Indoor Composting

Worms live in my kitchen:

If you don’t have an outdoor space, or would like to compost all winter long, an indoor compost bin is the way to go.  A time-tested approach to indoor compost is a vermiculture system (AKA worm bin).

First, a little bit about worms:

Who we are:
Eisenia fetida commonly known as Red Wigglers.  We are different from common earthworms, mainly because we are surface dwellers… which is perfect for compost!  Our main job is to eat, poop, and make worm babies.  Our poop is pretty special though (if we do say so ourselves).  It is the “black gold” that fertilizes organic farms, livens up your house plants, and makes perfect potting soil.  We complete the circle of sustainability by eating your garbage and turning it into something that helps your food grow.  You’re welcome.
What we eat:
  • vegetable trimmings (i.e. carrot ends, celery tops, knobby lettuce ends, etc)
  • apple cores
  • grapes
  • crushed egg shells (rinsed out)
  • tea leaves and tea bags
  • coffee grounds and filters*
  • potato peels
  • vegetables that have been in the fridge too long and gone bad
What we DON’T eat:
  • citrus fruits (i.e. lemons, grapefruit, orange)
  • spicy and/or waxy vegetables like green pepper, jalapenos, etc.
  • meat, bones, fish
  • dairy products
  • pet waste
  • excessive amounts of coffee grounds are not healthy.  Use in moderation!
  • Some of these items are ideal for an outdoor compost bin, but we are slightly more delicate!

Recipe for a perfect indoor compost bin:

Ingredients:

  • One plastic tub with lid (rinsed with soap and water) Note:  size is approx. 4 sq. ft in size, NO MORE than 10-16 inches deep
  • Drill with ¼” bit 
  •  ½ to 1 lb. red wigglers (Eisenia fetida, available at wormwoman.com)
  • Handful of soil 
  • Newspaper (No glossy ad pages)
  • Spray bottle of water 
  •  Food waste* (See above “what we eat”)

Instructions:

  •  Drill holes in the lid of your bin.  The more the merrier
  • Shred newspaper into 1/4 to 1/2“ strips and lay on the bottom of the bin to form a bedding layer.
  • Spray the paper with water until damp.  The paper should only be as wet as a wrung out sponge and there should not be any liquid on the bottom of the bin.
  •  Add worms and handful of soil
  • Add a small amount of food waste*
  • Cover worms and food with another  layer of newspaper
  • Store in a cool, dark place and make sure that the bin will not be exposed to freezing temperatures
  •  Feed worms no more than 1 lb. food waste, per day, per 1 lb. worms, making sure that there is always a layer of damp newspaper covering food and worms (keeps flies away).

Troubleshooting problems in your bin:

1.      Worms crawling up the sides: Bin is toxic (too acidic, anaerobic, etc) or too wet
Solution: remove extra liquid, add bedding, remove anything not included in food waste guidelines
2.      Bad smell/bin attracts flies: Bin too wet, overfeeding, food scraps exposed
Solution: cover with 4-6 inches of paper strips and stop feeding for 2-3 weeks
3.      Worms are dying: Bin too dry, food and bedding eaten, extreme temperatures.
Solution: keep materials in bin as moist as a wrung out sponge.  When all food and bedding is eaten, harvest compost.  Keep in a cool dark place between 55 and 77 deg.
4.      Rodents: Overfeeding, holes in bin too large.
Solution: Use traps and bait to remove rodents. Cover bin with 4-6 inches of paper and cease feeding for several weeks.  Makes sure holes are no larger than ¼ inch
5.      Sow bugs/beetles in bin: No problem!  They are good for the bin!
 ***
For those of you who learn better through pictures and diagrams, Sustainable America has a great infographic on indoor composting here.
Still having problems?  If you’ve got a problem, yo, I’ll solve it.

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