A thousand worms feasting on garbage in your home…sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? Nothing like a bunch of slithering creatures chewing on your old food scraps just a few feet away from where you eat your meal. Well, Urban Treehousers, this just so happens to be the basic formula of an eco-friendly compost bin!
While worms get a bad reputation for being slimy and disgusting, they can be quite the little helpers. In fact, by using them in a compost bin, they can break down food waste and create rich soil that even the best fertilizers can’t replicate!
Behold! The magical process of Vermicomposting: nature’s way of creating food for itself. But this power is neither secret nor difficult to obtain. Anybody can make their own compost bin, whether living in an apartment, condo, or house, using a few household supplies.
In the accompanying video, host Alexis Cornejo shows her friend Nina Whitsett how to make this miracle of nature in 15 simple steps, which are detailed below.
First, the supplies you will need:
- Shallow Rubbermaid bin with cover
- Old paper/wrapping (not plastic!)
- ½ lb. food scraps (fruit peels, bread, coffee grounds, etc.)
- Large bowl
- 1 lb. of worms (~1,000 red wigglers)
When creating a Vermicompost bin, you want to think of it as a home for your worms. Like humans, worms prefer a certain amount of air, bedding, moisture, and food. An easy way to remember this process is to break down the steps into these categories, starting with:
- Grab Rubbermaid bin
- Drill small holes along all four sides of bin roughly 1-2 inches from the top
Not only does this let the worms breathe, but it keeps your bin from smelling. Boom! Part one done!
Next, we have:
- Gather newspaper/thin cardboard/wrapping
- Tear paper into thin pieces
- Separate paper into two piles: base layer and top layer
You want to have a good amount so that the worms are comfortable. They love rest and relaxation as much as we do! Now, on to part three!
- Fill large bowl with water
- Dunk handfuls of base layer paper into bowl (leave top layer alone)
- Soak the paper, then squeeze it like a sponge
- Separate the strips and spread them along the bottom of the bin
- Do this until you have filled about a quarter of the bin
The soaking and squeezing of the paper is important because you want the right amount of moisture. Worms actually breathe through their skin, so if it’s too wet they will drown; too dry and they will dehydrate. When you make the bedding, don’t think Amazon rainforest and definitely not Sahara Desert—go with a Mediterranean climate. Worms love Greece and Italy. Speaking of delicious food, on to part four!
- Add the 1 lb. of worms (~1,000 red wigglers)
- Collect food scraps and crumble/tear them into tiny pieces
- Place ½ lb. of food bits into ONE area of the bin. Change areas every time you feed!
- Put dry top layer bedding over the worms and food waste
- Cover the bin with lid, and your compost bin is done!
The dry bedding is meant to keep moisture in, as well as keeping flies and other insects from getting to the food. The cover is also protection, while keeping the worms in a cool, dark environment.
Tips To Remember
- Be patient! It will take 3-6 months before your bin is ready to be harvested, and then the magic will be unleashed!
- Store compost bin in a dark cool area that ranges between 55-80 degrees.
- Worms are sensitive to loud noises and vibrations, so keep that in mind.
- For feeding, it’s best to follow a 2:1 ratio. So for every pound of worms in your compost bin, you’ll want to feed them a half pound of food.
- Don’t feed worms dairy, meat, metals, or plastics! This goes for the bedding as well—no aluminum or plastic wrap.
- If the compost bin smells bad, this usually means there’s a lack of oxygen or an abundance of moisture. To fix this, remove large pieces of food the worms haven’t gotten to, and fluff the bedding to let the air circulate.
- If worms try to escape, try shining a light into the bin to get the worms to burrow until they get comfortable. Tough love!
Cost of Project
- Bin: $5
- Worms: $15
- Drill: $40
- Bedding: Free
So those are the steps to create your very own compost bin. Again, the point of all this work is to harness nature’s power to create the ultimate soil, which can be used to grow your own plants and vegetables. On a higher level, though, we need to take responsibility for the impact we have on our environment, especially when it comes to waste.
Every time you throw away food, it is taken to a landfill where it starts to produce methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the second largest producer of methane gas, which contributes greatly to global warming. Not to mention it’s also a potential source of groundwater pollution.
Composting is a win-win situation. You can save money, resources, and the earth. Plus, composting is fun, and such a rewarding experience to be a part of! So whatever you take from the earth, please take the time to give it back!
For more information regarding Vermicomposting, check out these links:
Don’t know where to buy worms? Check out these sites:
Thank you for joining us today! Please come back in the next 3-6 months to see us harvest this compost bin!
Video by: Alexis Cornejo
Article by: David Rathbun
August 16, 2014 at 3:21 pm
Well Done, Alexis! We look forward to more Urban Treehouse videos.Carola Bundy, School Garden Teacher