banana peal in and all that is left currently is the stem. they are FAST little workers. in just a few short months i am almost ready to harvest my first HUGE batch of castings (compost) for my garden and have been getting a steady supply of compost tea since the beginning.

    click through for pictures of me setting up my bin.

    also a good site for links to tons of info:

    you can easily make the bin. i bought one bc i thought it would be easier, but now that i have seen what’s necessary, especially in the dc heat and humidity, i would build one.

    you also need red wigglers. about 1000 (1 lb) is a good starting point, but you can go smaller as well. these can be purchased online or at a bait shop. if you can find someone or know someone who composts and can share a few to get you started, thats super awesome too.

    bedding for the bin is all around your house: newspapers, carboard, etc… the worms use the fibers in their gizzards to help grind their food down. in the end, you are left with no bedding, just tons of great compost to use, give away or sell!

    i’m mosre than happy to help anyone get started.

    If you choose to go the non-worm route, i suggest a bin that can easily be ventilated and churned. if its properly taken care of, rats will hopefully keep away bc there won’t be a smell.

  • I’ve been composting for about two years. I built my own ‘bin’ – hammered a few posts into the ground, encircled the posts with wire mesh, tied the mesh on to the posts. I churn and flip the compost with a pitch fork. Cost me perhaps $30, and has been wonderful in reducing our waste load, and also fertilizing/mulching my garden.

    I have not had any problems with rodents. I do get some bugs in there, but frankly I’m happy to have them in there breaking up my compost. It can stink if a large load of grass clippings gets dumped in, but a day and a flip or two will take care of that.

  • rats moved into my composter and I had it removed. There are some things that one cannot do in the city and composting is one. Give it a year, give it 2 years, the rats will ruin your composter.

  • Thanks everybody for the great info! I’m inspired to give this a shot.

  • I wonder – are any of these community gardeners looking for extra compost? Even if we did compost, I can’t figure out what we’d do with all of it…

  • We went the trashcan route. Just bought a $20 rubbermaid can with a top that can be closed with those clasping handles (see picture), and wheels.

    Drill a buncha holes in it, and voila, a composter. To mix everything up you just put it on it’s side and roll it around. Also, remember to add “cabon” we have plenty of scraps and garden waste, but we’re always scrounging to have enough paper to put in the can.

    Additionally it helps to have a determined Lil’ Gal around to knock over the can and roll it around on the ground.

  • yes, definitely community gardeners happy to use your awesome compost! your neighbors would likely be happy to put it to good use too.

  • We just reuse a litter container, no need to buy something new.

  • I bought one of these:

    i didn’t pay as much for mine (found it on Ebay) but it does work well, is pretty much sealed to keep vermin out, and doesn’t take up too much space. i throw all the weeds, etc. that i pull, leaves, non-meat table scraps in there. i don’t formally do worm composting, but i have discovered in turning mine that the worms have found their own way there.

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