Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Starting a Compost Bin: Part 1 of 3

Instead of discarding your food scraps, you can recycle them with the help of worms to produce nutritious soil for your plants.  When you add worm compost to the soil, it boosts the nutrients available to the plants as well as enhances drainage.  This is also a great educational activity for your kids to help you with at home. 

The materials you need to start worm composting are simple and inexpensive:
  • rubber bin 10-15 gallon
  • air vents (see link)
  • bedding
  • worms
  • water
  • soil
  • food scraps
This is how to set up your own worm composting bin.

1.  Start with a 10-15 gallon opaque plastic tub.  I would choose a dark color since you want to copy a natural "underground" habitat for the worms. 

Next, you need to create ventilation.  I bought these two inch vents here.   To install them, trace the vent with a marker onto opposite sides of the bin near the top.  Then, with a box cutting knife, cut an opening for the vents to slide through.

You can also drill holes in the lid and top portions of the side to provide oxygen to the worms and also to prevent any odors. 

2.  Next, you need worms.  Be sure to only get "redworms" (Eisenia foetida) - not night crawlers or any other type of worms.  You can obtain these from a bait shop, nurseries or an online commercial worm grower.  A good ratio would be 1 pound of worms to a 2 foot by 2 foot bin. 

3.  Add about a handful or two of soil to add micro-organisms.

4.  The next step is adding the bedding.  This can be shredded newspaper or shredded cardboard.  It can also be shredded, brown decaying leaves.  Soak the bedding in water and then wring it out so its moist but not dripping wet.

shredded newspaper

adding water
wring out newspaper and fluff
add to bin on top of worms and soil

Note: Keep an eye on your bedding to make sure it stays moist.  You can spray it with a spray bottle full of water. Also, replace bedding as it disappears.  Be sure to always cover your food with a couple inches of moist bedding to discourage fruit flies and mold. 

5.  The last step is to add your food scraps. 

Worms love: breads and grains / dry cereal / coffee grounds & filter (not hot) / fruit peels & rinds / tea bags / vegetables / eggs and their shells

Worms hate: dairy products / fats / meat or bones / oils / fish / tobacco or pet manure

 kiwi peels and egg shells

apple core and pieces of tomato

I keep my bin in my laundry room since the worms like the temperature between 55 and 77 degrees.  The bin has little to no odor. With having a plastic bin, you do not want to store it outside because the worms will not tolerate the heat or cold and will die.  Also, if the bin is left out in the elements, rain could seep in through any ventilation holes drilled into the lid and drown the worms.

Keep in mind, a worm can consume about half of its weight daily.  For example, if your food waste averages half a pound daily, you will need one pound of worms or a 2:1 ratio.  The worms do multiply quickly, so adjust the amount of food scraps you need to feed them accordingly. 

add fresh bedding as needed

a completely set up worm bin

Upcoming posts:  Part 2 of 3   TroubleShooting
                             Part 3 of 3   Harvesting your worm Castings for compost

1 comment:

  1. Hello I found you on Big Family Friday. this was such a timely post for us! My husband has been talking about composting for our garden. I will definitely show him this. thanks for sharing! I am following you and hope you will visit my blog and follow me too!



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