Many people think of composting as something that you can only do with a big outdoor bin in your yard or garden, but truthfully you don’t need all of that space. For those just getting into composting, apartment dwellers, those who live in harsh environments, and those without a yard, indoor vermicomposting is the answer for you!
In one to four months, you can covert your kitchen scraps into highly nutritious fertilizer to be used, sold, donated, whatever! Plus, you are diverting all of that waste from landfills.
The first step to starting your new compost bin is to, well, pick your bin. You can purchase indoor composting bins commercially, use a wooden garden box, or use an opaque plastic storage bin. Personally, I prefer the plastic storage bin approach for its affordability and simplicity. Be sure that the container is opaque. Worms are not fans of the light.
No matter how many people will be using the bin, you’ll want to aim for a deep bin rather than shallow. More depth means more layering, which is key when composting. Start with a standard 25 gallon (4 cubic feet) storage bin. This will be just fine for 1 to 2 people. You’ll need about 1 to 2 additional cubic feet of space for each individual in your home.
Using a drill, screwdriver, or really anything that can make holes in the bin without causing larger cracks, start 4 inches from the bottom of the bin and make a hole every 2 to 4 inches along the sides and lid. The diameter of the holes should be small and no larger than about half the width of a pencil. Make a few holes in the bottom of the bin for drainage of the compost “tea” that can puddle in the bottom. This is what the boot tray is for. That will work to catch any drainage that does occur. Red worms thrive in a moist environment, the happy place between wet and dry. If you have a lot of drainage then you need to add more dry material to compensate.
Worms like to have nice bedding, too. In fact,the bedding is essential to the health of your worms and the effectiveness of the bin. The bedding needs to be a high carbon material such as shredded leaves, shredded newspaper, nutshells, moist peat moss, or something similar. Moisten the bedding and mix in a few scoops of soil, placing it in the bin until it is about 3/4 of the way full.
One of the species most commonly used is the Red Wiggler (Eisenia fetida or Eisenia andrei). This is what I use personally and recommend for anyone living within the Great Lakes region. There are no native species of earthworm in the Great Lakes region. Any that are here are non-native, invasive, ecosystem damage causing pest. Red Wigglers are a safe choice because they can not tolerate below freezing temperatures and will not survive a winter. I recommend freezing compost you plan to use for about a week to ensure it kills any worms or eggs that may hitch a ride outdoors as an extra precautionary measure. I purchase mine from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm on Amazon. You should only need a pound of worms (250) for this sized bin.
Fruits, vegetables, peels, egg shells (crushed), tea and tea bags, coffee and filters, and leaves.
Meat, dairy, oils, plastic, animal waste, citrus, and bones.
Each time you add scraps, add a little bit more bedding or dirt. Speed along the process but cutting the food into smaller pieces before adding it to the bin.
Compost bins are all about balance. If there is an odor, there’s an imbalance. If it is too dry or too wet, there’s an imbalance. If it gets too dry, add more moist paper or scraps. If it’s too wet, add dry bedding.
When the compost looks brown, crumbly, and uniformly so, it’s ready to be harvested. This will take 1 to 4 months depending on how much it is used. Divide your bin in two by shifting the finished compost to one side and adding fresh new bedding to the other side. Wait a few days, continuing to add scraps as normal to the new bedding side. The worms will leave the finished compost side in search for food. Remove the lid for a few hours so that they will burrow deep and scoop out your ready-to-use compost. Use it to garden or give it to someone else who could use it. Then, the cycle starts over!
Have any composting tips you’d like to share? Comment below with your own tips and tricks.