Apartment Balcony Composting – A Simple Guide for Urban Green Thumbs

Written By Jenn

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Living in an apartment, one might think composting seems impossible due to space constraints and potential odors.

Fear not, my fellow green enthusiasts! We’re here to introduce you to the wonderful world of apartment balcony composting.

As urban dwellers, we may not have the luxury of a sprawling backyard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part in reducing waste and creating nutrient rich soil for our plants.

With the right methods in place, our apartment balconies can become mini composting havens. In these introduction paragraphs, we’ll delve into the exciting possibilities of composting in small spaces and pinpoint practical tips to help make it a reality.

Use compost to grow vegies and herbs on your balcony garden!

Remember, the key to successful apartment balcony composting lies in finding the right system for your specific situation, which will allow you to break down kitchen scraps and other organic materials efficiently without any unpleasant smells or mess.

So, let’s get started on our journey to becoming eco-friendly apartment dwellers!

Getting Started with Apartment Balcony Composting

Choosing the Right Compost Bin

When starting with apartment balcony composting, the first thing we need to consider is selecting the right compost bin. There are various types of balcony compost bins available, each with its own set of features and benefits:

Small Bin

If you have limited space on your apartment balcony, a small bin is a great option. It’s compact, portable, and easy to maintain.

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Medium Sized Bin

For those with a more spacious balcony, a bin like the one below, is compact but provides more room for decomposition and faster composting results.

Miracle-Gro Small Composter - Compact Single Chamber Outdoor Garden Compost Bin Heavy Duty – UV Protected Turning Barrel Tumbling Composter (18.5 gallons)

Worm Composting

This method utilizes worms to break down organic waste. It’s efficient, odorless, and requires little maintenance.

Worm Factory Basic Black 3 Tray Worm Composter (Black)

A Garden Compost Bag

If you’re on a budget or simply prefer a more minimalist approach, using garden compost bag is a practical solution.

One advantage of these compost bags for a balcony is that they are lightweight, so they easy to get into your apartment and onto the balcony. Pop the compost bag into a corner of the balcony and you wont notice that it is there.

MyLifeUNIT Compost Bin Bags, Reusable Yard Waste Bags, 34 Gallon (2 Pack)

Remember to take into account your available space, budget, and specific composting requirements when choosing the right bin for you.

Start small, you can change your balcony compost bin once you have more idea of how it all works.

Composting Indoors vs Outdoors

Now that you have chosen your compost bin, let’s discuss where to place it. Composting on an apartment balcony can be done either indoors or outdoors, depending on your preference and balcony design.


Placing your compost bin inside the apartment, near a window or in a corner, is a viable option. This method offers better control over factors such as temperature and moisture, ensuring more consistent results. However, ensure proper ventilation to avoid unpleasant odors.


Opting for outdoor composting on your apartment balcony exposes your compost pile to more natural elements, such as sunlight and rain. This can speed up the decomposition process but also requires more attentive monitoring of the pile’s conditions.

Go for walk around your neighborhood and see what other people are doing.

Ultimately, the choice between indoor and outdoor composting depends on your personal preference and the specific conditions of your apartment balcony.

If your balcony compost bin will be in direct hot sunlight, it may be possible to screen the compost bin with a potted plant.

Sometimes it requires creative thinking.

Composting Process and Materials

When it comes to composting in an apartment balcony, there are a few key steps and materials to consider. We’ll walk you through the process, focusing specifically on organic waste collection.

Organic Waste Collection

For a small space composting system, such as an apartment balcony, collecting organic waste is essential. This includes various materials, such as kitchen waste, food scraps, and garden waste, which will ultimately decompose and create nutrient-rich compost for your plants.

Let’s go over some key components that make up a healthy compost mix:

  • Green material

    These nitrogen-rich materials boost the decomposition process. Kitchen waste, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and crushed eggshells, are excellent examples of green materials to collect.

  • Brown material

    This carbon-rich component balances the compost mix. Good examples are dead leaves, grass clippings (if available), small branches, and cardboard pieces.

There’s a lot more information here about greens and browns.

It’s important to maintain the right balance between green and brown materials. Generally, you should aim for a ratio of 2:1, brown to green. This will aid the decomposition process and prevent unpleasant odors from forming.

When collecting kitchen scraps for your compost, avoid using meat, dairy products, and oily foods, as these can cause unpleasant smells and attract pests.

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Instead, focus on fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, and eggshells.

Break down larger items, like branches and cardboard, into smaller pieces to help speed up the decomposition process.

A countertop kitchen composting pail, like the one below, is useful to collect kitchen scraps, pet hair, vacuum dust etc as you go. Then when the compost pail is full, it can be emptied into the larger compost bin on the balcony.

Durmmur Compost Bin Kitchen Counter, Indoor Compost Bin, Includes Inner Bucket with Sealed Ring Compost Pail, Countertop Compost Bin with Lid, Compost Bucket Compost Container, 1.0 Gallon

Balcony Compost Bin Maintenance

Drainage Considerations

When setting up a compost pile on an apartment balcony, it’s essential to consider proper drainage.

To prevent excess moisture from building up and causing foul odors, use a bin or bucket with drainage holes.

Placing a tray underneath the container will help protect a concrete balcony from seeping liquids.

Adding some soil or garden plants on top of the tray will absorb excess moisture and help keep the balcony clean.

The Right Balance Of Materials

Achieving the right balance of materials is crucial for a successful compost pile. We want to create an environment where bacteria and worms can efficiently decompose our kitchen scraps.

