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Worm composter

5141 Views 32 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  raindrop
muhahahaha I'm going to restart my worm composter. It's an odd thing that makes people gasp. Perhaps that's why I like it

It's a no-smell, indoor composter. Apartment-size.

A local vegetarian/activist store sells the worms (they have their own composters and sell the worms from their composters). Most of the worms were "rescued" from fishing stores, which started the process.

So you get the worms and add them to a plastic container. Larger container = larger composter. I like a 1.5' x 1' x 9" plastic container w/ a thin layer of rock, clay pot pieces, etc (for drainage). You can add just about anything as "starter" soil - peat moss, outdoor soil, potting soil, old indoor plant soil, leaves, grass, shredded newspaper. You need to add a little soil to whatever you have, as the worms need grit (however, where I buy the worms, they come in 5lbs of soil already).

Then, you add a little food to the composter every few days. No meat, no dairy, no fat, no eggs (clean egg shells are fine). I find it a great place to put vegetable scrapes, fruit cores, etc. If you follow this, there is no smell AT ALL, no flies, nothing. It looks like a big container of dirt (I keep it partially covered, so my cats won't pee in it). And, if you're lucky, the seeds of fruit often sprout. I grew potatoes in mine one winter
The worms won't eat anything growing.

After a couple months, the soil becomes a rich top soil. THen, I switch the soil from the composter to my plants, add that old soil to the composter and start over.

I had to get rid of the composter because my roommates kept picking at the worms and pestered them. So, I dug a hole in the front yard and let them go.

Those roommates have since left, and I've decided I miss my worm friends who poop for me in return for fruit

Sorry for rambling, but I'm quite excited
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I am VERY interested in this. We already have one of those compact compost tumblers ( ),

but I have always been interested in having a worm composter in the house. The problem is that we have LOT of compost. We usually add about one plastic shopping bag full each day or two. We throw all of our paper towels that don't have chemicals in there too, so that is a lot of it. Very interesting. Keep us up to date on it!
You can use the paper towels as filler as well.

When I lived with my husband, I put 1lb of worms into my outdoor, uber-sized composter. 2 months it was completely done. It should have taken the entire summer and fall.

Also, there was about 30lbs of worms by the time I emptied the composter LOL They seem to reproduce according to the food supply.
I've been tempted to get worms for my big outside composter... but they don't like onions apparently and we use a LOT of onions... also, the instructions on the box look mighty involved...
Originally Posted by kristadb View Post

I had to get rid of the composter because my roommates kept picking at the worms and pestered them.
Were your roommates birds?

Actually, I've been wanting to do worm composting. I think I'll get it set up this fall so I have lots of nice soil for gardening in the spring.
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this is really interesting, i'm going to have to look into this some more. i make very little trash and all the trash i do make is from veggies/fruits. it's kind of annoying too because when i throw out my garbage every two weeks, it's not even full but all the food is absolutely rotting so i have to.

i have to admit that i'm a little uneasy with the idea of using worms though. you know, confining them to the compost bin, "exploiting" what they do, etc. but i'm certainly going to research this a bit because i'm awfully frustrated with not being able to compost normally since i live in a condo.

thanks for the post, krista.
Worms don't like onions? Mine sure do LOL And honestly, what I wrote up is all that I do. I don't do anything else. I feed them whenever I have stuff (although, for the first couple weeks, don't overfeed; just get them used to the feeding rate and style and then they'll start reproducing).

As for using them...well, I think of it as a mutual use and exploitation. They get to eat fruit (which worms love more then any food, as you will find out) and I get worm poop. I think it works well for both of us
And seriously, it isn't like there is a huge worm exploitation trade happening; the worms aren't killed when their usefulness is gone, etc. They're more useful then cats, that's for sure (having two cats, I can speak from experience). As long as you provide them with an environment suitable to them, they will live in your composter as they would in the soil.

My former and current roommates are not birds, but have less IQ then said birds
. They kept digging around in the soil to see what the worms were up to. Sheesh, them the poor worms alone. You don't like it when people watch you take a crap; why should the worms be any different?
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Hey I have set up a worm bin just a few days ago!!

