DIY Indoor Composting for Tiny Spaces – Learn How to Make Nutrient Dense Soil Without a Yard

DIY Indoor Composting for Tiny Spaces — Learn How to Make Nutrient Dense Soil Without a YardBy Carolanne Wright

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

As a child of around ten, I remember a class trip to a Native American archeological site. The tribe and other details are long gone from memory, but one aspect is still with me today — the amount of waste the group created over hundreds of years. The buried mound was maybe five feet tall and seven feet wide, if even that large. Compare this to the 251 million tons of trash American’s generated in 2012, and it gives one pause for thought about the sheer quantity of garbage we produce.

Landfill limitations

Of all trash disposed, compostable items in landfills are of particular concern. According to Environment Victoria in Australia: “When organic material such as food scraps and green waste is put in landfill, it is generally compacted down and covered. This removes the oxygen and causes it to break down in an anaerobic process. Eventually this releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The implications… are enormous.”

Modern landfills have special methods that trap the methane gas and leachate (toxic waste runoff) for treatment, but “even the best liner and leachate collection system will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration,” warns Zero Waste America.

Do we truly wish to inhabit a planet which is overrun with trash that will, in all likelihood, turn toxic? Thankfully, there’s a better way…

Indoor composting to the rescue

Beyond recycling and reducing overall electronic and disposable waste, composting food scraps is a smart choice for shrinking our trash footprint. The main obstacle for many is that they live in small spaces without access to a yard. As luck would have it, making your own compact and efficient indoor composter is straightforward and easy.


If you’re okay with the squirm factor, worms are hardworking creatures and perfect for an indoor composter.


  • Four black tubs (22 liters each) with one lid
  • Valve for the bottom tub
  • Bedding (peat moss, shredded newspaper or mushroom compost)
  • One pound red wiggler worms (found at your local fishing store or through mail order)
  • Power drill
  • Hole saw
  • 1/4-inch drill bit


Using the appropriate sized hole saw, drill the opening for the value about an inch up from the bottom of the container. Screw in the valve and secure with a wing nut on the backside. Create a seal around the valve with caulking to prevent leaks.

For the remaining three tubs, drill about a dozen holes in the bottom of each so that the worms can move back and forth and fluid can drain.

You will need to lift up the second tub from the bottom to avoid issues with the liquid. A small plastic container in the lower tub works nicely. Drill about a dozen holes in the lid for ventilation.

The bottom tub is simply for liquid collection. To start your worm farm, line a second tub with bedding material, about 4-inches worth of slightly damp peat moss, shredded newspaper (black ink only) or mushroom compost. Add the worms and a small amount of vegetable/fruit scraps. Cover with a piece of cardboard to help retain moisture. Close the lid and place the composter in a cool, dark and quiet place.

When you need to use the compost, prepare a new bin with bedding and food. Place it on the top of the composter and snap on the lid. Over the next few days, the worms will migrate upwards in search of food. Once they are properly lodged in the the new tub, you’re free to remove the middle bin and harvest the compost.

Tips for success:

  • Chop kitchen waste into small pieces.
  • Don’t feed the worms anything from the citrus or onion family.
  • The worm tea that collects in the bottom container is excellent plant fertilizer. Dilute 1 part tea to 10 parts water before use.
  • Read “Vermiculture: How To Build A Worm Bin the Cheap and Easy Way” for pointers on troubleshooting and creating a successful worm habitat.

How to make a worm farm

Bokashi composting

With this method, you are adding a bokashi mixture (usually made from bran, molasses, water and microorganisms) to your vegetable scraps. It’s low odor and simple to do, producing a natural high-potency liquid fertilizer and effectively composing your solid organic waste.


  • Two 2-gallon plastic buckets with lids.
  • Drill with 3/16 or 1/4-inch bit.
  • Bokashi medium.
  • Plastic wrap.


Drill 10-15 holes in the bottom of one bucket and place it in the second bucket. Next, spread one layer of organic kitchen waste — about 2-3 centimeters in depth — along the bottom of the container and sprinkle a small amount of the bokashi mixture over the top. Compress slightly with a masher to eliminate air pockets. Add another layer of scraps and repeat the process. When finished, stretch plastic wrap over the top and cover with the lid.

Virtually anything can go into the composter including meat, dairy, bread and egg shells — although skip large bones and keep liquids to a minimum.

Tips for success:

  • Avoid opening the composter unnecessarily. It’s best to collect food scraps in a seperate container and then transfer when full to the bokashi composter.

Bokashi composting – set up and instructions

The Bokashi culture can be purchased through Teraganix (United States) and The Organic Gardener’s Pantry (Canada). You can also contact EMRO Japan to find a supplier if you live in another country. Or have a look at this DIY recipe if you would like to make your own.

Honorable mention

Although it’s a pre-made composter, the fully automated NatureMill is worth noting because of its efficiency, small size and ease of use. It is also economical to run, using the same amount of energy as a night-light. The NatureMill can compost up to 120 pounds of scraps a month and will handle fish, meat and dairy (but not citrus, peach pits or large bones).

NatureMill on the History Channel

Article sources:

Previous articles by Carolanne:

About the author:

Carolanne Wright

I’m Carolanne — a writer, chef, traveler and enthusiastic advocate for sustainability, organics and joyful living. It’s good to have you here. If you would like to learn more, connect with me at or visit


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