How To Compost Without Much Space
How To Compost Without Much Space

How To Compost Without Much Space

Pauline Pears Organic Book of Compost

I’ve lived in many small spaces. I grew up in a small, single family ranch style home in South Haven, Indiana.

I joined the military in 1999. From then until somewhere around 2004 I lived in military dorms. Thereafter, I lived with friends in various apartments and duplexes in Belleville, Mascoutah, O’Fallon, and Damiansville, Illinois. I have lots of stories. Perhaps one day we will get to them but not this day.

When I landed my first job in Northwest, Florida, I lived in an apartment in Fort Walton Beach. A few years later I leveled up to a townhouse (also in Fort Walton Beach). I purchased my first piece of property in Shalimar, Florida, which, measured approximately 1,200 sqft. Now I have a family (a beautiful, hard working wife, and two rowdy teenagers) and although my living space is the largest it has ever been, I still have little space. If you have kids you’ll know what I mean.

I’ve always been interested in composting but I never thought it was a particularly good idea to do at a place I was renting. Growing up we had a compost pile but we also had a massive back yard and we owned the house. How does a person with little space (especially renting) compost?

Bokashi to the rescue!

Stop Throwing Everything Away!

I cook a lot. I constantly produce carrot, cucumber, and potato peelings, squash ends, bits of Brussels sprouts, egg shells, coffee grounds, and pepper butts. All of these bits of food can be made into compost. Seriously, if you have any interest in gardening even if it is a couple of 5 gallon buckets to re-grow onion waste or you’ve got plants around the apartment then consider Bokashi. Feed your plants!

Foot stomp: if you have a 1′ x 1′ space you can compost. Okay, done with that.

Bokashi is a Japanese, anaerobic method of fermenting all of your dinner scraps and food prep waste (carrot ends, celery leaves, potato peels, etc). Let’s unpack that a little bit.

  1. To be clear, the Bokashi method is a fermentation process. It isn’t really a composting method. However, it is a method of breaking down food scraps such that you are taking the scraps out of the waste cycle and reusing the material to feed your plants.
  2. Bokashi relies on anaerobic organisms to break down your scraps. They thrive in oxygen free environments.
  3. A couple big advantages Bokashi
    1. Low effort and cost effective
    2. Little to no smell
    3. You are not limited to vegetable scraps. You can add meat.
    4. With the right setup you can compost just about anywhere.
  4. It’s easy!

Check out Growing Organic’s article on Bokashi for a more in-depth look at the fiber/bran. Basically Bokashi, the fibers specifically, is nutrient rich wheat bran. It has all the necessary ingredients to initiate and maintain the fermentation process.


Full transparency, my set up is an experiment. I had an old glass tea jug with a spigot we bought at Walmart for $10 (for Lindsey‘s 14th birthday). In 6 months we may have used it two times. Coincidentally, I was reading Pauline Pears 2nd Revised Edition of her excellent run through of composting: Organic Book of Compost, 2nd Revised Edition.

Thank you Pauline for the heads up! I may not have ever discovered Bokashi without you!

There are lots of places to purchase a Bokashi system. Growing Organic sells a bunch. Or, if you are like me, you can experiment and build one of your own with stuff you might have around the house.

How To Bokashi

Stuff You Need:

  1. Bokashi system – basically a bucket with spigot, elevated bottom, and lid
  2. Bokashi Bran – you can find all over the Internet. I buy it from Bokashi Living for under $15.
  3. Food scraps (veggies, meat). The Spruce offers an extensive list of waste you can compost. Although in the “small space” scenario you may stick to food scraps, there is all manner of waste you can leverage in your compost.
  4. Gloves
  5. Patience

I did a little bit of a boo-boo with my setup. If you choose to use an old glass tea jug like mine then you’ll need to elevate your scraps such that the liquid that results from the fermentation process can be release through the spigot. I’d love to see anyone’s solution for this! The liquid is a secret weapon, by the way. During the fermentation process you’ll get into a routine of draining off the liquid a.k.a Bokashi Tea.


  1. If you bought a system then follow the directions. It is likely the steps are essentially the same as I’v listed here but there could be something specific to your purchase.
  2. Assuming you built your own system and it is sitting there in front of you empty, start by adding a handful of Bokashi bran to the bottom.
  3. Add your scraps and press them down. Cut the scraps into small pieces. Smaller scraps break down faster. Mix the bran and the initial scraps a little bit.
  4. Keep adding scraps. It’s like a fermenting food scrap lasagna! When you get about an inch of smooshed down scraps add another handful of Bokashi bran–enough to cover the surface. Press it down.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Every few days drain off the “compost tea”. Add the tea to gallon of water and use it to water your plants. Set up a re-occurring reminder in your calendar for every 2 days.

What You’ll Get

I started my system on December 25, 2020. The above slide show is the status as of January 8, 2021. The jug did not seem to seal properly. Therefore, I requisitioned a little bit of parchment paper for an assist.

My youngest asked me, “What are you growing in there?” I couldn’t think up anything snarky at the time to say at the time. One advantage of the glass jug system is that we all get to see the process go down in real time! She’s right to ask, though, look at all of that mold! Notice the mold is white and not green or some other color. White mold is what you want. It is an indication of proper fermentation.

Stop Throwing Everything in the Trash

Composting, growing food, and keeping stuff out of the waste cycle is clutch. If you don’t have space to build a compost pile Bokashi as a great way to re-use your food waste. It is affordable, simple, and stays out of your way. The microbes do all of the work. The results of Bokashi is a nutrient dense mound (and tea) of fermented matter that, when applied, will help your plants burst with life.

Give throw-away culture the middle finger by doing your part. Participate in recycling. You don’t have any excuses.

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