Self-Sufficiency Sundays: Make a Compost Bin!

Composting is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your dependency on food and waste systems, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include instructions on how to make it happen. Being an apartment dweller, I have no idea how traditional compost piles work, but I have become quite comfortable keeping a worm bin in my garage. Here are some instructions from Jewcy for a simple under-the-sink affair:


* 1 Plastic Bin (with lid). Surface area is more important than depth, but you’ll probably want something small enough to fit underneath your sink.
* Shredded Newspaper (no color). Best to use a paper shredder, but hands work ok too. About 1 Sunday New York Times worth should suffice.
* Worms! The best worms for composting are red worms, either Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellus. Worm Mans Worm Farm will sell you 1000 worms at the reasonable rate of around $25.
* Compostables. You can compost fruit and vegetable scraps and peels, coffee grounds, tea bags and rinsed out, crushed up egg shells. Avoiding meats, dairy products and oily foods will help prevent against odors, flies and other pests.

Drill about 12 – 16 holes in the plastic bin, about two thirds of the way up from the bottom. This will provide oxygen to aid in the compost process. Some people also puncture holes in the bottom to allow for drainage, though if you’re keeping this under your sink you may prefer to skip this and avoid dealing with a drainage system altogether.

Run the shredded newspaper under water until it is thoroughly soaked, then ring it out so that it is moist, but not dripping. Spread about half of this newspaper evenly along the bottom of your bin, then dump your worms over the paper, distributing them in a similar manner. Finally, cover your worms with the remainder of the shredded, damp newspaper.

Maintaining Your Compost:
There is very little to do to maintain a compost, though after a few months you will have a buildup of finished compost that can be used as fertilizer, and most of your original bedding (newspaper) will be gone. The best way to replace the fertilizer with new bedding is to move all of the finished compost over to one side, then replace the bedding on the other side and begin adding compostable scraps to that side. Gradually the worms will move from the finished compost, at which point you can remove it and dump it in your garden, your plants, or that patch of dirt outside where grass never seems to grow.

For more information on composting, check out Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.

My compost bin is a little more complicated – instead of one bin, I have two that fit into one another. When the compost is ready, I put in the second bin, fill it with fresh bedding and food, and then wait for the worms to migrate up through holes drilled in the bottom. See Coyne and Knutzen’s The Urban Homestead for instructions.

5 Responses

  1. We have two worm bins in the garage. We don’t use newspaper anymore; about a year ago we installed a large shredder in the garage, right near the bins.We shred all the necessary stuff (and some we could probably just recycle) and the shredded paper goes into the worm bin along with our kitchen scraps. No smell, no muss, no fuss.

  2. I use a Guasanito bin which has worked fine

  3. Looking at this, I’m wondering if it might be a good way to deal with the contents of the catbox.

  4. No! Poop must be composted separately. Only use vegetable scraps.

  5. […] Make a Compost Bin! Self-Sufficiency Sundays: Make a Compost Bin! Posted on January 5, 2009 by Julie. Composting is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your dependency on food and waste systems. […]

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