  • Green materials Provide nitrogen and moisture
  • Brown materials: Provide carbon and structure for airflow

When adding new materials to the compost bin, we should try to maintain the ratio. mentioned earlier and mix the layers thoroughly.

This practice ensures that the mixture decomposes evenly and remains healthy for our plants.

apartment balcony composting

Temperature and Oxygen Control

Controlling the temperature and oxygen levels in our compost pile is crucial for speeding up decomposition. Heat is a by product of the bacterial decomposition process. To achieve this heat, we need to provide the compost with adequate ventilation.

Adding the right mix of materials and turning the compost pile regularly will help introduce oxygen and prevent pockets of anaerobic bacteria from forming.

Using a lid on the bin will help retain heat and control moisture levels.

Apartment Balcony Worm Composting

A worm farm can be situated on a balcony or rooftop, if the balcony has some protection from the hot sun and drying winds.

Placing the worm farm in a shady spot out of direct sunlight can help the worms survive.

This will depend on your balcony.

In some cases a worm farm may be better situated in a laundry room in an apartment or somewhere else in the apartment where there is space for a worm farm

4-Tray Worm Compost Kit

Finished Compost and Use

Determining Compost Readiness

To figure out when the compost is ready for use, we can look for a few key indicators. Finished compost should have a dark, crumbly texture similar to soil, and it should smell earthy.

It’s normal for the compost to be slightly damp, but it shouldn’t feel wet or have excess moisture.

If it’s too wet, it means the organic matter hasn’t fully broken down yet. Wait a few weeks for the compost to finish breaking down before using it.

It’s important to remember that the composting process might happen more slowly in a small balcony setting due to space constraints and lower temperatures. So, be patient and give it enough time to reach its optimal state.

Using Compost in Your Apartment Garden

Once your nutritious finished compost is ready, it can be used to improve the soil quality in your apartment garden! Here’s a simple guide on how to use the finished compost:

  • Prepare the garden space

    Make sure the pots or containers where you plan to use the compost are clean and free of any debris. If using compost in a balcony garden, ensure the containers have proper drainage to prevent waterlogging.

  • Integrate the compost

    Mix in the finished compost with the existing soil in your containers or garden beds. A good ratio to follow is to add a few inches of compost to every few inches of soil. This will allow the compost to blend in evenly and help enrich the soil with organic matter.

  • Water and maintain

    After incorporating the compost, lightly water the area to allow the nutrients from the compost to seep into the soil. Ensure that our plants receive ample sunlight and monitor their growth over the coming weeks.

By creating our own balcony compost and using it to nourish our apartment garden, we’re not only reducing waste but also contributing to a greener and more sustainable living space.

Benefits and Impact on Environment

Improving Soil Health and Plant Growth

Composting on the apartment balcony provides many benefits, particularly for our plants. By creating our own compost, we can give our balcony plants a nutrient rich soil amendment that resembles soil itself.

This “black gold” helps to recover soil fertility, improve water retention, and delivers essential nutrients to our plants, allowing them to thrive in an urban environment.

We also save money and resources by not having to purchase soil, which is essentially organic waste that someone else has composted.

Choose an organic compost while you are waiting for your compost to mature.

Ribbon Organics OMRI Certified Organic Compost Size: 7.9 Gallons, 32-35 Pound Bag

Reducing Landfills and Greenhouse Gases

Another advantage of balcony composting is the reduction of waste sent to landfills. By composting, we can significantly decrease methane emissions that are a direct result of decomposing organic materials in landfills.

This helps us to lower our carbon footprint and protect our planet.

As well as reducing methane emissions, composting on our sunny balcony can prevent the release of other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide that originate from landfills.

This plays a crucial part in protecting the environment and maintaining a healthy air quality for all living things.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some DIY composting ideas for a small balcony?

There are several DIY composting ideas for small balconies. One simple method is to create a compost bin in a plastic container or an old wooden crate. Drill holes along the sides for ventilation, and layer your kitchen scraps with a mix of brown materials (e.g., dry leaves or shredded cardboard) and green materials (e.g., fruit and vegetable waste).

Another option is to try vermicomposting which involves using worms to break down organic waste, requiring a small worm bin.

What are some useful tips for successful balcony composting?

To ensure successful balcony composting, follow these tips:

  1. Use a ratio of of 2:1, brown to green materials in the compost bin.

  2. Make sure the compost s moist but not wet. This will maintain the right environment for the decomposition process.

  3. Turn or mix the compost regularly to provide aeration and even distribution of the materials.

  4. Monitor for pests and strong odors which could signal an imbalance in the composting process and need a correction.

  5. Be mindful of the weight of your compost bin, your balcony should be strong enough to support the added load.

Do any commercial composting bins work well on apartment balconies?

Yes, there are commercial compost bins suitable for apartment balconies.

Look for small, compact designs, such as countertop bins or compact tumblers. These bins typically come with a lid and built in ventilation system, making them well-suited for small spaces and minimizing odor.

F2C 18.5 Gallon Compost Tumbler All-Season Heavy-Duty Outdoor BPA Free Large Composter Bin w/Sliding Door and Solid Steel Frame

Can I compost on my balcony during winter months?

Yes, you can compost on your balcony during winter months. However, the decomposition process may slow down due to the cold temperatures. To maintain an active compost bin during winter, you can:

  1. Insulate your compost bin with materials like hay, straw, or old blankets.

  2. Add more nitrogen-rich materials to help raise the temperature inside the bin.

  3. Turn or mix the compost more frequently to generate heat.

  4. Move the compost bin to a sheltered area to protect it from the cold and wind.

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