Easy Composting In Small Spaces
If you have ever wanted to compost but don’t have the time nor space to do so; this is the blog topic for you! There are a lot of different options to explore but I would like to share the system I am using with great success. Although, I urge you to try out what best works for your lifestyle and living conditions, and make it your own which is what I have done. The system I chose to create is using the vermicomposting method. I created my own system for my apartment living conditions and busy lifestyle while making it space friendly and affordable.
So what is vermicomposting? It is the breaking down of organic material using nature and its gardeners: different species of worms. The end result is worm castings which gardens and plants absolutely love. The little gardeners will literally create this “black gold” for you by giving them your leftover organic material such as old lettuce, banana peels, old newspapers, paper bags, eggshells, spoiled rice, etc. In doing so, you are feeding them and leaving less of a carbon footprint on the Earth and helping to reduce our landfills.
So lets get started!! You will need a container to house our little gardeners and compost. The container can be as big or as little as you would like but I encourage you to choose as big as your space will allow. Customize it to the space you are using: under the sink, in the closet, or even in the pantry. I chose a medium Styrofoam cooler with lid from my local store. You will also need to buy a tray to go under the container you choose; this will serve to catch any leachate or liquid that passes through the matter in the container. I chose to buy a second Styrofoam cooler and stack them in each other so that the second one will act as the leachate catcher.
Next, lets get the gardeners. You can purchase worms online and at your local stores that sell bait and fishing supplies. I would highly recommend getting red wiggler worms as they tend to do well in this type of system and is what I decided to use as well. DO NOT use earthworms as they will not do well in this system. If you can get your hands on at least 100 worms the better but if not that’s okay too. I started with 30 worms but ended up buying 30 more worms two weeks later in order to help speed up the composting time. You will need to also get a small bag of compost to start the system off, if not at least get some old newspapers for beginning bedding for our friends. I used a combination of soil and newspaper as the beginning bedding since I didn’t have access to compost at the time.
Now, you will need to punch holes or drill holes in the lid of your containers to allow air circulation as well as the bottom and top sides. This is another reason why I chose a Styrofoam cooler since it is easy to customize and make holes in, but choose what works best for you. I also went an extra step and bought screen door screening and cut and hot glued the pieces to over the holes. It helps keep pests out like flies and other bugs that may disturb our little friends and the eco-system, as well as keeping the population of fruit flies down.
For the next step, cover the bottom of the container with soil or compost if you have some, if not, shred the newspaper and place that on the bottom. You want the soil/compost damp and the newspaper wet as well but not soaking wet. You want it to be the consistency of a well rung-out sponge. Now on top of this you want to add your food scraps and place more newspaper/soil/compost. You want a wet and then dry balance. Next, add the worms to the container and cover them with soil/newspaper/compost. Put the lid on your container and you’re done! Always keep in mind that our friends like the dark and a moist environment. I like to mix my container every two weeks just to check in on them, get air circulation, and to mist it with distilled water to keep the environment moist.
Tips and Tricks I’ve Learned Along The Way:
- I like to keep my scraps in the freezer then take them out to thaw when I’m about to put it in the bin. Cuts down on the smell and helps it break down faster,
- I cut up and make my scraps into smaller pieces so the worms can eat them better and faster
- Keep a spray bottle handy or container filled with rain water/distilled water to mist the bin.
- If the container starts to smell your balance is wrong and may need to add more dry materials like leaves, newspaper, etc. It should always smell like a fresh forest floor or rich dirt.
- To keep fruit fly population down, cover food scraps with soil/compost after placing in bin
- Watch how much your worms consume and adjust accordingly on the amount you place in the bin
- NEVER put meat or dairy in the bin. Think of your worms as vegan. When in doubt, don’t place it in the bin. It will save you a lot of stress later.
- You may want to have a second system going in case your current one gets full or need more compost soon.
- Pay attention to your worms behavior. If they are trying to get out or staying out of the bedding. Your balance is off and they are very unhappy. you may need to add water or dry material. They may also just be hungry and you may need to add more food then normal.
Composting is so rewarding and my garden is blossoming because of the wormcastings I place in it now; not to mention my trash waste is less and I feel good knowing that I’m doing my part in helping the Earth. HAVE FUN COMPOSTING!!