Can I Build My Own Worm Composting Bin?

Worm Composting...

“I’ve recently been trying to make my gardening more eco-friendly and I heard about worm composting. I was thinking about building my own worm composting bin but I’m not sure how to start or what to consider. Can you give me some pointers on how to get started and what I need to be aware of? I’m mostly concerned about space and what materials to use since I live in a smaller apartment in Toronto, Canada.” thanks, Mark, Toronto, Canada.

Can I Build My Own Worm Composting Bin?

Great question, Mark! Building your own worm composting bin is a fantastic way to turn kitchen scraps and organic waste into nutrient-rich compost, even if you’re living in a smaller space like an apartment.

What is Worm Composting?

Worm composting or vermiculture involves using worms to help break down organic material into compost. It’s an excellent way to recycle kitchen scraps and yard waste while creating a natural fertilizer for your plants.

Benefits of Worm Composting

There are many benefits to worm composting, such as:

  • Eco-Friendly: Reduces waste in landfills.
  • Rich Compost: Produces highly nutritional compost for plants.
  • Odor Control: Properly maintained bins are odor-free.
  • Educational: Great learning opportunity about ecosystems and sustainability.

Choosing the Right Worms

For worm composting, Red Wigglers (Eisenia fetida) are the best choice. They thrive in decaying organic materials and are very efficient composters. Avoid using earthworms from your garden; they are not suitable for this purpose.

Materials You’ll Need

To get started, you’ll need some basic materials:

  • A Container: Plastic or wooden bins work great. Aim for something around 10-20 gallons.
  • Bedding Material: Shredded newspaper, cardboard, or coconut coir are ideal.
  • Worms: Red Wigglers. You can usually find these at a composting supply store or online.
  • Moisture: A spray bottle to keep the bedding damp.
  • Food Scraps: Vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc.

Building Your Bin

Here’s a step-by-step guide on building your worm composting bin:

Selecting the Container

Choose a bin made of durable material, like plastic or wood. It should have a tight-fitting lid to keep out pests and odors. For instance, a 10-20 gallon container is perfect for small spaces like your apartment in Toronto.

Preparing the Bin

Drill small holes in the sides near the top for ventilation and more holes in the bottom for drainage. Place a tray or another container underneath to catch any excess liquid.

Adding Bedding

Add your bedding material (shredded newspaper, cardboard, or coconut coir) to the bin. Moisten it until it resembles a damp sponge. This creates a hospitable environment for the worms.

Introducing the Worms

Place your Red Wigglers on top of the bedding. They will burrow down to escape light, so no need to bury them. Allow them a couple of days to acclimatize before adding food.

Feeding Your Worms

Start adding food scraps to the bin. Bury them in the bedding to reduce odors and fruit flies. Here’s a tip: Chop up the scraps; smaller pieces are easier for worms to break down.

Things worms love:

  • Vegetable scraps
  • Fruit scraps (avoid citrus in large amounts)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags (non-plastic)
  • Egg shells (crushed)

Things to avoid:

  • Meat and dairy products
  • Oily foods
  • Processed and spicy foods
  • Citrus in large quantities
  • Plastics, metals, and glass

Maintaining Your Worm Bin

Regular maintenance ensures your worm bin remains healthy and productive:

Monitoring Moisture

Keep the bedding as damp as a wrung-out sponge. If it gets too wet, add more dry bedding. If it’s too dry, spritz it with water.

Turning the Bedding

Turn the bedding occasionally to aerate it and help with the composting process. This prevents it from becoming compacted.

Harvesting the Compost

Every few months, you will notice dark, crumbly compost accumulating. To harvest, push the compost to one side of the bin and add fresh bedding and food to the other side. The worms will migrate to the new food source, allowing you to collect the finished compost. You can also use a light source as worms will burrow away from light, making it easier to separate them.

Placement of the Bin

Since you’re in a small apartment in Toronto, you’ll need to find a suitable spot for your worm bin:

  • Indoors: A kitchen corner, pantry, or utility room works well.
  • Outdoors: If you have a balcony, ensure it’s sheltered from extreme weather.

Keep the bin in a spot where the temperature remains between 55°F and 77°F (13°C – 25°C). Excessive heat or cold can be detrimental to the worms.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Even with the best care, you might encounter some issues. Here are common problems and their solutions:

Foul Odors

Bad smells usually indicate overfeeding or lack of aeration. Reduce the amount of food you add and turn the bedding more often.

Fruit Flies

Fruit flies are attracted to exposed food. Bury scraps well under the bedding and keep the lid secure.

Excess Moisture

If the bin is too wet, add more dry bedding like shredded newspaper. Ensure proper drainage and remove excess liquid promptly.

Pest Invasion

If your bin attracts pests, make sure it’s properly sealed. Only add appropriate food scraps to avoid attracting unwanted visitors.

What to Do with Finished Compost

Once you’ve harvested your worm compost, it’s time to put it to good use:

  • Houseplants: Mix it into the potting soil to nourish indoor plants.
  • Garden Beds: Spread it directly onto garden soil to enrich it.
  • DIY Potting Mix: Combine with other soil amendments for a custom potting blend.

Benefits Specific to Apartments

Living in a smaller apartment has its unique advantages for worm composting:

Space Efficiency: Worm bins are compact and can fit in tight spaces like under a sink or in a closet.

No Yard Needed: You don’t need an outdoor space, which is perfect for urban living.

Year-Round Composting: Indoor bins allow composting throughout all seasons without worrying about weather conditions.

Final Thoughts…

Mark, building your own worm composting bin is a rewarding and sustainable way to manage your kitchen scraps. You’ve now got a thorough understanding of what’s involved, from choosing materials to maintaining your bin and troubleshooting common problems. This earth-friendly project will enrich your gardening experience, no matter the size of your living space. Thanks for reaching out with your question; it’s always exciting to see folks like you take steps toward greener living. Happy composting!

Discover how to grow big fat composting worms and produce more organic worm compost faster than ever before with our original step by step guide to worm composting...

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