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How to Compost in the City

Composting organic waste has endless benefits for our environment and our gardens. It reduces the waste added to landfills, improves the soil quality by creating nutrient-rich soil, boosts plant production, benefits microbial life, and more.

There are ways to create your own compost, even if you live in the city and don’t have access to a large backyard full of plant materials, grass clippings, and leaves. Learn how to compost in the city so you can give back to the planet, feed your plants, and reduce waste.

4 Key Ingredients for Composting in the City

You need to have four key components if you are thinking about how to compost in the city or anywhere.  Carbon, Nitrogen, water, and air are essential ingredients for composting success. How do you make sure that you have all of these necessary ingredients? We’ve broken down each requirement. Do you know what’s needed to create a soil that is organic black gold?

1. Carbon:

  • Dry Leaves
  • Dried Twigs
  • Wood Shavings
  • Pine Pellets

2. Nitrogen:

  • Food Scraps
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Tea Leaves
  • Plant Materials

*Avoid meats, processed foods, dairy, and fats when composting.

3.  Water:

  • Occasionally add water to your composter to keep materials moist but not soggy.
  • Keep a tray underneath the composter to catch any liquid that is produced from the breakdown of organic matter. Add it to your watering can as a nutrient-rich compost tea for watering your plants.

4.  Air:

  • Air can be added to the compost pile by turning the composter several times daily. This should help the materials to start cooking.

Urban Composting Tools

If you are eager to get started, look no further! Here are all of the materials you will need to get started composting in the city:

  • Kitchen Compost Canister: Look for a canister with a lid that has a carbon filter – great for conveniently collecting kitchen scraps until it’s time to dump them in the composter.
  • 5-gallon bucket with a lid
  • Pine pellets, also known as equestrian pellets
  • Composter bin

How To Start Composting in the City

Spring is the ideal time to begin composting. With few simple steps to get started, you’ll be well on your way to making your own idyllic soil which will be ready to use in a few short months.

  1. Add one-fourth of the bag of pine pellets to the 5-gallon bucket. It will absorb liquids and odors as the pellets expand.
  2. Take your collected food scraps from your kitchen compost canister and add them to the composting bucket.
  3. Store your bucket with a lid in an inconspicuous but convenient area and continue to add food scraps, coffee grounds, and tea leaves until the bucket is full.
  4. When the 5-gallon bucket has reached capacity, open your compost barrel and add the contents to the barrel.
  5. Close it up and turn the composter several times. Turning the composter adds much-needed air to the materials in the barrel. It is similar to turning a traditional compost heap with a pitchfork but much more convenient.

Different Types of Tumbling Composters

Tumbling composters are great for composting in the city. They are easy to use, relatively compact, have a tidy appearance, and provide speedy decomposition.

Choosing a Tumbling Composter

When thinking about how to compost in the city and selecting a composter, it is important to take the size of the composter, the material that it’s made of, and ease of use into consideration.


The size of your composter determines how much compost you can create and store. Consider the amount of space that you have and how much compost you will need for your gardens when you plan how to compost in the city.

  • Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter: Larger barrel with two compartments that allow you to have two compost bins breaking down at different intervals.  Once one is complete, you can use it to amend your soil while you cook another batch on the other side.
  • Single Chamber Tumbling Composter: Smaller and more compact with only one chamber. You will need to complete the composting process and store the compost before adding more material.


Plastic composters are reasonably priced, lightweight, and tend to be weather resistant. Over time, plastic can succumb to sun damage and cracking. Metal composters are weightier but provide more longevity.

How to Compost Faster

Is your compost not breaking down into rich soil fast enough? The amount of time it takes for compost to mature can vary by climate and other factors.

When we think about how to compost in the city, troubleshooting your slow to decompose compost in your bin is easy. Usually, the fix is as simple as addressing airflow, water, and nitrogen levels.

  • Try turning your compost barrel more frequently to provide an influx of air to the mixture.
  • Larger pieces of table scraps take longer to break down than smaller ones. Speed up the process by cutting fruit and vegetable pieces up into smaller segments before adding.
  • If your mixture is too dry, add a bit of water to the compost bin and cut back on your carbon additions.
  • It is also possible that you need to add more nitrogen-rich components to the barrel. You can increase the Nitrogen and aid in breaking the organic materials by adding more kitchen scraps, tea leaves, and coffee grounds.
  • It is also important to note that warmer temperatures increase the microbial activity in the bin and speed up the decomposition process. In comparison, cooler temperatures may make the process much slower. Placing the composter in a sunnier location can help speed up the process.

Dealing With Pests in a Compost Pile

Pests can be a nuisance when composting, particularly when you consider how to compost in the city because your compost bin is likely closer to your residence and neighboring properties.

  • It is essential to identify the pests before panicking. Some insects are beneficial to your compost pile, like the black soldier fly, which can help break down the organic matter in your bin faster.
  • Keep your compost barrel closed and latched if that is an option on your model. This will keep rodents like rats and mice from seeking out your table scraps.
  • Turn your tumbler daily to deter any rodents from nesting.
  • Avoid adding meats, dairy, and fats to your compost heap.
  • Coffee grounds, fruits, vegetable peels, leaves, and wood chips should break down efficiently without attracting rodents.
  • Most importantly, tumbling composting bins retain moisture and warmth while keeping rodents and other pests out, so you are less likely to run into this problem.

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