If backyard composting hasn’t worked for you, but you still want to turn your kitchen waste into nourishing compost, worm composting may be the answer. Worm composting is done indoors in plastic bins; and a well-run worm bin can be placed almost anywhere in the house without risk of worms escaping or other problems, such as unpleasant odors. It’s a great solution in areas with long winters, or for people who have trouble keeping pets or wildlife out of their backyard bins.
The red worms that are used in worm composting will eat just about anything that comes out of your kitchen, including coffee grounds, baked goods, fruit peels, leftovers … While you should feed your worms regularly, they are also very forgiving and will bounce back if left alone while you are on vacation. As long as they are not left for too long without food, worms have no reason to leave the comfort of their bin. On the rare occasion one escapes, it is usually because not enough food has been provided for an extended period of time.
You can make your own bin out of a large plastic tub with a lid, or purchase one of the many varieties available on the Internet and in some garden stores. A tiered bin system, where you can move and empty bins as they become full, is perhaps the easiest to manage. Once a bin is full, you simply put your food wastes in the next bin and the worms will follow, leaving behind nutrient rich compost.
All bin systems should have a spigot for draining off compost tea. Mix the tea with an equal amount of water and it makes a wonderful fertilizer for your houseplants. A simple piece of garden weed barrier placed underneath the bottom bin will keep compost and worms from sneaking into the tea collection area and clogging up the spigot.
You can have a bin system of just about any size, depending on the amount of waste you produce. Worm populations will increase and decrease based on food availability, or you can buy more and increase your system size to meet your needs.
Once you have your bin, the worms will need bedding to get started. Commercial bins usually come with bedding, or you can use shredded newspaper. Once your bin is set up, you can order worms off the Internet or ask for suppliers from your local garden store. Your bin may even come with a voucher for worms. Worms will come right through the mail and can be immediately introduced to your bin.
You are then ready to turn your food waste into compost. It may take some trial and error to discover the best method for feeding your worms. To avoid an outbreak of fruit flies or other produce-related pests, you may want to collect your scraps in a container in your freezer, making sure to thaw them before introducing them to your bin. Wrapping your scraps in newspaper or burying them in the bin will also help discourage pesky insects, and the newspaper will provide additional bedding for the worms. Being careful not to overfeed the worms will also help to ensure against gnats and flies, and will keep you from getting unpleasant odors. Over time, you’ll get a sense for how much waste your worms can process, and whether you need to increase your population.
Worms will eat just about anything that comes out of your kitchen; just try not to overload them on one thing, especially something acidic like citrus fruits. Because worms are very forgiving, if you notice that things are amiss in your bin, chances are you can easily get it back on track!