A little over a month ago I decided I was going to start composting. I had been considering the idea for a while actually, but finally decided I was going to try it. After about a week of research, I figured the best bet for me would be worm composting. I looked at the tumblers (non-worm type) and figured if I had to remember to go and tumble this thing around, I may not do it and then I’d have a bin just full of food scraps that wasn’t composting at all. I even looked at the automatic composters you can keep under your sink, but they were rather expensive, so I passed on those as well and settled on worm composting.
To get started, I used tips from Red Worm Composting and from Garden Girl TV. Those links provide some videos with step-by-step instructions on getting started, and if you’re really into learning more about the worms, etc… the Red Worm Composting is a great site.
Here’s how I did it and what I used:
- 2 Bins (I think they were either 10 or 14 Gallon, but you can see the size in the pictures) @ $7.50/each
- Electric screwdriver or drill (if you don’t already have one, you could use a box cutter, knife, or something to puncture the plastic)
- Shredded cardboard to get started
- food scraps
- red worms (I got some from a co-worker)
First. Drill some holes in the bottom of ONE of the bins. I drilled about 9 holes, but at this point, would suggest more holes. These holes will allow water to drain out of the inner bin into the outer bin so that you don’t have a swamp in the bottom of your inner bin.
Second. In the same bin you just drilled your holes, drill some holes in the top sides of the bins, all the way around. This allows your worms to have some air to breath. I drilled about 7 on each long side and about 2 on the short sides. I’d recommend at least that many. The only other suggestion to make is drill the holes high enough on the side so that when you put the inner bin into the outer bin, the holes do not get covered by the outer/bottom bin.
Third. Drill some holes in one of your lids. Again, this allows the worms to breath. I drilled about 13 holes here.
Fourth. Fill the bin you drilled the holes in with your shredded cardboard. This makes the bedding.
Fifth. Grab the outer bin (the one you haven’t drilled any holes in) and put a small box or ice cream containers in the bottom of it. This forces the top bin to sit on the box and not fall all the way down. This is important because if the bottom bin gets too much water in it, if the top bin isn’t far enough from the bottom, the water will come back up in the top bin. Keep in mind, with the water going through, unless you have something more sturdy than my waffle box, you’ll have to change it frequently.
Sixth. Add some food and yard waste (if you have some) on top of the bedding. You’ll see some orange peels in mine. You’ll generally only want to use citrus peelings in moderation (like I have).
That’s basically it! Put the lid on and you’re ready to go.
But, Where Are The Worms?
Good question. The folks over at Red Worm Composting suggest to let the food sit for a week or so (or longer) before adding the worms. This allows the food to begin to break down and makes it easier for the worms to get started on the composting. So unless you’ve had your food already collecting for a week or so, just wait it out. I waited about a week and a half on mine. A co-worker provided some worms from his compost bin.
Here are some other tips I’ve learned on my own or read along the way:
- Chop the food up into small pieces. It makes it easier for the worms (I’m not great at doing this).
- If you already have some compost, or access to some, put some in the bottom. My co-worker did this for mine when we put the worms in. He says it’s good for them to have that in there. I haven’t read that anywhere, but he’s been doing this longer than me and I figured it definitely wouldn’t hurt.
- If you wondered why there is no dirt in there, it’s because red worms aren’t really deep soil dwelling worms. They don’t actually need it, but if you want to throw in a handful of soil (not a lot), it can help speed up the composting process.
- Keep a good balance of greens (food scraps/yard waste) and browns (cardboard, paper towels, paper, etc…). That’s really the science behind making it work.
- For every little bit of food layer I add, I add in some shredded paper to cover it up. This keeps the smell and flies away.
- Keep it wet. Water it down every few days. One tip is to take the inner bin out (let it drain first), pick up the outer bin and pour the water (and any worms that may have fallen through your holes) back into the bin.
- Don’t put any meats, fats or grease in it. It’ll make it smell and attract animals. You don’t want that.
I’m no expert by any means. I’ve probably even done a few things wrong here and there, but I’m learning along the way. It’s only been about a month since started and I’ve only had about 3 weeks with my worms, but I can tell it’s starting to break down. Hopefully in a few months, I’ll have some good compost to use in my tomato and cucumber plants.