Composting in an Apartment?

August 6, 2008

CompostingCan I use a Rubbermaid barrel for a compost pile? I rent my apartment and the owner doesn't want any contraptions.

Hardiness Zone: 6a

Joyce from Danvers, MA



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August 6, 20080 found this helpful

I'd check with the owner of your apartment before doing anything. You wouldn't want them to cancel your lease and then ask you to find another place to live.

By millard_crystal (Guest Post)
August 6, 20080 found this helpful

You could look into a worm composter. Basically it is a box with holes, some dirt and alot of worms. You just add your kitchen scraps and they do the rest. There are plans for them online or companies that sell them. I went to a master gardners class that was showing some that fit in a kitchen cupboard! Also if your landlord pays for garbage removal you could mention how much money composting would save him. I live in town and have a self contained system. It kind of looks like a Darth Vadar helmet. No smell, no rotting food to look at, and best of all pest proof! My neighbors had no idea we were composting. They cost about $100 online but mine was free through a local college's master gardner program at my local library.

August 6, 20080 found this helpful

I agree with both posters. My daughter has a worm farm under her sink and loves it but your landlord may not.

I also rent and want some composted material. Online sources mentioned that the minimum amount to process by oneself efficiently is about three cubic feet -- quite a bit for an apartment.


I asked a gardening guru who is also one of the very best columnists at my local newspaper. He suggested brewing compost "tea". Mix one cup of compost in a gallon of water and let stand in summer sunshine for a day or two. Then repeat. He said you can never use enough.

Where to get the compost? Beg, buy, steal, I think. Tis too late in the growing season to buy from WalMart -- they cleaned out their inventory here at $1 a bag.

I have my eye on a seemingly mature compost pile at a local fire station nearby. I'm sure they'd give me a shovelful or two.

You probably know way more people than I do -- ask.

August 7, 20080 found this helpful

My MIL has a worm bucket in the basement. She just started with some soil and peat moss... it's one of the under the bed type rubbermaid totes with holes drilled in it. You have to order the worms though - the ones you dig out of the backyard aren't quite the right kind to use. She puts veggies and I think pasta in them, no meat so no smell.


They make great potting soil and when she has too many worms she either gives them away to someone to start their own or uses them to feed her fish (small pond outside). If you can get away with it, the worms are the way to go!


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August 8, 20080 found this helpful

If you are doing this indoors, the worms are the way to go. No one will know that you have them. We did this at my school for many years, although you have to have a healthy population of worms for it to work, and if you get the container too moist, it can smell. Do not, no matter what any site tells you to do, do not poke drainage holes in the bottom of the container you use. It drains all right -- a black tea colored slightly stinky stuff that is likely chock full of nutrients, but makes a big mess on the floor. Also, if it gets overloaded with something like orange peels, you can get a fruit fly problem. However, these problems can be managed by keeping a lot of worms and by making sure your compost is always well covered with soil, compost, or shredded paper.


Add more shredded paper if you are getting too much moisture in your compost tub. Also, do not seal the tub up tightly. We had the best results with rubbermaid tubs that had holes poked in the sides, and the lids just set on top. Maybe a few holes drilled in the top.

The worms to use are red wiggler earthworms. They are smaller and thinner than the earthworms that we have here, but in some southern climes, I am sure they are the native population.

We fed the worms to our turtle, red-bellied newts, and goldfish, when we felt that we had too many of them.

By chris (Guest Post)
August 8, 20080 found this helpful

Yes you can. Just make sure it's not the kind that have a mildew inhibitor in the plastic. I have done this & I used a hand circular saw to cut slots across the sides.


In alternate spaces, you can also drill holes, about 1/2in. wide, all over & the bottom. You just have to make sure to mix it regularly.


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August 10, 20080 found this helpful

We have a cheap black, plastic trash can that we drilled 1" holes on the sides and use as a composter. We set it in the yard in an inconspicuous place, and no one knows the difference.


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August 13, 20080 found this helpful

Yes You can use almost anything like that. I got mine started off using cheap potting soil. I also after putting in veggie scraps went to Lowes and bought compost accelorator and sprinkled it on the top.


This product works wonders for a compost pile.

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More Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

February 14, 2001

I recently relocated from a house where I had a yard to an apartment in the city where I have none. Does anyone know of any resources, books, or tips for composting in the city? Having composted for years, I would hate to start throwing out compostable material.

By John


February 14, 20010 found this helpful

I have 3 large (at least 5 gals) flower pots. I put my kitchen scraps mixed with a little dirt in the bottom pot. When it's almost full, I nest the next pot inside the first one and keep filling and stacking. By the time the top pot is full, the bottom pot is finished compost. I have a pot tray on the bottom to water the compost and another tray on the top to keep the fruit flies away. The whole thing takes up about 1 1/2 square feet of yard space. - Grace

February 15, 20010 found this helpful

You can do red worm composting any where with no smell & in the house.

February 15, 20010 found this helpful

In one word....worms! You can put a container under your sink. - Karin

April 5, 20010 found this helpful

Like the other responses said - worm bin composting would be perfect (I have a yard and do this in addition to my outdoor shepard bin). For how to information check out this website ( - it also has a lot of other helpful information. With worm bin composting (vermicomposting) you can compost papers and kitchen scraps easily.

Also, have you thought about seeing if your apartment complex would allow a small demo garden where you could put a simple 3-bin system and provide compost for the apt. dwellers. If you were building and turning your piles before, this won't seem like a lot of work (and you might be able to get a few volunteers to help once in a while).

Finally, check to see if there is a master composters group in your area that has demo sites set up already that you can contribute to or call the city to see if they do any city wide composting.

Hope these ideas help. - Benjamin

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