Indoor Compost Bin

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How to make an at home indoor compost bin that DOESN’T stink.

When my husband, Ariah, asked me if I wouldn’t mind trying to compost inside our apartment I had some visions of sharing our apartment with overgrown, slimy, yucky little critters. I envisioned dirt everywhere and a huge mess with rotting food smell to boot. It turns out that I was wrong, and we have about 500 little clean worms under our sink contained in a wonderful home-made little composting system that (my happiest little part) DOES NOT smell!

So do you want to know how to make your composting dreams a reality? Follow our steps and we will get you going.

1. Order worm friends. In order to do this you will need to search online (if you’re reading this you are capable of ordering them online, thankfully) which is pretty easy and will take a little while. A website that we used was Worm Man’s Worm Farm. Mail Order Worms
2. Collect newspapers without color (this may take you a couple of weeks) so that you can shred them into pieces about 1-2 inches in width. (This is actually kinda fun because you get print all over your little grippers and you get to tear apart any ads that may be totally ridiculous or any articles that you don’t like the author of.) I would recommend doing all of the shredding at once so that you sit in a fun pile of paper AND only make as much as you need. Make Strips of newspaper
3. Select a good sized bin (you can see the picture of perfection in our bin 2′x3′x1′ Rubbermaid, which fits nicely and snugly under our sink in the cupboard). Having a bin with a large surface area is more important than having a deep bin. Using a sharp object, like scissors or a knife, put holes in the sides about 2/3rds of the way from the bottom. This gives your friends the oxygen needed to turn your rotting veggies into great compost. Putting holes in your bin
4. Take your shredded newspaper and get it wet in your sink. Now, if you take it and hold it under the water to soak it and then squeeze it out like a sponge it is kinda fun – and the benefit is that you won’t totally drown your new worm friends. (NOTE: sometimes worms like a little change in texture…so if you are adventurous you could also add some wet shredded thin cardboard to your bin – a good example of this type of cardboard is the toilet-paper role!) Wetting your bed
5. Spread the damp/wet and loosened newspaper in the bottom of your bin to cover it to about the depth of 1/2 full. This is their nice little bed. Then spread your new worms over the bed and watch them wiggle. This is the fun part where you get to say hello and say any blessing over their work that you would like to do. And then cover them up with about 2 more inches of the damp/wet newsprint that you have shredded, wet, squeezed out, and loosened. Spreading the newspaper
6. Next you wait one week to let the friends get accustomed to their newspaper home after which time you can take veggie/food scraps that you have. Good ones are carrot peels, excess from cutting celery, banana peels, and actually egg shells crushed up (if you are going to do egg-shells you need to rinse the shells right after you crack them so that they don’t have any gook on them when you put them into the bin), coffee grounds that have been used, tea bags, used paper towels. Things to avoid putting in your compost pile: meat scraps, actual eggs, anything that is already rotting. or other leftovers. Let your composting begin
7. Wait, and smell the nothingness of your bin while the worms do their job and fulfill their purpose.

NOTE: Wormies like to be in a dark cool place that has not TOO much noise or movement of their bin. If you open up the bin with the light on they will run away because they don’t like the light…so if some of them wiggle near the top of the bin just open it up and watch them retreat.

Another NOTE: You can add about 1-2 pounds of veggie scraps to your bin every week, and the best way not to disturb your little friends every day is to collect them in a larger tupperware bin in your refrigerator through the week and then open the bin to put them in once on the weekend or something.

One more NOTE: For up-keep of the bin you need to move the created compost to one side of the bin and then add some more of the good damp/wet paper to the other half and ONLY put your food scraps on this new half. This will coax your worms to the new bedding and then you can take the created dirt and put it in your garden! This is good to do after about 3 months, but you can wait until about 6 months if you are like us and don’t want to do it that often. Just make sure that your friends aren’t drowning in the nutrient rich liquid that gathers at the bottom of the bin (and if it is gathering, just add some shredded but dry newspaper).

  • Jesse

    “Worm revolt.”

    Just yesterday I was laying in my bed with my new girlfriend watching a movie when suddenly one of my dear roommates knock at my door in ernest: my worms were in revolt.

    There were worms on the kitchen floor, and they where in mass exodus from their worm bin. They were literally oozing from the lid of the Rubbermaid container that they once happily lived in. While I had realized that the worms were getting pretty concentrated and that I needed to expand their box I hadn’t quite expected this (since there had been no mention of such a thing on this site. At least I hadn’t noticed). My roommates, grossed out left the apartment to go do better things. While I gently scooped them into a bigger bin, my girlfriend (in a state of shock) expresses her feelings about what is happening: “My boyfriend has worms under his sink. I can’t believe…” To which I reply: “They’re for my guerilla gardening project next spring darling, this is important to those rooftop cherry tomatoes I want” Her reply: “You…. you’re so cute you know that? Despite your worms”

    I figure that it would probably be a good idea to address possible reasons for worm exodus. After reading around the internet after putting down the “revolt” I discovered a few possible reasons. I believe that it is most likely because my soil had become very damp due to some very moist greens that a roommate had tossed in, and quite possibly because of some acidic orange peelings that had made it in there as well. That and it seemed that the bin had become very very full in terms of population. Baby worms where very very noticeable as well as numerous batches of worm eggs.

