Turning food scraps and yard waste into nutritious compost is easier than you think. Even if you live in an apartment or have limited outdoor space, you can compost right at home using a simple 5 gallon bucket.
Composting in a 5 gallon bucket allows you to recycle organic waste into a rich fertilizer that will nourish your plants and garden. Though small, these buckets let you compost year-round and are a remarkably effective method for producing compost with minimal effort.
Why Compost in a 5 Gallon Bucket?
Composting in a 5 gallon bucket is a convenient way to compost if you:
- Have a small garden or outdoor space
- Live in an apartment with no yard
- Want an inexpensive and accessible composting method
- Prefer composting in small batches
With a 5 gallon bucket, you can compost all year long, even in winter. The small size allows you to easily maintain and turn the compost. In just 2-3 months, you’ll have rich compost to use on houseplants or garden beds.
Choosing the Right 5 Gallon Bucket
Look for a standard 5 gallon plastic bucket, or use any food-safe bucket ranging from 3 to 5 gallons in size. Make sure to drill 8-10 holes all around the sides of the bucket near the bottom for drainage and aeration.
If you want to compost through the winter, choose a bucket with a lid to retain heat. You can also wrap a blanket around your compost bucket to help insulate it in cold weather.
Ingredients for Composting
- Greens – Nitrogen-rich materials like fruit and veggie scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds.
- Browns – Carbon-rich materials like dead leaves, sawdust, or shredded paper.
- Soil – Adds beneficial microorganisms to kickstart decomposition.
- Water – Dampen dry materials as needed.
Avoid meat, oils, and dairy products, as these can attract pests and cause odors.
Layering Your Bucket
Start with a 3-4 inch base layer of twigs or sawdust to promote airflow. Then fill your bucket by alternating greens, browns, and soil in thin 2-4 inch layers:
- Layer of greens – food scraps, grass clippings
- Thin layer of browns – leaves, sawdust
- Sprinkle of soil
- Splash of water
Repeat the layering until your bucket is full. Give materials a rough chop before adding them to speed up decomposition.
Maintaining Your Compost
Keep your compost bucket in a warm, sunny spot. Give it a shake or stir every 2-3 days to aerate. Check that moisture is evenly distributed and add water if needed. Finished compost will take 2-3 months.
- Bad smell – Too wet, add browns
- Won’t decompose – Too dry, add water
- Pests – Less food waste, cover with soil
Mature compost will look dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling. When ready, use your finished compost to nourish plants and enrich garden soil.
Tips for efficient composting:
- Chop materials before adding
- Use a compost turner tool
- Combine with worm composting
- Have multiple buckets going
Anyone can compost at home with a 5 gallon bucket. Give bucket composting a try – your plants and the planet will thank you!