Excellent - Krista saved me a lot of typing because I wanted to post about it

I simply use a 32 gal garbage can, and shredded newspaper as bedding. I started out with 2 x 1000 redworms from Seeds Of Change.

So far it's doing great! The worms seem happy and are feeding on the fruit and veggies I give to them. One day the bin got very hot so some of them tried to escape (they crawled up the side of the bin). So now, if it gets too hot, I just take the lid off the can and this keeps the temperature down.

sc - you should definitely look into it because its great for apartments. I don't see it as exploitation. Besides, on the larger scale of things, we all live in a worm box

krista - can you post more about growing potatoes in your bin? How does that work? Also, do you cover / mulch between the plants to keep the worms dark and to prevent drying out? Thanks
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Originally Posted by Oatmeal View Post

sc - you should definitely look into it because its great for apartments. I don't see it as exploitation. Besides, on the larger scale of things, we all live in a worm box
that's true, but at what point does this worm box get "too small"? i mean, would you object to keeping a cow confined in a 5000 mile area? how about a 10 mile area, 10 ft area, 1 ft area, and so on.. it just seems like a slippery slope argument to me. i guess it also seems different because, by doing this, the worms now depend on you for sustenance, as opposed to living freely.

but on the other hand, do they even know the difference? are worms even sensient beings? hmm..

maybe i should be posting this in the compost heap.. hehe.

Technically, I think worms are born and die all the time, and the worm population regulates itself according to the amount of available food, size of bin, etc. If you feed the same amount on a regular basis, you will have the right amount of worms for the size of your bin.

Otherwise, these worms don't move much, they go wherever they find food and stay there until it's gone. They live near the surface, and don't dig deep. (As opposed to e.g. nightcrawlers that do move and dig a lot. That's why you can't use them in worm bins).
Sorry for the delay in addressing the questions here.

The worms don't live a long time, but they reproduce often. So, by the end of the summer, you will not have the same worms you started with. You have generations later. I don't know the exact lifespan of a red worm, so don't even go there

These worms do not move around a lot. If the soil becomes too hot or too wet, they will move to the surface. That is why I recommend a small layer of rocks on the bottom of the container; to whisk away the excess water from the soil.

The worms do not require a large area to live. If you drop an apple into the composer, all your worms will actually live in the apple until it is gone. They will reproduce and die inside the apple. When I need to change the soil in my box (ie starting over with new pre-mulch), I drop a 1/2 cantaloupe into the box, wait a week and then pull the cantaloupe out. Almost all the worms are inside the fruit; making moving a breeze and less disruptive to the worms.

From an exploitive point of view: we are not stealing from the worms. They are pooping out compost and we pick up after them. I see this in the same terms as people who collect duck down from abandoned nests for homemade clothes.

Re the potatoes: I just put a couple potato cutting in the soil. The moisture from the decomposing food, especialyl fruit, is enough to keep the potatoes moist. In Edmonton, it does get ultra dry in the winter, so I sometimes drop a little fruit juice, tea or water on top of the composter (just a small dribble; don't want the worms to think it's raining). I'm a big supporter of natural growing (which means I'm too lazy to help my plants grow), so I just let the potatoes grow and the worms do their thing. I even got a tomato plant to grow once, but htere wasn't enough light in my kitchen for the tomatos to flower.

Does that answer everyone's questions?
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i was talking to someone about this recently--i think it was my husband--how i wanted to compost some of the things we use--such as paper towels, and all of the fruit and veggie ends that we just throw away.

the real issue for me though is ryan's meat stuff. i want to compost that--but apparently you can't do that with worm compost. i want to compost it for two reasons: 1. it stinks in the house, and that will get ti out of the house, and 2. once composted, it would be good for other living things (ie, plants). since i idon't grow my own veggies (how could i living in a condo where they spray so many chemicals so often--dammmmn them!), i'll just use it for ornamental plants.

anyway. . .any ideas for what to do with ryan's waste?

otherwise, i'm going to get started on these bins.
my neighbors will not like it. does the bin have to be plastic? can i use a plastic liner in a metal bin? if i use a metal one, it will match my silver, metal trash cans that hold all my different recycling and my trash.

oh oh oh--can i put bunny litter in it too? (hay, paper litter, urine, and bunny poo which is basicly veggies and grass with a little poo on the edges).
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The only way I know of composting meat is by way of flies.

