Urban Compost

 in Garden


In a raised bed, you may get off easy on the tilling front but compost is an area you shouldn’t slack off on.

I was well trained in big country compost, adding in dry hay bales and turning it with a pitch fork.
It was honestly very hard for me to compress into an urban space.

I tried a small box first and considered a tumbler and all other small space solutions the home depot could throw my way. In the end it was a couple of Mexicans who taught me a good urban space option.

It still takes a small line of your back or side wall, but honestly if you don’t have room for compost then your garden is probably small enough to just buy your compost. When you use as much composts as me, finding a space to make dirt is the only viable option.

The Milperos Urbanos method

You will first need 6 small trash cans or containers with lids, mine are about 36 inches tall
If you have a small production you can use square stackable containers too.
There really is a way to fit compost into your space.
Reach out to me if you are having issues.

You will need to poke holes in the bottom and down the sides to let in air.
Once ready you can stat to fill them one at a time.

Collect your organic material in an old pot or other covered container.
I have a bucket with lid that is about a foot deep and takes 3-4 days to fill.
Choose a container size that fills in less than a week every 3 days is a good amount of time.

Take your organic material outside to your compost bins

  • look at your organic material, how much do you have?
  • You will need four times the amount of dry material for your amount of fresh material.
  • Line the bottom of your container with half your dry leaves or hay, add fresh materials.
  • Cover in about ½-1 L of water depending on how much fresh material you are adding and how hot your time of year is. You will have to learn as you go with moisture content. You want a wet compost but not soaking.
  • Add a handful of dirt (optional to kickstart the compost process)
  • Cover in another double portion of dried material.
  • Cover with lid.
  • Continue layers until you bin is full. This should take 1-1.5 weeks no longer, if it is taking longer that 2 weeks to fill your bin you need a smaller compost container or to eat more fruits and vegetables.

As soon as the final layer fills the bin you can start the process of turning.
I turn my compost from the first full bin into the next empty bin. I continue to move my compost down the line for 6 weeks. Turning it into a new bin each week and breaking it up with a shovel as I go. In the final bin at the end of 6-8 weeks you should have super rich dark compost that you can now store or spread over your garden. This final bin now becomes your first again and you start the process over.

All the while you should be filling a new bin so that you always have compost in process.
There should only be one empty at a time for a space to turn into. If you don’t have enough space/resources for extra bins you can turn them out on concrete and shovel them back into the same bin for the same amount of time 6-8 weeks. The goal is to get a lot of air flow and to break up big pieces each week with your shovel.

NOTE: If you add new organic material to a bin that is already half way composted you should start the count over because the new material will take time to break down even if the rest of the material is ready.

Quick recap on the compost layers:
Double dry
Double Dry
Repeat until full
Start to turn
Continue to turn for 6-8 weeks


What to compost

If you are a vegan you can compost just about everything even cotton and linen clothing.
If you are a vegan you can compost just about everything even cotton and linen clothing.

There are some things NOT to put in a compost pile.
Cat or dog poop
Synthetic tea bags
Sticky fruit labels
Fish and meat scraps
Glossy paper
Large branches
Diseased or insect infested plants
Treated wood or grill charcoal
Rice, pasta, baked goods (a few won’t be bad, but a lot can lead to bacteria in your compost)  

Some surprising things you can add
Hair cuttings
Dust from when you sweep
Paper napkins (untreated with dyes)
Wine, beer or liquor waste
Moldy herbs and spices
Used loofas

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Showing 4 comments
  • Dianne Johnson

    I was delighted to find your site. And see you discuss composting.
    I’m still planning much of my garden, but I can see that the soil will need help.
    Do you have problems with bugs in the compost? Cockroaches in particular, but spiders too?

    • Nik

      Depending on where you live maybe direct composting is also an option. I discussed than one here.
      I’ve never had any problems with spiders and I only have problems with cockroaches if I do not turn and break up the compost weekly.
      I do not store any of my compost for the same reason and use it all immediately.

  • Lenore Goldstein

    I love this system. Haven’t tried it yet. The 6-8 week time frame sounds fast.

    • Nik

      Yes, I think you will like it. It is so fast thanks to our hot sun and humid weather. You really have to turn it weekly though and break it up with the shovel to make it in the time frame, but it’s worth every moment.

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