Composting Indoors with Worms

Making compost using worms, called vermicomposting, is easy to do.  You can vermicompost even if you live in an apartment or some other type of home with no yard.  Composting is good for the environment.  By recycling food waste, you can reduce waste disposal needs and costs.  Use your compost instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

To get started you will need:

  • A bin.  Bins can vary in size and material type.  However, the larger the bin, the more worms it will house and the more food waste they will eat.  For indoor composting, a plastic box works well, such as a 73-quart (70L) converted storage box.  The bin will need to have small holes so that the worms will get lots of air.  Worms love darkness, so the bin top should keep the light out.
  • A place for your bin.  The bin should be kept in a warm area that is always between 55-77 degrees Fahrenheit (13-25 degrees Celsius).  A closet, utility room or garage would do fine.
  • Bedding.  Shredded paper will work well as bedding for the worms.  The paper holds moisture and also covers the food waste to minimize odors.  The worms will eat the bedding (which should be at least 6 inches deep after moistening) along with the food waste.  Newspaper, white office paper and dried leaves make excellent bedding material.  Paper towels and napkins can also be used, but ONLY if they DO NOT contain synthetic materials, antibacterial agents, or chemical cleaners. 
  • Water is needed to moisten the bedding.  Over time you may have to add moisture occasionally using a misting spray bottle.  You will know it is too dry if the paper crinkles.  If it gets too moist in the bin, you should add more dry bedding. 
  • Worms.  Eisenia fetida, also known as the redworm, is one species of worm commonly used for vermicomposting.  (The worms found in the garden are usually not the type of worms that go in an indoor worm bin.)  Redworms are usually sold by weight—about 600-1000 worms per pound.  Worm suppliers will ship worms to you that will be happy living in your bin.  You should not have to buy more worms once you get started.  In fact, a properly balanced bin will produce enough worms to share with others.  One pound of worms can consume one-half to one pound of food waste a day and is a good amount of worms to start with (in a 73qt container). 
  • Food.  Left over fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, and grains are the best food for the worms.  Meat and dairy products are not recommended because they may cause bad odors.  The food waste should be placed under the bedding material and not left on the surface.  Be careful not to overfeed.  You can give daily small feedings or less frequent larger feedings.  Feed your worms lightly at first until the worms get accustomed to their new surroundings.  If odors are a problem, there may be too much food and moisture in the bin.  Stop feeding for a while and add more bedding.
  • To Harvest.  Every 3-6 months take out the nutrient-rich worm castings that make up the compost.  Mix the compost with soil and add it to your plants.  Return the worms to the bin, add new bedding, more food, and let them compost, by gosh.

 Compost, by Gosh! by Michelle Eva Portman, 2003, Flower Press, Kalamazoo, MI.

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