Since we’ve started composting, I’ve realized that food waste makes up most of what Taylor and I throw out every day. Food scraps that end up in landfills are a complete waste (bad pun intended) of composing potential as they rot slowly surrounded by plastic, generating methane. We may only take out the trash a few times a month now, but our compost bag gets full and stinky quickly, and we have to cart it across town to dump it in Taylor’s compost pile. To make better use of our food scraps, we’ve started vermicomposting in my apartment.
Rewind. Yes, there is a plastic bucket of worms in my living room right now, and they aren’t smelly or gross, but don’t tell my landlord. Certain types of worms (I’m using red wigglers) will live happily in a dark box with some organic matter to eat. Their poop, also know as castings, are nutrient rich and will make my veggie plants very happy.
I’m not a very good worm keeper, but no matter how many times I’ve screwed up, they’re still alive and munching on my carrot peels.
To set up a worm bucket, we read through zillions of tutorials online, and decided to go with a two box system. We have a large outer opaque plastic bin and a smaller file box that fits inside of it, and we drilled lots of holes in the bottom and top of the inner bin and sides of the outer bin for ventilation and drainage. I ordered worms online, and they live in the small bin in a mixture of newspaper, office paper, and shredded egg cartons.
After setting up the worms, I learned that bleached paper may irritate them, so I’ve switched to ripping up egg cartons because I have a large supply of them. We don’t feed the worms all of our kitchen scraps because we have so much, but as they consume the peels etc. I add more. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to give them everything.
Worms are vegetarians. Like a regular outdoor compost pile, they can’t be given meat or animal products, fat/oil, or dairy because these take a long time to decompose and may attract pests. I’ve also read that onions and citrus are harmful for worms. Pretty much any other vegetable or fruit bits are ok, within reason. I certainly do not give my worms avocado pits to break down. Chopping peels and cores helps to speed decomposition.
My worm box smells fresh and earthy, and I water it and toss the bedding around regularly to make sure that the wormies are doing well. Hopefully soon they will have the power to break down all of my veggie scraps!
If you are interested in starting your own worm bin, here are some of the resources we found most helpful:
- Vermicomposting 101
- The Greenest Dollar: How To Make Your Own Vermicompost Bin & Worm Farm
- Worm Composting Basics from Cornell