Balcony Garden Composting

Balcony garden composting is easy to do. It cheers me to tell you that! However, there are some things that you need to be aware of before you begin. I made one crucial mistake, but it can easily be avoided. That’s the good news.

Balcony Garden Composting

This is what my balcony garden compost looked like after I had stirred it for the first time.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to try my hand at making compost. So, I have completed part 1 of my experiment and I’ve proven that balcony garden composting is indeed possible.

My first attempt at balcony garden composting and what went wrong!

I used only raw peelings, egg shells, plant material, shredded newspaper, cow manure, some expired cereal for cooking, corn meal and lots of old potting soil. The idea was to recycle the potting soil and make it better. I cut all my peelings up small and crushed the egg shells.

The container I used was where I made my first mistake. Again, I was trying to recycle something that had been sitting on the balcony for a year in all types of weather. To be frank, it was rotten and ready for the dump. It was a plastic storage box container, but not Rubbermaid quality, so it couldn’t take the extreme heat.

Everything was going well in the beginning. I emptied all my soil and dead or dying plants into it and added some cow manure pellets, shredded newspaper and vegetable peelings and watered it. Lastly, I gave it a stir to bury the peelings and mix it all up.

As I was stirring with my metal broom handle, I heard crrrrraaaack! My metal broom handle had poked a hole right out the back! What I created was an entry point. An entry point for ANTS!! Okay, ants are the bane of my existence. I can’t think of one thing they’re good for, can you? The whole world is covered with them! And they’re so energetic, always on the move.

I kept the compost bin active for about two months, perhaps less, stirring it every day and adding material to it to keep my worms happy. (I didn’t intend it to be a worm factory, but they were in the soil in my pots! A bonus for my balcony garden composting venture!)

So, you can see the first problem was the rotten container and the second was the hole in the container, poked out the side. This led to the third problem…an ant colony!

I had read somewhere, probably on Pinterest, that you can feed them with cornmeal and they’ll eat it and go away and die because it swells up in their stomach, or something like that. So, I liberally plastered my compost with cornmeal and I think I invited more! It was literally seething with ants. They thought they had come to the Shangri-la!¬†I didn’t think I needed to provide a 5 star acccommodations for them as they were already in every pot in the garden. . Extreme actions had to be taken…

Balcony Garden Composting

Cherry blossoms at Kadoorie Farm, near Tai Po.

Once upon a time, in Nova Scotia, we had a cherry tree that was full of earwigs. Horrors! It was like something you would see in a National Geographic picture. Mom used hot, soapy water to kill them. So, I thought that might work for these ants. My first thought was that I have to get rid of this compost, but I knew I had to get rid of the ants first or they’d be running everywhere, all over me!

I mixed up my hot, soapy water and poured it into the bin. It certainly slowed down the ant population. But sadly, didn’t do my worms any good either. Needless to say, it broke my heart. There were a few survivors, but they were struggling. I felt so cruel and heartless.

I hope you’re learning something from this story. It’s a sad story, but I’ve learned a lot. And I’m going to try again. I proved that balcony garden composting is possible, and I must have done it right, because it didn’t have any foul smell. It was ready in a few weeks. I was sorry to have to throw much of it away, because after the addition of soap it began to stink. I was able to save some of it for use in my containers.

I need to change my compost bin. That’s the bottom line.

Have you had any success with  balcony garden composting? Any suggestions or tips? Please tell us in the comments!

Cheers!

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5 Comments

  • Carol says:

    If you want to remove ants from pots, fill a bucket with a weak solution of dish washing detergent – just as if you are going to wash the dishes, then dip your pots in and leave soaking for several minutes. Then remove the pot and leave to drain. Dish detergent is a contact poison for ants. You can also mix up the solution, put it in a spray bottle and spray your plants, compost, kitchen counters, etc, anywhere ants are a problem.

    For the compost container, you should be able to quite safely pour a weak solution through your compost bin. If compost only it shouldn’t do any harm. If a worm bin, I would spray the surface with the detergent or after pouring the solution through the bin, follow with a bucket of clean water to rinse the remaining detergent from the worms as you don’t want to smother them.

  • Nadea says:

    Thanks for your tips, Carol. I used dish soap, but I probably overkilled. I’ll definitely keep your tips in mind for next time. So dish soap doesn’t hurt worms? I probably boiled them alive because I didn’t stop at soapy water. I made it hot! Ack! Poor worms. No sympathy for ants!

  • Pinaki says:

    Next time try neem oilcakes or dry nee leaves into your compost…that is what I use in pots to prevent ants and some other pests…

  • Pinaki says:

    Neem leaves*

  • Nadea says:

    Hi Pinaki! Thanks for your tip. I’ve never seen neem oilcakes or neem leaves, but I do have a bottle of neem oil in my cupboard. Does it have any effect on bees and butterflies? I’ve never used the stuff, because I’m afraid for the other bugs that I want to keep.

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