Did you know you can compost indoors? We're not talking about a big pile of smelly rotting food but instead odor-free, indoor composting year-round. Living in Minnesota, our compost pile freezes solid in the winter and really only breaks down from April through November. The solution? Vermicomposting or worm composting! While the idea of keeping a bunch of worms inside your house may sound strange at first, it is an incredible way to break down food scraps into a rich compost. Red Wriggler worms (commonly used for fishing bait) are well adapted to indoor composting and can break down nearly their own weight in food scraps each day. They like all vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, paper towels, newspaper and eggshells. The finished compost is usually known as worm castings (it's really worm poop!) is quite expensive in garden stores. As a compost it's one of the best out there, and makes and excellent foliar spray for plants.
We decided to try vermicomposting early last fall. While you can buy commercial setups we opted to build our own. All you need is one of those large rubber tubs you can find at any hardware store and about fifteen minutes. Easy directions can be found on sever sites online, but we used this site: Cheap and Easy Worm Bin.
It's generally recommended to buy one pound of worms to get started but that usually costs around $40-$50 so instead we bought 100 red wiggler worms for $5.00 off e-bay. Worms will double in population every month if there is adequate food. Once they find an equilibrium with the amount of food you give the population will stabilize. So we figured our 100 worms, provided plenty of food, would reach a population of 6400 in 6 months (there are about 5000 to a pound). It's been around 6 months and there sure are a lot of worms in there!
So far we have had a great experience with vermicomposting. While most of our food scraps go to the chickens, any excess can be added to the worm bin. That means our coffee grounds, egg shells, onion scraps, paper towels, and food that got moldy. The set-up is completely odorless and hassle free. Additionally, we will never have to buy worms to go fishing again!
Here are some photos of our setup:
This the whole thing. Just a Rubbermaid container we keep in the basement. Small, neat, and easy.
Looking inside cardboard is kept on top to hold moisture in and keep the bedding a little compressed.
Removing the cover, you can see wet newspaper. It serves as the bedding for the worms and keeps fruit flies away from the food below. Since we started vermicomposting we have not had any problems with fruit flies.
Lastly, pulling away top layer of newspaper reveals a mixture of food scraps, worms (upper center of photo) and already composted material.
We plan to primarily use the worm-casting compost to make worm-casting teas. The tea will be used as a foliar spray to organically fertilize crops during the summer. Even in the winter a lot is quietly happening behind the scenes to prepare for the growing season!