I live in a small flat and my only place to grow things is in window boxes on my generously sized window ledges. I would like to be able do a small amount of composting with things like leaves from my plants, teabags and so forth. If I do it needs to be safe, nearly odorless and very efficient in space usage.

Is there a set up that would allow me to do this?

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    Related question, but not a duplicate (since the asker had outdoor space): sustainability.stackexchange.com/q/7/15 Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 21:12
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    A worm farm may work better, but is more dependent on a reliable flow of food waste/worm food. Small composting units tend to be very responsive to exactly what you put into them, where worms care less, but if you don't feed them they either escape or die.
    – Móż
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 1:40
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    What are you going to do with the compost? When reading your question I also thought about vermicomposting, but if you want to use the compost for your indoor plants then vermicomposting is not really suitable because the resulting compost may still contain worm eggs. When you add the compost to your plants and the eggs hatch, then worms may start crawling out of your plants.
    – THelper
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 19:35
  • Yes, you are right. My main use would be indoor plants. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 2:19

5 Answers 5


I would also suggest vermicomposting.

We have a vermicomposting system right in our kitchen. It usually does not smell at all. It is a plastic container, the base is 40*25 cm and the height is maybe 40 cm. You avoid smell by digging the fresh materials when you add them, not adding too much at once, and by good airing: our bin is open-lid and there are really many holes in the sides of the box. Only very rarely do we find an escaped worm, usually after I've been digging around in the wormbin.

I use the compost for the window boxes. Even after sieving the compost very carefully, removing all worms, letting it sit for a month so that the cocoons (eggs) have time to hatch and removing all worms once again, worms end up in my window boxes - and they multiply there just as anywhere else! However, they do not escape from the window boxes and most of the plants seem to be unaffected. You probably could avoid introducing worms into your flower boxes by creating "worm tea"; a simplified explanation is that you would soak your compost in water and then use just the water for fertilizing your plants.

The main danger of a wormbin is that it will attract flies and fungus gnats. They are difficult to get rid of!

This is a good source of information about vermicomposting: redwormcomposting.com


"NatureMill" composting machines are designed for composting indoors, with an electric motor for turning the material and an air filter. I get the impression it's also insulated, which would be necessary for it to heat up to the temperature required to break down quickly. It looks like you can purchase a special power supply for running it outdoors (not sure what the acceptable temperature range would be, or whether heavy rain/humidity would be a problem).

I haven't used one of these myself, or known someone who has, so I looked at some reviews of it. The verdict is mixed. You may experience problems with noise and odour. However, with careful use and some understanding of how to make compost, you may be able to turn your scraps into compost in as little as a week.


Maybe try a small version of a worm compost. I don't know how much odor it will produce, but every sustainable solution (for me: f.e. not using a lot of extra energy) will have odors. Advantage of this is, that you can choose the size on your own (if it's warm enough at least, which needs a minimum size :)

The worms also produces some liquid that can be used as dung, but it probably depends on the sort of worms you choose.

  • How much leachate is produced doesn't depend on the type of worms, but on how much excessive water is in the bin. Please be warned that there is conflicting information on the internet about the usefulness of this liquid (a.k.a. leachate). Many people claim that leachate is a wonderful fertilizer. It can be, but the problem is that leachate can also be full of phytotoxins depending on how your composting process is going. More information also on Wikipedia and this article
    – THelper
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 19:58

Another possibility is to use bokashi composting. This process ferments the organic scraps in an enclosed bucket with addition of microorganisms. The process is fast and you can put almost any organic scraps to the bucket.

For details se:

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    Bokashi composting indeed is odorless (as long as you keep the bin closed). When a Bokashi bin is full you keep it fermenting for about two weeks. However, after those two weeks the bin contents still smell and you should bury it so it turns into good compost. It doesn't seem like the OP has a space (ideally a garden) to do this.
    – THelper
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 19:31

Vermicomposting can be performed indoors and it is space efficient and doesn't require sunlight, which allows you to allocate parts of your living quarters which aren't suitable for growing produce otherwise.

You can manufacture your own vermicompost using cheap, accessible materials and the initial batch of earthworms can be harvested from the soil where outdoor composts are in contact with the soil or from a store that procures them as bait for fishing.

I've only seen two vermicomposts to date, both of which have been kept in a dry room with ample natural ventilation. There is some smell released by decomposing organic material on the top which quickly dissipates as you step away from the vermicompost.

I'm still researching before my attempt to start my own in my apartment and I would like to address the issue with the smell to make it more appealing to visitors to consider starting their own, since I will be keeping my own in a small enclosed room.

The worms are sensitive to light and the compost still produces some heat, keeping it above the average room temperature. I believe it would be possible to use something similar to an enclosed growing bag, where fresh air comes from the top and deposits of active carbon or a filter at the bottom can be placed to fully deodorize the air before it escapes into circulation.

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    The worms you harvest from a backyard (depends on where you live, but often Lumbricus terrestris), usually aren't the same as the worms that are most commonly used in vermicomposting (Eisenia fetida). Common earthworms aren't as resilient and don't reprocreate as quickly as vermicomposting worms, so you basically end up doing 'regular' composting.
    – THelper
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 20:02
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    Decomposing the organic material is not the singular responsibility of the earthworms. Without the inoculation of microbial organisms in the compost, the process will not proceed. Hence why the scraps should always be moist and certain optimum temperature must be maintained. The oxidation performed by the microbes will dissipate heat and the earthworms will migrate to and fro from the organic materials depending on the temperature. Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 21:25
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    Not all worms found in the soil will do, hence the focus on the ones which cling to outdoor composts which are in contact with the soil. Again, with the inoculation of microbes and the breakdown of organic material to simpler compounds, the earthworms that can be used for vermicomposting will naturally cling towards the nutrient-rich compost when the heat dissipated from oxidation subsides to an optimal range. Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 21:29
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    Both composts I was inspired from were kept in rooms at 17-19° C, no perceivable humidity and I noted that there was faintly any smell from the surrounding stored produce. There was odor in the immediate surrounding of the composts and I would attribute that to the decomposing material on the top and the fact that wood, both breathable and suitable for bacterial growth, was used for construction. I can assume, perhaps wrongly, given that organisms are constantly reproducing and dying off, in small, humid, warm and enclosed rooms the surroundings surfaces may be transformed to harbor more life. Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 22:06

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