On our 10 acres, we didn’t have to really concern ourselves with proper methods of composting since we were basically in the boondocks. We had a huge vermicompost system located under an oak tree out by the garden, a goat and a low spot towards the back of the property which we threw all organic matter.

When we moved to the city back in 1985, the soil here was so horrendous that we composted our kitchen and garden waste digging holes in the ground to try to improve the soil. Once the hole was filled up with organic matter and green waste, we’d dig another and so forth.

Now that the soil is greatly improved and there are no more holes to dig, we use a variety of composting containers

solar cone digester (shown in picture)
scrap eater sun composter
garden gourmet
sun mar 200

and methods (citified farm animals and EM) here on the urban homestead.

In the comment box Chicago Mike asks:

Food waste, etc, has become an issue here as well. I really want to compost intensely, but the wife is concerned by our proximity to neighbors. I know that someone experience could pull it off, but I am not sure yet.

I am concerned about varmints as well

Varmints and neighbors are a real concern for us city folks.

One composter that seems to take care of both is the solar cone. It’s varmint and fly proof. All the composting happens enclosed and underground – meaning no smells! Here on the urban homestead we just move the solar cone from one raised bed to another and even a whiskey barrel.

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  1. Chicago Mike says:

    Sincerest Thanks Anais.

    It is appreciated that after having taught these exact things over many times that you still have the patience and persisitence to help a newbie out.

    That solar cone looks pretty tempting, primarily, as you state, it addresses odor and animal access.

    I see in the photos of the solar cone that it come with other items, is that a vial for bacteria or something?

  2. Anais says:

    Hello Chicago Mike

    Of course, you are welcome.

    Good question, one that I forgot to add.

    The Solar Cone System also includes the Kitchen Caddy (one gallon container for collecting and carrying household food waste to the Green Cone) with Shaker and a packet of Accelerator Powder.

  3. AnnaMarie says:

    Cool composter! I’m curious what kinds of tools you use in such an interesting garden. i.e. seed planters, cultivaters, what types of hoes, etc. Inquiring minds and all that.

  4. Christine says:

    When I lived in town, I used an old tin garbage can that had the bottom pretty much wore out of it. Dug a hole for it to be almost barried, except for six or so inches. Then fill it let it go, keep it closed with the cover, and if there is varmints to possibly get in, tie or bungie it closed. Its pretty cheep, and one can get started right away. You could use a new garbage can if you put the holes in it.

  5. Rachel Drinkard says:

    But are these black bear proof?! Here in Girdwood, Alaska, not only do we have to worry about neighbors in close proximity, but a huge and invasive black bear population.

    Do you think these solutions would prevent them being attracted to the composting area, or prevent them from actually getting into it if they were attracted??

  6. Amy - Green Plan(t) says:

    This is pretty much exactly the kind of composter we’ve been looking for! I like the price too; some commercial compost bins out there are ridiculously priced for the quality you’re getting.

    We are definitely putting this on our “Buy it ASAP” list! 🙂

  7. Kevin says:

    Excellent post. Most folks don’t know about the digesters. Not only are they great for the soil, but they also reduce the waste stream considerably. In my neck of the woods, our waste goes to a closed landfill so it will never break down. In this case, it is crucial that we put as little more in it as possible.

    I decided to build my own digester last year:

    Homemade Digester

    It has worked well until we got a little to much rain and I was a bit of a dufus with loading it. But, I am in the process of getting back into balance.

  8. Malcolm says:

    Do you shred or chop up your green waste before adding it to the composter?

    Watching my own compost piles, the several foot weeds we cut down last year still haven’t broken down in places.

  9. Chicago Mike says:

    The issue that Kevin is having makes me wonder about the green cone or other systems in our situation. In most places our topsoil is only 10 inches thick and under that is clay and rock. I am not sure a digester would work for us, but a straight composter might.

    Anais, again, many thanks.

  10. Christine says:

    I looked at your homemade digester, and that is exactly what I was talking about, except using the tin. Basically the same.Rachel… As for Bears getting in there, I think they could get in if they wanted to. One thing you wouldn’t be out much money if they ruin it. The bears can smell so good, I just wouldn’t know what to tell you. Do you have animals, that you could always top off with manure? Christine

  11. Nuno says:

    If you’re a meat eater don’t ever put dairy, meat or fish products in the composter.

    This is the reason animals come over and strong smells occur.

    It is always better to chop up the things you throw in the compost bin because then the process will be much quicker.

    Buy red worms if you can: they speed up the process and are one of the farmer’s best friends.

  12. Kevin says:

    Do remember that there is a difference between a “digester” and a “composter.” The digester does not make a product at the end. Its sole mission is to decompose what you put in there. So, meats, oils, etc. are just fine in the digester. In fact, that is why we got it. We were trying to cut down on the waste stream. But, you can’t put in the traditional “brown” component of compost in a digester. It will stop up the works. That “brown” component is for making compost not digesting matter.

  13. Ginny says:

    Then there is what my grandmother always did. You know, I never thought about it until recently, but she always had a compost bucket on her kitchen counter, but she never had a compost pile. She did “trench composting” or, probably more realistically, it would be “digesting”. She had Granddad dig a trench for her in an open area of the garden (that was left open for that particular purpose) laying the dirt that was taken out of it along the side of it. Then she would just dump the bucket in it and pull dirt over it with a hoe. There was a special hoe (old and rusty) that stayed out in the garden just for that purpose. She would work her way down the trench. She even had a trench in the winter, but she lived in Alabama. I don’t know that a trench would work for me in the winter, here in Ohio, but I am going to give it a try. You have to make sure and cover the waste very well, so that animals won’t be attracted to it. Also, the trench is in a different spot each garden season. You can even have several different trenches in a season. I have just started mine. 😀

    In Christ,


  14. Anais says:

    Hello Ginny

    Thanks for sharing your composting story! That’s exactly how my grandfather and father composted – very simple and practical. Trench composting is how we improved the soil here on the urban homestead nearly 20 years ago. Like your grandma, Farmer D dug holes (about 4 feet down and 2 feet across) and he had us throw all sorts of green yard and kitchen waste. Farmer D covered the holes with old trash can tops weighed down with a brick to keep the critters out.

    Again thanks for sharing! Nice to hear from others who have similar composting stories. Grandma knew best didn’t she!

  15. lavonne says:

    I recently bought a bokashi bucket and have it 3/4 full now, so of course I’m wondering what to do with the fermented food scraps in my container garden once it’s full. I didn’t think that far ahead. 😉 I can’t put it in the containers, obviously, and I’m pretty sure my apartment manager wouldn’t like it if I tried to bury it in the yard.

    So I was wondering: do you think I could bury it in a big plastic bin of used potting soil, and let it sit for a few weeks? Would that work the same way it does when you bury it in the yard? Would the soil eventually be usable? I’d hate to wind up dumping it in the trash after all.

  16. Hannah says:

    Worm farming is a great non smelly option as well. There are some kitchen scraps you can’t put in there, but the worms really do the work for you. I use the liquid (worm wee or tea) diluted on my plants, good on leaves as well as in the soil and the castings when they build up enough. I actually kept the worm farm in my laundry which was internal, and some even keep them in the kitchen. Properly managed there is no smell.

  17. Suzanne says:

    Kevin: Thanks for the link to your instructions for building a digester. Hopefully the step-by-step directions, complete with pictures, will help him to get on board with my wants. 🙂

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