On my wish list is a garden with vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs, and a compost bin to collect leaves and grass clippings for organic fertilizer. Right now I have a few potted plants on the patio of my apartment. Then I heard about vermiculture, and how it can be done on a small scale at home.
Vermiculture is the addition of worms to a compost bin. The worms help to break down the food, and the result is rich vermicompost, which is much better for plants than commercial fertilizer.
Compost + Worms = Vermicompost
It’s perfect for apartments, it helps to reduce trash, and it feeds your plants. Always excited to learn something new, I decided to try it. Below is a summary of what is needed for a small worm compost bin. If you want to see more detail in pictures, I posted the step-by-step pictures here.
Worms simply need darkness, air, reasonable temperatures, bedding, food, and water.
The bin itself can be a plastic storage box with a lid and small ventilation holes drilled in the sides and bottom. A second box underneath collects drainage. The bin should be dark to protect the worms from light. The one I’m using happens to be clear, but it will be stored inside a dark cabinet, so it should be fine. A larger compost bin insulates itself from temperature changes outside, but a small bin like this should be kept indoors to protect from hot Texas summers.
Inside the bin, a layer of bedding on the bottom and over the food will hold moisture, prevent fruit flies, and absorb any food smells. Shredded newspaper (but not the glossy paper), torn up cardboard boxes, and cardboard egg cartons are all good for bedding. Add moisture to the bedding by soaking it in water and squeezing out the excess.
Feeding the Worms:
The types of food you can put into your compost bin are fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and crushed egg shells. Breads and starchy foods are ok in a limited amount. Citrus and onions can be too harsh for worms. Dairy, meat, or anything oily should not be added, because it will cause the bin to stink, and that is not worth it. If you just stick to fruits and vegetables with enough bedding, the bin won’t have any smell at all. Feed the worms gradually until you get an idea of how much they eat. Worms eat about half their weight in food everyday, so a pound of worms could eat 3-4 pounds of food in a week. (The worms are feeding on the microorganisms on the food, not the food itself.)
Locating the Worms:
I hoped to find the worms locally, but if you could see the 20-story office buildings that surround my apartment, you’d understand why I decided to just look on eBay. I bought a pound of worms from a seller who had a good price and seemed the least crazy. When the worms arrived, I added them to the bin I had set up.
Progress so far:
Since then I have been giving the worms my banana peels, tea bags, and other food scraps each day, and they seem to be thriving. The bin really has no smell at all, so that’s good news. The food I first added to the bin has already disappeared, and compost is being formed.