Composting in the City
Vertical gardens are such beautiful art pieces, they were obvious to use. Trailing succulent plants are really easy to take care of, and over the years, I have figured out which plants like it there, and which don’t.
My very favorite succulent plant is the ice plant, also known as a pink carpet. Loves the sun, and dry soil, even gravel mulch, doesn’t need watering and spreads really fast, and in the meanwhile, it covers and kills the weeds. it’s perfect.
A vertical garden with succulent plants is a great cover for small compost bins
Mine survived the winter, but since it’s easy to propagate, I cut off some stems to plant before winter, so I can start new batches each next year.
I always envied people who had compost piles to improve their soil and help their plants, so when I had a facelift on my terrace, I decided I need to be able to do composting in the city and create a small compost bin in the corner.
It’s usually stinky, and not good-looking, so my biggest challenge was to figure out how to make it blend in. Succulent plants in vertical gardens were the right way to go. They are pretty, they grow fast, and they are basically omnipotent.
How to make a small compost bin in a tiny terrace
Using a plastic bin is not a great idea, since the pile needs lots of air to do its magic. So I just put two OSB boards on the corner sides of my terrace bars, and chicken wire to connect the two sides of this small compost bin.
For the cover – I’m not gonna lie, it took years to perfect my bin, especially the vertical garden. Composting in the city is not easy if you want to make it pretty. The 2 kinds of methods I have tried are not that different, from the outside, but made a huge difference for the ecosystem of the plants. Here I’m going to show you both methods, and you can decide which one is better for you.
Small compost bin cover method #1 - using weed mat
To make the vertical garden, first year, I stretched a weed mat in front of it, and just filled the space in between with very muddy soil – this way the soil stuck while I was stuffing it with the succulent plants. Then I covered the mat with fencing wire, which helped with stability when I started the stuffing. I cut tiny holes in the mat, and just stuck the succulent plants in. I had extra holes, so the plants can go on their own ways.
These two photos were made 5 months apart. They really liked their places, as you can see.
Small compost bin cover method #2 - not using weed mat
Next year I realized, I don’t need the weed mat, it made the spreading of the succulent plants difficult. So I took it out and used the existing wire, plus a new one with smaller holes, and I just put some wood logs behind them (a few years later I used bamboo sticks). This method helps the air to move better, and the compost was in direct contact with the trailing succulent plants. I made the soil extra muddy again, so while I was planting, the whole vertical garden structure stayed together.
Side note: I tried to put the plants in while the wires were still lying on the floor, but when I pulled the whole thing up into a vertical position, everything fell apart and had to start over.
Taking care of the small compost bin, the vertical garden and the succulent plants
Succulents usually don’t need water every day, but for the purpose of this project, I watered it every morning with a shower spray head, so the soil doesn’t dry out and get washed out. That would make parts fall out, starting a domino effect.
The top always gets more water than the bottom since the water drips downward so, after a while, the soil starts to pour down a little, but that just helps the plants spread nicer.
Some plants grow tiny roots while getting bigger, which helps them stick to the wall. For the ones that have one central root, I help with strings, so their weight won’t pull them down.
Afterlife of the vertical garden and the small compost bin itself
Naturally, even with the shower spray head the soil starts going down. But don’t worry, it only helps the whole thing look prettier as time goes by. I put some beautiful white pebbles at the bottom of the bin, so they kind of help stop the soil. After a while, the pebbles collect the soil, and new succulent plants start to grow in between them, which I had nothing to do with.
I also refresh the vertical garden every 2-3 years with fresh soil and plant some new succulent plants.
I put all kinds of food waste in the bin, leftover vegetables, fruits, all the weeds, cuttings, and dry flowers from my plants.
Sometimes I put in a little extra used soil, paper, coffee grounds, or eggshells. Eggshells can be reused and repurposed in many ways, which I have gathered here.
I bring some bird poop from my mom’s barnyard as well, because it really helps the composting process.
Did you know having barnyard birds reduces waste in your home?
I stir the bin with a pole stick every week, so all the ingredients get mixed, and it gets enough air, except during winters. Why is that? Find out in my 10+1 practical tips & tricks about composting.
Each year, before spring comes, I take out all the stuff I have been mixing. I empty the bin completely and mix this beautiful, and nutritious composted soil with the soils that I use for my new flowers and plants on my terrace, and I start the whole process of composting in the city again.
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