Worm composting is not a simple “make a bin and walk away”. There is some maintenance involved in keeping your worm composting bin healthy and working for you to help you in living off the grid.
This article assumes you have already built a wooden worm bin or purchased a metal tub or plastic bin to use for your worm bin.
Make sure that whatever kind of bin you are using that is it kept in a cool, shady location where it won’t freeze.
Some good locations include in a kitchen corner, in your garage, on your patio, in the basement, outside your back door, or in the laundry room.
Your bin should be full of proper bedding materials, such as shredded newsprint, crushed eggshells, shredded cardboard, or ground limestone. You want to keep the bin moist and mixed in with some handfuls of soil, full of worms, and periodically filled with food scraps from your household.
Over time, the worms will eat the food and bedding and produce compost. What kind of food can you put into the worm bin? Some basic ideas are stale bread, apple cores, orange peels, lettuce trims, non-greasy leftovers, and any kind of vegetable scraps.
Make sure you bury the food scraps into the bedding. Do not just place it on top of the bedding. This is not healthy for your worms. If you add more food scraps later and notice your previous buried scraps have not been eaten by the worms yet, bury your next scraps in a different area of the bin.
In learning how to compost, you have to constantly check your worm bin to make sure it is healthy and running properly. Some signs that things are not going well are if your worms are dying or there is a rotten odor from your bin that is attracting flies. If your worms are dying, causes could include not enough food, the bin is too dry, the bin may be too moist, the bin may be too hot for the worms, or the bedding may have all been eaten.
Ways to fix these issues are to make sure you keep the bin moist but not soaked with water, keep the bin in the shade so the worms don’t overheat, and make sure you replace bedding periodically as the worms will eat this material as well as the food scraps.
If you are noticing a rotten odor from your bin, there may not be enough air circulation, there could be non-compostable materials in your bin, or there may be exposed food in the bin. In these cases, check there is dry bedding under and over the worms to allow for air circulation.
Do not feed them for two weeks to allow them to catch up on what has been placed in the bin. Check for non-compostables such as meat, pet feces, or greasy foods. Remove these items and add dry bedding to the bin. If there is exposed food material, cover the food scraps with bedding and cover the worms and bedding with a sheet of plastic. Leave the plastic on for a few days to contain the materials until the worms can break down the food. Then remove the plastic to allow for proper air circulation.
Taking time to take care of your worms will help produce healthy and usable compost for your home. It may seem like a small thing to do, but composting can be your first small step to living off the grid.