Year of Composting


A year ago I decided that I wanted to try composting. I loved the idea of turning discards into desirable plant food. The problem was that I lived in an apartment, and not at the farm.

The good news is that a worm compost bin can be kept small enough to have inside an apartment!

But isn’t that gross?

I know when most people think of a compost bin, they think of a big pile of rotting leaves and garbage, with flies buzzing around. Fortunately, that is not what it’s like at all. In fact, as long as you don’t overdo the food, a worm compost bin has absolutely no smell and won’t attract bugs.

We compost our fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, and some paper and cardboard. The compost worms help to break down the food quickly and turn it into a rich soil for our plants.  

You can buy an expensive bin, but it is so easy to make your own using two rubbermaid storage containers. (To make your own like I did, here are instructions, plus step-by-step photos.)

You do need compost worms. You can’t go out and dig up earthworms; they need to be a specific kind. I bought red compost worms online and had them shipped, since I couldn’t find anyone in the city who had them.

What I’ve Learned

The compost bin does better if you leave it alone. At first I was overly-attentive and checked the bin frequently, wondering if I was adding enough or too much food for the worms. Now the only thing I do is collect food scraps in a tupperware container in the fridge.

Once every week or two I add the food scraps to the compost bin, and then I cover the food with pieces of wet cardboard or paper egg cartons. I check to make sure the soil is damp. Sometimes I pour out the liquid that has drained to the bottom, and use it to water my plants. It all takes about ten minutes per week.

The Results

If you look inside the compost bin, on the left is finished compost, and on the right is compost in progress.

I give the finished compost to my patio plants as a top-dressing over the dirt, and then cover it with mulch. The plants respond to it so well, and I feel better knowing that my home-grown herbs haven’t been treated with a chemical fertilizer.

It’s so easy, I’ll definitely keep doing it.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I think this is next on my to do list. thanks for the reminder!

    • Denise, this plus your new chicks and you’ll have a little farm in your backyard! Your chicks are so cute. I want some too.

  2. I have always been concerned about the smell, but this gives me some hope. Thanks for the great advice!

    Taylor at Household Management 101´s last blog post..Mar 15, How To Clean Things Around The House

  3. We compost and recycle at our house. I’m so impressed with how much those two tasks reduce our garbage. We can usually go two weeks without having enough trash to set out at the curb.

    Good for you to make use of composting in an apartment!!

  4. We have a compost bin, provided by the Waste Co. Then we put the compost in our green bin…However, you’ve inspired me to try keeping the compost here. Now I just have to convince the hubby…

    Kirwin´s last blog post..Consultation with the Pantry

  5. Thanks for this entry. This is the clearest description of how to worm farm I have found. I got one in February and still feel in the dark about what I am doing. Thanks for the picture of “after” the stuff goes in. Now I have some idea of what to look for. Thanks again.

  6. I am so glad you posted this update! I’ve been meaning to ask you how it is all going and thought that you might have given up. Now I am so excited to get started!

  7. Every time I read about your vermicomposting success, I mention it to Mr. Savvy. For some reason he never gets as excited as me. Maybe some pictures of the before and after will do the trick!

  8. Earlier this year, I had a plastic bin with shredded newspaper and cardboard ready to go and just needed to order the worms. I guess I chickened out as the bin is still sitting in the basement with no worms. I have still been collecting all of my veggie, fruit and coffee scraps in a bag in the fridge and then empty it into a leaf pile in our back yard every week. We will use that stuff for our garden this summer, but I really wish I would have purchased the worms and went with my original plan. Glad to see that it worked out for you. Maybe I will try it again next year.

  9. Once we move, that is the first thing I want to do (assuming we move into a house). I have tried it in the past and it didn’t come out well; I won’t bore you with the disgusting details. ;) Hopefully it will work out next time!

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Carla´s last blog post..Eco Fashion: Do it Yourself – Yarn

  10. This is such a neat idea! I am in a similar situation…I have a bunch of patio plants and no place to keep a huge compost bin. I had no idea you could do this!

    Kate´s last blog post..Baby Blanket Pattern

  11. Thanks so much for this . . . I’ve been playing around with the idea of doing this, and am glad to see there’s an inexpensive way of making your own bins. We’re eating a lot more produce these days, and I just hate having to throw all those scraps away!

    Life from the Roof´s last blog post..Frugal Experiment: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

  12. I’m so glad you did this post. I’ve been wondering about composting but have been lazy in learning. Thanks so much for this!

    emily@ChattingAtTheSky´s last blog post..dare you to paint your cabinets black

  13. I have a wonderful book that tells you all you need to know about setting up and maintaining a worm composting system. It’s called “Worms eat my garbage” by Mary Applehof. I had a compost bin about 15 years ago, and loved it. I’ve been trying to get one set up again, but need to wait for the weather to warm a bit before I order worms.

    Andrea´s last blog post..6 pack reusable produce bags with storage bag apples and pears

  14. great (set of) posts about your composting venture…do you have any idea what temp range the worms will endure? Just wondering about setting up a bin in our unheated garage (in upstate SC) – our winters aren’t terribly cold for long periods of time, but just wonder how the worms would handle it…thanks for the great info!

    jodi @ bpr´s last blog post..

    • According to “Worms eat my garbage” by Mary Applehof, the worms do their best work between 55-77 degrees F. Moist bedding temperature will be lower than the surrounding air temp. Bedding temp above 84F could be harmful to the worms.

      Hope that helps.

      Andrea´s last blog post..Set of 3 large produce bags

      • Thanks Andrea! For cold nights Jodi, you could wrap some insulation around it. Larger bins (such as barrel or bathtub size) can be kept outside in the shade and insulate themselves to changes in temperature.

        • thanks Andrea & Rachel for that info – we’ll have to add it to our spring to-do list! Got the garden tilled up last night, so that was super exciting!

          jodi @ bpr´s last blog post..

  15. Thanks for sharing. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do- but you’re right, the idea of worms is just yucky- yet well worth the environment save.

    • Believe it or not, I actually got used to them and I don’t think they’re so gross anymore!

  16. Kimberlee says:

    That looks great and very easy! I know you mentioned in your posts about making the bins that a couple of the worms “escaped”. That makes me a little nervous about having something like this inside the house (like a kitchen cabinet). Any other ideas on where it could be stored in small spaces?

    • Kimberlee, two or three worms did crawl out of the bin in the beginning, but that was all. For the rest of the year, they all stayed in there, so I wouldn’t worry too much.

  17. hi thanks for the post. i just wonder if there is an alternative way to compost other than the use of worms.. i’m afraid of worms.. just thinking of it makes my skin crawl.. thanks a lot..

  18. I was so impressed when I saw your compost under your sink. I really want to give it a try it again! I’m not sure where I can get the worms, though…

    Tsh´s last blog post..Where Simplicity & Frugality Intersect

  19. I am totally doing this! But I overly attentive too! I just don’t want them to die in there. = ) I am glad to know yours has turned out well. I can’t wait to get compost.

    Taryn´s last blog post..Do not make! (Christmas Red and Green Salad)

  20. Hey there! I’m a beginning composter, and your article is really inspiring. I’m a little obsessed with it right now, but I’m going to try and take your advice to just leave it alone. I can’t wait ’til my scraps look like your results pic!
    Akemi S.´s last post…Come Out- Emo Cat!