I don't think there is a problem with metal, just be careful that it doesn't overheat, which is possible with metal.

I don't know about rabbit litter. You can't use cat or dog, as it's full of amoanya (sp, too lazy to think about spelling; just sound it out hehe - ammonia?)

Why won't your neighbors like it? They won't know what is in the bins, as long as you look after it. Everytime you drop food in, sprinkle the top with peat moss or leaves. The worms will appreciate the food being hidden from the light and it will cut down on complaints about seeing food waste
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Thanks krista!!!!!!

zoe, meat is generally nasty to compost, as far as the theory goes (and as far as I know). You have to know what you are doing. The composting must be "hot", i.e. the temperature must be above a certain point to kill off harmful bacteria. There are books about composting, I'd pick one up before I start to compost meat.

*waits for soilman to post in this thread*

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Cougar started the meat composing thread. She mentioned she is in a warm climate. In Edmonton, meat composing naturally is BAD BAD BAD. My bf's ex, for reasons none of us understand, started a compost in the backyard and put meat into it. The flies were horrible. I swear every fly in Alberta came to visit. Horse flies, mosquitos ("nippers"), no-see-ums, black flies, houseflies...It wasnt' pretty.
Another silly question --

Do the live worms eat the ones that have died? or do dead worms just break down really quickly, before they start to stink?
Originally Posted by borealis View Post

Another silly question --

Do the live worms eat the ones that have died? or do dead worms just break down really quickly, before they start to stink?
Not sure, but I have never seen a dead worm in my composer during moving day.

And seriously, my composer has never smelled of anything other then dirt.
krista et al.

ok, no meat composting for us. i have read a few books on composting. the closest to an understanding tht i could get was "hot" composting a certain distance from human inhabitants. I don't have that sort of option.

as for why it would bother my neighbors--everything i do bothers my neighbors. I recycle--and that bothers them (most of them don't). So, i have many different recycle bins (some our township recycles, some i have to take to the recycling center in the next town) on my patio--each a nice metal trash can with a fun colored label. i often post a sign that says "please do not spray chemicals" so that i don't get the chems for the lawn sprayed all over my front area. it kills animals (my mice took a particularly hard blow, poor things). Often, i put veggie/fruit food scraps out in the bushes. hence, mice. now, they're dead and it's sad.

so, my neighbors are not fond of me. they think i'm weird, a witch, "not a good christian" and "trying to harm their children by not wanting pesticides." (huh?) so whatever.
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Ahh that's all just crazy talk!

It would be deemed cruel for me to attract mice, as Fuzzy the Great Tabby Hunter (tm) would see them as lunch. I admit that I would lift an eyebrow at a neighbor attracting mice, and would mention that my cats would probably be hunting the mice as a FYI. But recycling? Oh come on.

As for the christian remark, I judge "good christian" (regardless if you are one or not) against my 69 year old mother. She finds wasting a sin, so you'd get her stamp of approval
Now, she would definately take out the stick on your neighbors, though!

I think the worms would be a great idea for your composting needs. Do you keep patio plants? If so, the worm compost can be used to plant those in the spring. And, it is also a great way to spruce up your indoor plants without chemicals.

As a note to everyone thinking about the worms, remember to keep them inside if you are using a smaller container in a cold area. If the soil in the container can freeze, then the worms can also freeze. If you are using a huge compost, then you won't have to worry about that.
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Hey, I found the answer to my dead worm question while doing some worm composting research:

"Worms can live for about one year in the worm bin. If a worm dies in your bin, you probably will not notice it. Since the worm's body is about 90% water, it will shrivel up and become part of the compost rather quickly. New worms are born and others die all the time."

That was from this page:

which also talks a little about worm sex. is another good link, with photos and a troubleshooting section.

I'm going to start a bin as soon as I clear a space in my kitchen for it. I don't want to have them outside since the weather's beginning to get cold.
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