what I learned from six months of worm composting

About six months ago, we started composting to reduce our food waste. I’m happy to report that composting is very easy and seems worth the effort. We’re down to about one 10-liter bag of trash per week and I think we can get that down even further if I focus on it (#2019goal). For today, I’ll describe how I handle the compost on a weekly basis and a few things that we’ve learned so far.

Composting tasks come in two main types: managing the food scraps and feeding our worm friends.

Throughout the week, we collect our food scraps in a yogurt container. (We have a LOT of these containers around since Mr. Smith eats yogurt almost every day.) Once the container is full, I take out the food processor and grind it up. Then, I pop the container in the freezer. At any given time, there are six containers of ground up food scraps in the freezer waiting their turn. The worms also like to eat torn up egg cartons, so I usually spend some time taking those apart while watching a show.

Every other day or so, I check in on the worms. A couple of months after getting the Franks set up, we decided that we were producing enough food scraps for a second composter. Enter the Petunias! Our worm friends are happiest when I give them about ½ cup of food every few days. This is a far cry from the ½ pound of food that I first thought they could eat through in a week. I keep “working” container of food scraps in the fridge for them. This is a container of scraps that I have thawed out and strained. The straining is important because the worms are not a super fan of a wet environment. They like it moist, but not wet. On the days that I check in on them, I add a handful of torn up egg cartons for some bedding. I also check the bottom of the composter to see if anyone has decided to head down. In all, we’re talking about a five-minute investment.

We did have learning opportunity early in the summer. I was overfeeding our friends and we ended up with a bit of a gnat problem. While gross, it really wasn’t that bad. I just had to learn a few things…

What we’ve learned so far:

Less feeding more often. 

As I mentioned, I overfed the worms early in the summer. Since they were unable to eat the food in a timely manner, new “roommates” moved in with them. I found out that if I fed the worms less food more often than the gnats weren’t able to join in on the buffet.

Grind and freeze compost material. 

This tip is also part of the roommate management project. Grinding the food makes it smaller (duh!) and easier for the worms to eat quickly. Freezing has two benefits. First, the freezing causes the cell walls of the food to burst and, therefore, speeds up the break-down process. Second, freezing kills any bacteria or “friends” that might be hiding in the scraps. Part of our freezer is now dedicated to a first-in/first-out section for the food scraps.

You need more space than you think you do. 

We initially bought 1000 Franks, but quickly found that we produce enough food waste for a second composter. I was very surprised by this!

Keep the bottom tray clean. 

Our composters have three trays each. The top tray is more of a holding area/aging area for new compost, the middle tray is the “working” tray where most of the worms live, and the bottom tray is where the spigot and worm tea collects. I check the bottom tray when I check on the worms because occasionally a few will go rogue and end up down there. The bigger problem is that this tray is where gnats like to breed. By keeping it clean (also known as the kill-it-with-fire approach), the gnats aren’t able to set up shop.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do with our compost as we’re making more than our few indoor houseplants can use. I’ve toyed with the idea of making an Etsy store for it since plenty of people seem to want/need small amounts of compost for their plants or giving it away. I’m still away off from needing to figure it out but having a plan in place would probably be a good thing.

What do you do to reduce your waste?

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4 thoughts on “what I learned from six months of worm composting

  1. I would like to see a list of all the things you compost. And, what you can’t compost. Do you compost dryer lint at all? Also, would love to see a photo of what it looks like inside those drawers. I am not sure I am ready to do indoor composting but I am going to ask the hubs to make me another compost container. We had a big tub that he simply drilled holes in the bottom and the top to vent. I grew some “gold” in that tub for two seasons and grew the BEST tomatoes one season. With retirement, I am ready to do that again. GREAT post!

    mom

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    1. That’s a lot of questions and almost needs a post of its own — maybe next time I update.

      As far as what goes into the compost, LOTS of stuff: peels of all sorts (although potato peels in moderation), onion bits, brocoli stems, coffee grinds, tea remains, egg shells, avocado shells (but not the seed), torn up egg cartons, etc. I try to do stuff that can go into my food processor so I usually chop things up smaller and if my processor can’t handle it, it goes in the trash or down the disposal. I don’t want to put things in the bin that the worms can’t break down in a reasonable amount of time.

      As far as what doesn’t go in the bin: meat and dairy are the two big no-nos. Also, I limit citrus since the worms aren’t too keen on the acid hit.

      While I could put in lint, we don’t have an in-unit washer/dryer and hubby would probably balk at bringing up the lint with the clean clothes 🙂

      Outdoor composting is a great way to do it too! Although, we haven’t for various reasons.

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    1. We tried outdoor composting when we had a house. After doing both, I think I prefer worm composting because of the quicker turnover into usable compost and the routine maintenance of it. I would often forget to deal with the outdoor space and it got out of hand. Also, we attracted a bit more wildlife than I was comfortable with. Of course, please do eventually compost in some way! The more I learn about food waste, the more I think everyone should do it.

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