    To deal with it all, I took the contents of the bin (and it’s lighter dryer sister bin) combined the two into a much larger bin, and added a large bag of dry leaves to the mix to help absorb some of the moisture. I also took some shredded paper and placed it on the top to provide some better bedding for the worms. Fearing another mess (while I lay asleep at night) I ended up duct taping the lid to the bin so that I would not have to deal with a mass exodus again. I drilled some holes in the top of the lid for oxygen as well, figuring that gravity would prevent them from escaping that way. So far so good; they seem like they are happy again.

    However. There is a bit of a funk to the bin. I am afraid that some of my roommates may have added something a little a little off to the bin. Are there any measures I can take to remedy the funk? I am also afraid that it may have been one of the reasons for the “revolt”

    Anyway. I just figured it would be a good idea to bring this experience of mine to the table.

    PS. My girlfriend (a vegetarian) learned a lot about composting/vermiculture in that half-hour, and thankfully despite her horror (she’s afraid of most bugs) she still loves me. Hopefully one day I will get her composting too!

    Ciao!

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  • Jade

    Hey! I want to start a compost when I move to Belgium in January so that I will have nice compost for growing vegetables on my balconies. However, Im not sure about if my roommates will be too happy about having the worms in the house. I was wondering…. what temperatures can they survive in? Could I keep them out on my balcony during a Belgian winter?

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  • staci

    I’m in the process of worm composting. However, what is the best way to get the compost out and leave the worms behind. And how do you cure compost afterwards. thanks, staci

  • KooPA

    I am definitely going to start my indoor compost project soon, but I did have one question that wasn’t explicitly covered above. About how much compost do the worms provide in a given timeframe?

    Also, along with an above poster, I was wondering if anyone know how well it stores.

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  • Dan

    I have a paper shredder that makes each piece of paper 1/4 the size of a dime. Will that size of shredded paper work ok?

  • Emmy

    Answer for Dan,
    Yeah that size of paper would be perfect.

  • http://shredder-safety-nation.com/ Toni S.

    What kind of crosscut shredder do you have? I use Fellowes – http://www.fellowes.com/Fellowes/site/products/ProductsSubCategory.aspx?Name=DESKSIDE_SHREDDERS and have been pleased by it.

  • Joy

    I am a newbie to redworm composting. Someone suggested that I speed up the process by putting my veggie scraps etc. into a blender before feeding them to the worms. I think it made the food too wet and mushy. What is your opinion on this?

    • http://www.vigilanteweb.com Kendall

      You definitely want space between the scraps for oxygen. So if the blender gets it too fine or too wet, you should stay away from that. We usually just cut up the scraps into small pieces with a kitchen knife.

  • Erin

    How many worms should I order for a basic under the sink compost bin (not sure how many gallons that is exactly, but imagine a under sink cabinet). I dont want to over order and let the little guys take over or suffer in the Spring melt here in the high mountains of Colorado!

    • http://www.vigilanteweb.com Kendall

      I think they come in packages that are weighed or have a certain number of worms in them. I would say 1/4 lb. of worms or 500 count.

  • Andrea

    Can I use regular computer paper that I put in my shredder also or only newspaper? If it’s only for me and my husband, what size bin should I expect to need?

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  • Sonya

    Thank you so much for posting this article. I grew up with a compost bin in the back yard, and began to miss it when I moved to an apartment. I have been keeping scraps in airtight containers in my fridge and taking them to the compost bins of others when I hve a chance, but now I hope to start my own little bin under the sink. Will the sound of the nearby garbage disposal disturb the work of my worms? What should I keep in mind regarding the fact that the pest control people spray for insect control under our sinks?

  • Mollie

    Sonya,

    Oh I am so glad that you are composting! Worms like it to be quite and dark. Too much noise tends to cause distress in the worms. So, if you use the garbage disposal regularly I would say that it would be a good idea to find a new spot for you worms. As for pest control spraying under your sink I would suggest keeping your worms/compost away from that as well to be safe. It is possible that it won’t affect it, but more than likely if your bin is getting enough air flow through it then some amount of the pesticide being sprayed is apt to make its way into your bin.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Emmy

    Hey Sonya,
    I don’t think the pest control will hurt the worms at all, especially if it is only a few times per year. I had mine in an apartment that sprayed for pests and I was more worried about my cats. They told me it was not toxic to pets at all and I never had a problem. I wouldn’t worry too much about the noise either. I don’t think one person can generate enough noise to really disturb the worms, I mean they are worms! It sounds like you are pretty dedicated to this and would really benefit by having your own compost bin. So, I would say go for it. I have one that I made using instructions from this very site and it’s great!

