Vermicomposting is a wonderful way to make the world a better place. Composting with worms (as opposed to your more traditional pile o' compost in your backyard) is great because it neither gets hot (like thermophilic composting heaps), nor takes up much room. We live in New York City and compost in two big rubbermaid bins. We just throw in our food scraps (no meat & grease, of course, but being vegetarian makes that not too tricky to maintain) and cover it with some torn up paper (old newspapers, junk mail, leftover phonebooks which for some reason they pile in our mailroom by the hundreds) and voila! Let it sit, and after a few months you've got a box full of wriggly worms (E. foetida, or red worms, work well) and compost! Fantastic. Grow things on your windowsill. Give compost to your neighbors. Rejoice.

Oh, and if you were wondering, why compost?

Stop for a minute. Think about all the garbage you throw out in one day. In your house, in your office.... Ok. Now try to think about it all sitting in a pile in your living room. Right. Imagine where it goes... Now why not try and reduce that pile by turning it back in to fantastic soil that makes plants happy? When all else fails, aim for maximizing happiness...

Here is the How-to for those of you who have stuck it out this far (such brave souls...)

Materials List:

1 Plastic Storage Bin (such as rubbermaid) ~ 18 inches x 2 feet x 2.4 feet

1 lb red worms - these can be found either online by searching for worm composting, or sometimes locally (we have a group in NYC that sells them). Alternatively, if you already know someone who has boxes going they can fish out some worms to get you started.

Quite a lot of torn up paper (especially newsprint, something thin)

A drill, or some other sort of hole poker


I recommend starting out small (ie, with one bin) and then adding more if you feel you're overfeeding your worms (I say overfeeding, but it just means you've got too many scraps piling up.) This allows you to get a good sense of how your miniature ecosystem works. First, lets talk about some pre-construction considerations.

You're going to want to find a good place to keep your box. We keep ours in a corner in our kitchen. Some people keep them under their sink, or on a porch. You want a place that gets air circulation, and has a pretty constant temperature. If its outside, you want to make sure you avoid lots of sun or frost weather. I hear you protesting, "But doesn't it smell??". That is part of the beauty, it doesn't. The trick is to always cover fresh scraps with a good layer of ripped up paper. This can not be emphasized enough. As long as its not getting super soggy and it gets enough air, your food is going to breakdown smell free.

BAD FOR WORMS(a list of things worms won't like + make for a stinky box) bread (grows mould), meat, grease (we throw in some prepared food, if it is not to saturated with oil), cheese, broccoli (just stinky), potatoes (ditto), citrus (highly acidic) WORM FAVORITES Fresh veggie scraps (peelings, leftovers from stock), coffee grounds (filter and all), tea bags, eggshells, all covered up with paper ripped into strips(~1inch wide) The Nitty Gritty(This is where we use the screwdriver) These are directions for the first box I made. Although you can do complicated nesting setups to allow for drainage, I've actually found the nesting boxes to be a bit messier. The trick is to add more paper to help balance out the moisture. Step 1: Take your plastic box lid. Drill small holes generously all around the lid. When I say small, I mean between 1/8-1/4". Use your judgement. Make attractive designs. Spell your name. Time to be creative. Step 2: Take your plastic box. Drill small holes as before, but only in the top half of the box (to prevent leakage if your box gets a little damp). Your goal is to allow aeration without water or worm loss. Alternatively, drill much bigger holes (1/2-1") and cover with some sort of mesh. Your choice. Step 3: Rip up lots of paper. Newspaper & phonebook paper is great. Lots of it. I'm not kidding. This is the step when small children are extraordinarily useful. Not that I would know, but this seems entertaining. The goal is to fill the box with damp (wrung-out sponge damp) paper. I recommend doing the "make-damping" in batches to prevent oversaturation. We used a dishpan. Make the box pretty full, like 3/4+ full. Step 4: This is the fun part. Add some scraps in a corner, under the paper. Cover with paper. Add a pound of worms. Close box. Try not to be obsessive-compulsive and check on the worms every ten minutes. It is ok, we all do it. After a few weeks, you'll notice the worms doing their job, because you'll have dirt! (called worm castings, which is a nice name for worm poop.) You may initially think the box is filling up. And then it breaks down and starts to look empty. And you fill it up some more. After a few months, you can push the dirt to the side, and take it out to use in your pots or in your yard (after the worms flee to the fresh pile of scraps you've just put on the newly cleared bit of bin). Congratulations! You control a very exciting ecosystem, and you're saving the world. Gotta love it.

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