Vermicomposting for Your Apartment

Reader Contribution by Jeff
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One of the things that I’d been waiting to start until I moved into my own house was composting.  I’ve always heard that composting was smelly and more effort than it was worth if you didn’t have lots of space. Thankfully, this does not have to be the case. You can compost if you live in an apartment, and it won’t smell bad.

The most common way to compost in an apartment is called vermicomposting, which is basically just composting with worms. The worms eat the scraps quickly, reducing the amount of food breaking down in your apartment. You can use any size of container you like based on what will fit best in your space, but keep in mind that some metal containers could release heavy metals into your compost, possibly killing your worms—and most likely defeating the whole purpose of your composting in the first place.

Photo By Organic Nation/Courtesy Flickr

The best containers that I’ve seen for doing in-home vermicomposting are the 18-gallon totes with lids that you can get at just about any home or hardware store. You’ll need two of them: the top one for the scraps and the worms, and the bottom one for the “compost tea” that is produced, which works great for watering plants as it’s full of nutrients. Drill somewhere between 12 to 16 holes in the bottom of one of the bins with a 1/8-inch drill bit. This will be your top bin with your paper scraps, food and worms. Then nail two two-by-fours together for support for the top tote and place them in the bottom tote. Put the tote with the holes into the tote you put the two-by-fours in, and you’re ready to go.

Once you’ve got your worms, make them a nice bed with some newspaper or paper scraps from junk mail. Add your food scraps as you generate them, and add a bit more paper when you add the food. You can get them a bit damp if you like, but typically the food scraps have enough moisture to keep the paper scraps wet and the microorganisims that are doing most of the composting happy. 

The best stuff for your worms is fruit and veggie scraps. Make sure not to put any meats, fats or bones in the bin—they won’t break down properly and will start to smell. When you’re all ready, take the compost and spread it around in your garden or wherever you’re trying to grow this year. 

Jeff started the website in 2009 to talk about sustainability and chronicle his journey to a more sustainable life. He currently resides in Wyoming with his wife and dog. 

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