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Tips for Indoor Composting

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If you're in a situation in which composting outdoors is not possible, or you just want to try composting indoors over the winter, there are a few tips you need to follow to do so successfully. The easiest way to compost indoors is to use a worm bin, but not everyone is up for keeping a few hundred worms in their home with them. You can set up an indoor composting system without worms, but it takes some monitoring and attention to do so successfully.

Good Options for Indoor Compost Bins

Obviously, when we're talking about indoor composting, space is usually at a premium. With that in mind, there are a few containers that make good options for indoor compost bins.

  • Plastic storage bins: These are a good choice because they're fairly inexpensive and easy to obtain. You can get them in a variety of sizes depending upon how much space you have and how much composting you're expecting to do. Ten gallons would be a good size, but eighteen (which is a pretty standard size) would be even better. You can also stack these bins to save space. Simply drill a few aeration holes in the lid, add your contents, and start composting.
  • Five gallon buckets: another good choice because they're inexpensive and stackable. Buy matching lids for them at just about any home center. Again, you'll want to drill aeration holes near the top of the bucket.
  • Old wooden dresser drawers, wine crates, or other boxes: if you're able to trash-pick an old dresser or wine crate, you can turn it into an indoor composter. Simply cover the top with either a hinged piece of wood cut to size or a piece of heavy fabric, such as painters' canvas.

What to Put in an Indoor Compost Bin

You can put most things you'd put into an outdoor bin in an indoor one. Fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, shredded paper, and trimmings from houseplants are all good options.

What NOT to Put in an Indoor Compost Bin

As with an outdoor bin, you won't want to put meat, dairy, or fats into your indoor compost bin (though if you are determined to try to compost these items, look into Bokashi composting.) Some people advise composting dryer lint or hair from your hair brushes. In an outdoor bin, these items can take quite a while to break down; in an indoor bin, which doesn't heat up nearly as much as an outdoor bin and has less microbial action going on in general, they likely won't break down at all. Who wants to have to sift clumps of hair and lint out of their compost?

It's also probably a good idea to avoid composting very smelly items (such as a lot of onion peelings) because you may smell it in the rest of your home. Watery items, such as melons or squashes, should also be kept at a minimum to avoid making the contents of your bin too soggy.

Tips for Success with Indoor Composting

You'll want to keep a few important tips in mind for your indoor composting operation:

  • Have a stash of shredded paper or dry leaves on hand. Add a handful or two every time you add food scraps or coffee grounds to your bin. This will keep it from getting too soggy, as well as provide carbon to your bin.
  • Turn the contents of your bin often. This helps the bin warm up a bit, and increases microbial action. It also mixes the contents so you don't have soggy pockets and dry pockets. You can just use a shovel or hand trowel to move the contents of the bin around, or, if you're using a bucket, just roll it back and forth a few times to mix it.
  • The smaller the pieces you add to the bin are, the faster they'll break down. Chop food fairly small for the quickest results, and shred your paper or tear it into thin strips.

It is definitely possible to compost indoors. After a while, you'll get a feel for what to add and whether your bin is healthy or not. And you'll feel good knowing that you're saving items from the landfill and making compost for your garden instead.

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