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Aug 28, 2012

Zero cost composting in your balcony from Kitchen waste

The latest name hubby has discovered to tease me is "Malan" (मालन ) as I am becoming impossible to him with my increasing interest in container gardening in my balcony. Anyways who cares... and he also knows no one can stop my adventures till I myself don't give up which I don't see happening near future. ;)

This post is based on my experience of setting up a smell free compost bin in one corner of my balcony with successfully converting my kitchen waste into compost and using it for my plant's nutritional requirements. And it's all organic..

The ides of publishing this post is to explain how to build a compost bin in your balcony with the help of a container which generally goes in scrap. You can easily have this setup in any corner of the balcony of your apartment or even in the patio, deck, terrace or porch and it doesn't require a single penny to start and maintain. It’s a "Zero Cost Composting setup" . This has been conceptualized for people who are staying in apartments and have limited space but one can always have this outdoor also. This does not require any worms for composting and very easy to handle.

I have seen people asking over the net if they can use a box or a bottle for composting and have seen people dumping the waste directly into gardening pots but based on my experience I would suggest using a  relatively big storage space for composting. A bucket or drum is a cost and as an alternate of it I go for a5 Lt. floor cleaner bottle. I clean it thoroughly after consuming the floor cleaner and make sure the chemicals are washed off.  Then I expose it to direct sunlight for two days to ensure it is ready for converting into a compost bin. Composting in balcony can be done with variety of waste ranging from Kitchen waste such as vegetable peels, egg shells, used tea bags etc along with the dried leafs or flowers of other plants or cow dung also. I would not suggest using nonveg leftovers, litter of your pets / animals or any dairy products as this will give it a very foul smell and dairy products most of the time deteriorate the compost. 

How to create the bin from 5 Lt. floor cleaner bottle:
  • Take a 5 Lt. round or square empty bottle of floor cleaner.
  • Cut 1 inch below the lid and remove the top.
  • Wash thoroughly for at least 3-4 times to wash off the chemicals completely.
  • Sun dry for two days in direct sunlight.
  • Now punch the bottom of the bin with a scissor / screwdriver to have 4-5 small holes.
  • Punch again on four sides of the wall at a gap of 1.5 inch. 4 rows, having 4 holes on all 4 sides of the bin.
  • Voila  !! your bin is ready.
How to start composting:
  • Add a layer of  soil (any ordinary soil) to create a base.
  • Now you can start adding the waste as and when you get from your kitchen. add one layer after another.
  • After 3 to 4 layers of waste you have to add a thin layer of soil. just to cover it and give it a good texture.
  • You are not required to add water periodically, but if you find the bin is dry or the waste which you have added is becoming dry due to weather conditions you can sprinkle some water to keep it moist.
  • Don't add much water as this will create a soggy mixture wherein we have to make sure that it should not contain too much of water. Also please avoid the rain showers entering in to the bin during monsoon.
  • You have to cover the bin with a lid or a piece of plywood as to convert the waste into compost you need adequate heat which results in required fumes and gases and convert it into compost.
  • Keep on stirring the dumped mixture periodically. I do it once in 15 days but you can do it more often. It improvises the airing process and expedites the composting process.
What to add and what not to the compost:
  •  You can add whatever you want as I have mentioned above. Right form kitchen waste to green dried leafs, egg shells, tea bags etc.
  • You should also avoid using the waste which has too much of watery content such as cucumber or with too much of starch such as whole potato etc. Though you can use the peels of any vegetable.
  • A strict no no to the nonveg waste or pet litter and any kind of dairy products. I had a very very bad experience with dairy products. and since you have to accommodate the bin in your home or apartment it has to be a setup which is free from foul smell or flies. all restricted items can result in both.
How to handle foul smell: 
  • One most common reason of foul smell is the excess of green or watery content in the bin mixture. If you think the bin is creating a foul smell don't throw it away. just add some brown (carbon) content to it which could be hey, dried grass etc. The simplest is adding shredded newspapers or newspaper pieces to it. This brown content will balance the excess green content and soon the foul smell will go off.
How to know the compost is ready:
  • These bins are transparent and you can easily see once the color of the mixture becomes black and start giving the usual smell of matured compost or cow dung manure. This smell is not at all foul and the texture of the compost would be semi dried. You can empty the bin and spread the compost on a plastic sheet and expose it to direct sunlight. It would be completely dried in a day or two and can be stored in a poly bag for future use. The empty bin can further be used for a fresh cycle of composting. You can directly add the mature compost to your plants / containers / pots also.
How to use the compost:
  • Dig some soil around the stem of the plant and add compost in to the spaced area. cover it back with the soil and keep watering normally. You will see the magical effects of the compost soon in your plants. A blast of organic fruits and flowers
Note: Compost is used to give adequate nutrition to the plant which is required for their growth however the growth of the plant may depend on many other factors such as mulching, pruning, removing the suckers, adding other nutrients such as potassium, calcium etc as per individual plant needs.  

Soon will be arriving my video tutorial on "Zero cost composting set up". 
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  4. Don't you add earthworms to your compost...? how much time it takes to compost without earthworms...?

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