  • hannah

    I was wondering if anyone has used any pet poo in their compost- I have a pet bunny, and he loves to eat many of the scraps that would otherwise go into the compost bin. I know that their feces is often used in outdoor composts, so I was wondering if I could put it into this indoor bin? In theory would be like pre- chewed baby food for the worms, but I dont know if there could be any issues. I havent started bin mine yet, as we are in the process of moving, but I hope to start it within the month.

  • http://drsickels.com Malcolm

    For anyone with more questions, get the book _Worms Eat My Garbage_ by Mary Applehof, which goes into detail about all things vermiculture.
    Specific answers to questions above:
    To harvest the compost, just dump it all on a tarp under bright lights (outdoors on a bright day is good. Brush the compost off the exposed parts and the worms will retreat into the center, and eventually, you’ll have mostly worm-free compost and a wormball in the center.
    In the book, she says not to use poo. I haven’t tried it, but I probably wouldn’t do it in an indoor worm box.
    Finally, they don’t like vibration and may flee is there’s too much. They will also flee a sinking ship, so if the living conditions are bad they will leave. Don’t forget about them or you may have fleeing worms or, worse, rotting worms.

    All in all, it’s a fun experience and the kids love it (my youngest daughter liked them the most).

  • http://www.lumagardening.com/gardens/composting.aspx Composting Enthusiast

    A great article with great information. Everyone can compost. No excuses now:)

  • http://jonhatalla.com Jon

    Now, I really didn’t want to spend 35$ to buy 1000 worms online – so I went around town and actually found some red wigglers at a pet store. They sold them by the 50 count, so I bought two containers and went home to start this project.

    So I started with 100 worms, how long until I have enough to start adding food scraps. Is 100 worms enough to start with?

  • steph

    I started a compost bin a few months ago and now I have tiny tiny little bugs in it. Some are white and some are dark brown. They seem to like the avacado rinds and rotting potatos best. Are these bugs bad to have? How can and should I get rid of them?

  • Meagan

    Hi! I just discovered your wonderful blog while looking for composting information, and I noticed you haven’t posted since fall of 2009… and I just wanted to say, I hope you haven’t given up on the blog though I noticed you are becoming a new mom and that’s going to keep you more than a little busy. Best to you and your new family! And I really hope to see more of your great info here….

  • Mollie

    Hi Meagan! Thank you so much for your sweet comment and encouragement to write more. You are very timely because I just started talking about beginning to write again. I think I am going to begin by working on the site itself a little first and then dive into the writing.

    Thank you for the congratulations! I am loving being a mama and taking care of my little boy. He has been such a huge blessing and life changer.

    Hope to see you around “here” more.

  • steffystars

    I just came across this article and it is exactly what I am looking for. I will be starting my compost based on your directions.Thanks!!

    • http://twitter.com/vigilanteweb Kendall Guillemette

      Great. We'd love to hear how it goes as you set it up. Have fun.

  • steffystars

    I just came across this article and it is exactly what I am looking for. I will be starting my compost based on your directions.Thanks!!

  • http://twitter.com/vigilanteweb Kendall Guillemette

    Great. We'd love to hear how it goes as you set it up. Have fun.

  • steffystars

    I just came across this article and it is exactly what I am looking for. I will be starting my compost based on your directions.Thanks!!

  • http://twitter.com/vigilanteweb Kendall Guillemette

    Great. We'd love to hear how it goes as you set it up. Have fun.

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  • haj78

    Thanks for these simple and encouraging instructions! Exactly what I was looking for. I was intimidated by the whole idea of indoor compost, but this article is reassuring and makes it sound easy!

    • k3ndall

      Great, I'm glad you found it. Please let us know how your indoor compost bin turns out.

  • Drew Benny

    I am very happy people take the time to care for others and share the knowledge that they have retained by trail and error. This is how humanity excels ! Thanks so much for the post!

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  • http://composterreviews.info/indoor-composting.html Composting Guru

    Great write up about indoor composting. I was looking to see what people had to say about worm composing and also the automated bins but they are so expensive. Either Bokashi or worm composting is definitely the best way to go.

  • http://www.kleendrybh.com Air Duct Cleaning Kendall

    Your comments are spot-on as usual.

  • lizzapucci

    Very well instruction for indoor compost bins, great that I can read different way of composting, I've been composting animal manure, but your stuff is great.

    • http://one-change.com Mollie

      I would love to know how you are you composting animal manure. A lot of people ask about it, but I haven’t had any experience with it. Thanks for reading!

  • George

    Pretty cool tutorial. I wasn't aware you can compost efficiently in your flat. Nice tip wit the worms, too. Well, I guess I'm going to have to make one myself. I'm into composting a lot, I have read a lot of composter reviews but they are all backyard systems.

    • http://www.vigilanteweb.com Kendall Guillemette

      George, thanks for the link to the outdoor compost reviews. Be sure and come back and let us know how your indoor composting adventures turn out.

  • pokeberry53

    Most cheerful article on worm bins I've ever read!  Loved it!

    • http://one-change.com Mollie

      Thank you so much for reading! I’m glad you liked the post.

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