Creepy-Crawlies: The Composting Adventure Pt. 1

When John and I first moved in together we brainstormed on ways to compost in a second floor apartment with virtually no backyard, and a shared back patio. Our initial idea was to create some kind of compost bin to be used inside, since the weather we have been having lately has been less than forgiving. We read a few blogs on keeping compost in your apartment; some that involved drilling holes in tupperware, some that involved the use of a smaller version of the large conventionally know "compost bin". Reading these left us somewhat confused, and a little apprehensive about making our apartment smell like garbage. Thus we tabled the issue and decided we would wait until the summer when the weather was more stable to get going on our worm adventure.

Two weeks ago John and I went to the Lane County Home and Garden Show in Eugene at the fairgrounds. We went to search for some planter boxes to house some seedlings, and ended up finding the solution to our composting dilemma. We came across a booth selling a stacking compost bin that looked like it would be the perfect size to have inside our apartment. The bin involves a series of trays, one that you put the organic waste (such as egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds, vegetable pieces from meal preparation, etc.) into, and a series of trays below that have had food composted prior and are now being finished and turned into rich composted soil. It can take up to six months for a tray to be complete and ready to use, and once ready that tray is then moved to the top and becomes the working tray for composting.

The bin we purchased is called The Worm Factory 360, which came with an instructional DVD and book, plus all of the needed materials to get started. We started with a pound of red wiggler worms. Worms can eat up to three times their weight in a week of organic material, meaning that one pound of worms will compost up to three pounds of food a week. As the worms become more adjusted to their new environment they will reproduce, meaning that they will be able to compost more food. The example bin that we saw had an estimated 10,000 worms. There are about 1,000 worms in a pound. Doing some simple math, that would mean that a working worm bin would be able to compost up to THIRTY POUNDS of organic waste a week. This was what sold us.

Not only will worms be eating our garbage, but in the process, they'll be making some of the richest soil possible to grow plants in, meaning bigger fruits and vegetables. It was a win-win and was actually a lot of fun to set up.

We started by lining our bin with newspaper.

We then mixed together our compost mixture which involved rehydrating a block of dried soil that came with our bin, and mixing it with news paper and pumice, also included in our kit.   

The mixture was then added to the bin, creating the new home for our composting pals.

We then added our worms and of course their food (i.e. our garbage). 

The finished tray was then covered in shredded newspaper, and a layer of moistened newspaper on top. The lid was placed and our worms are on their way to composting!!!

The lid stays in place at all times, unless food is being added. As the worms integrate themselves with the food in the bin, more is added until the tray is 3.5-4 inches full of compost. We aren't there yet, but when we are we will add another tray, with the added benefit this time of not having to purchase any more worms. The organic waste in these pictures is shown to demonstrate that it is in the worm bin. In reality and after these photos were taken the food is buried down to the lower level of the tray so the worms can more easily access it. 

We'll update periodically about the amount of waste we aren't throwing away, and of course, how our vermin are doing. 

For more info on how to get started, the links below are for Nature's Footprint, a company out of Portland, OR that produces the worm bin we purchased, as well as link to locate worms for your new compost bin, should you decide to start having bugs eat your garbage. That being said, we got our worms from craigslist, $10 for a pound, and that way even our worms were local. Not only were we supporting a local vendor of worms, but having worms come from a local source means they will be more likely to survive in their new bin, they wont be adjusting to a new climate as well as a new habitat.

Nature's Footprint:
Nature's Footprint: Worm Factory 360

Find Worms:

Craigslist worms:
Linda's Worms

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