When I moved to my current apartment I had windows along the south wall perfect for a winter garden, but no patio or yard in which to put my compost. The solution? A compost column built from two recycled two-liter plastic bottles, an idea from the University of Wisconsin’s Bottle Biology Resources Network.
Look carefully at the drawing. The two bottles are cut differently. The first bottle has the bottom pried off and the top cut off. The larger portion of this bottle becomes the top chamber of the column,
The second bottle has only the bottom cut off. The bottom then becomes the base of the column and is a dish into which excess water can drip, keeping your kitchen counter or window dry as you fill the column with compost. The top of the first bottle can be used as the lid, or you can use either of the bottoms. You can recycle the parts of the bottle that you don’t use.
I put the column along the east side of my kitchen window, where it is handy for me to throw in scraps from my vegetables and fruits which are cleaned in the sink immediately below. I also throw in an occasional eggshell. I can also sprinkle water into the top, and the sun provides some additional heat to keep the compost working.
I’m not allowed a cat or a dog in the apartment, and I would not use their droppings in this compost pit if I did. I do throw in a little manure purchased at the local garden store, however.
The results: Last year my tomatoes grew and produced throughout the winter. With the benefit of a little additional fluorescent light, they grew all around my sink. This year I reserved the kitchen window and the florescent lights for my miniature roses. I moved my tomatoes to a table in the living area where they have more room. The result has been great until this last week when one of the tomatoes began to grow a little spindly. I’ve harvested about eight tomatoes, have eight tomatoes currently on my three plants, and there are many blooms, suggesting I’ll continue to have a good crop for some months.
The tomatoes take a lot of water in this heated apartment, but my apartment compost reduces the amount I have to give each plant. I also am sure to water my plants twice, with a gap of about twenty minutes between each watering, so the plants drink as much of the water as possible. Little water is wasted, and I’m reminded each time I water, of the benefits of having a good apartment compost column.
by Max Dalrymple
by Phil Heiple
Vichyssoise (potato-leek soup)
- 1 Potato
- 3 Leeks
- 1 onion
- 1 to 2 cups cream
Chop up and cook potato, garlic, onion, and leeks in butter in saucepan. Put cream in blender and add 2/3 cooked vegetables. Blend til smooth.
Return to saucepan and heat. Good served hot or chilled.
Garnish with sour cream and chopped herbs. Drop dead easy.
Phil Heiple has been gardening since the mid-seventies.
Recipes for all the stuff he grows: www.rain.org/~philfear/garden.htm