Want to start composting, but no yard space available? Stores sell special indoor compost pile containers, but the cost can be prohibitive. Here’s how to make your own windowsill compost bucket, step 1 in our “Start Apartment Composting” series.

Step 1 - Choose a container

For a windowsill compost pile, you need a container that:
* holds the compost in (unlike a pile in your yard, which can be more loosely “contained”)
* keeps everything wet (not TOO many holes)
* allows for ventilation (we’ll add holes in Step 2)
* has a capacity greater than the amount of compost you’ll have in it at any one time
* fits in your windowsill, or wherever you want it

We chose a cheap plastic bucket with a lid to keep it from drowning during the rainy season. It’s thick enough plastic to be sturdy, but thin enough that it was easy to poke ventilation holes in it. Ours is 22cm in diameter and 19cm tall - not quite large enough for the amount of scraps our 2-person family produces, but the perfect size for our windowsill, so we make do.

Step 2 - Alter the container

You need air to flow though your pile to get all the chemical stuff I don’t understand to start happening. Use something sharp you already have around your house, like a screwdriver, to poke holes in your container. Be careful - avoid poking holes in yourself. We poked small (pencil-diameter sized) holes every 10cm around the sides and evenly spaced 5 holes in the lid and the bottom of the bucket.
note - Poking one of the holes, we accidently split a good 15 cm long crack into the plastic... if you do this, don’t worry; it really doesn’t matter so long as there’s not an actual chunk out of the side big enough to let compost fall out. We’ve used our bucket for months with no problems.

Step 3 - Place the container

When choosing where to put your pile, consider:

* It’s really best for your container to be outside. Once it becomes compost, the pile gets a quite pleasant, warm, earthy smell... but before that, it sometimes stinks (especially if you don’t have enough brown material).
* The pile should receive as much sunlight as you can get it.
* You want your pile accessible from wherever you produce food scraps (to avoid carrying dripping vegetable peels across your home).

For me, the kitchen windowsill, which gets sunlight all afternoon and is easy to access when cooking, is the best option. However, don’t give up - just be creative - if that won’t work for you... put it rooftop, on a balcony, on your doorstep... anywhere you can access it without it getting in the way.

What now?

Well, a bucket won’t do much to produce compost on its own. See the next post in this “Start Apartment Composting” series, “Composting How-to: Green and Brown.”

...and you?

What compost pile container do you use? What do you recommend? Snap a picture of yours and upload to our flickr group for a chance to have it featured!