DIY Composting Vermiculture [Learn with $10 in 10 Minutes]

What Is Compost?

Composting is part if the natural process of decomposition that naturally occurs in nature. A compost bin functions as a digester that breaks down organic matter, allowing nutrients to be assimilated back into the earth for continual benefit. The final product that is produced is known as humus – often referred to as black gold for its ability to regenerate the soil, act as a natural fertilizer, aerate soil, prevent erosion etc.

Humus contains carbon, nitrogen, in addition to, beneficial bacteria and millions of microorganisms. It is not static but rather completely alive. It is an excellent component to even out soil variations, absorb water and support plant and animal life while assisting in the production of soil – a critical element in our evolution.

Why Compost?

Most solid waste in municipal settings is in large part food scraps. By composting of our food scraps, we drastically reduce our waste, which in turn, lightens the load on our landfills. Currently, our landfills are being exhausted at unprecedented rates. Landfills throughout our the country have been closing, due to maximum capacity, forcing cities to truck or rail our garbage across state and international borders.

Compost adds a rich nutrient to gardens, plant life and trees. Many city dwellers that may not have a garden to deposit their goods in, will donate them to neighborhood trees. When compost is placed on the earth, it helps to regenerate the soil of an immediate area, regenerating the soil structure and water absorption capacity. When gardens benefit from rich humus, the food will naturally thrive and produce healthy and nutritious food for you. There is no need to purchase synthetic chemical fertilizers that are contaminants your home, your health and the earth. Artificial fertilizers by pass the natural process with synthetic chemicals promoting the growth of weeds, disease and pests – while contaminating our health, and the air and water quality of a region.

Balance

For a compost pile to decompose properly, a sweet balance or proper alkalinity, must be maintained. There are two elements that are necessary in a compost pile – brown and green material. Brown consists of what is high Carbon (woody, dried leaves, sawdust, brown, paper, egg cartons). Green consists of high Nitrogen (fresh produce, grass, food scraps, grass clippings or garden prunings, tea bags, coffee grinds, etc). The balance should be maintained at a ratio of about 30:1 (Carbon to Nitrogen).

It is not as complex as it sounds, because this variation is usually found in the range of food people eat.

Does It Smell?

No. Contrary to popular belief compost, when maintained under proper conditions, it does not smell. Finished compost will have the look, feel and odor of rich soil -
depending on the conditions it may take from 6 – 12 weeks. The optimal conditions inside the bin are to be hot, but the heat will be generated naturally – it should not be left in direct sun. It can be stored in a patio, garage, basement, shed, or utility closet. There should not be an infestation of fruit flies either. There will microorganisms growing and even some mold may appear – these elements should break down.

What Not to Add:

You do not want to add: dairy, cheese, milk-related products, meats, bones, chicken, whole eggs, fat, weeds with mature seeds, pet feces, pressure/chemical treated wood.

Animal feces carries pathogens and should not be added to your bin. You can create one specifically for your dog, but do not use it on your garden.

Do not add food that is too moldy.

Only add organic matter and do not add non-organic garbage, plastic, metal or glass. Best to remove stickers, rubber bands and tags that are placed on food.

What You Will Need:

• Plastic Bin with tight lid
• Order red wigglers (Eisenia foetida) worms online ($10 p/lb.) or
• Retrieve a bag of existing compost with worms from a friend
• Newspaper
• Drill
• 1/4” drill bit
• Food scraps

★If you want to harvest the worm castings, you will need:
• 2 bricks
• A pan the relative size to the surface area to the bottom of the bin

Rule of Thumb: To determine bin size you need two square feet of surface area per person, or one square foot of surface area per pound of food waste per week.
 

 1

Step 1

• Purchase plastic bin
• 18 gallon bin accommodates 1 – 3 people
• Bin can be as small as 5 gallons for one person
• A 32 gallon is perfect for a family for 4 + people

★ Try to find plastic bins at thrift stores or any used locations – I found mine in my dumpster. The bin will provide the home of the worms by creating the optimum conditions to break down organic matter into rich humus or compost.

 2 Step 2

• Drill 1/4” holes to aerate the bin
• Space holes about 3 – 4” on top
• Space holes on sides 3” apart in 3 rows

The holes are necessary to aerate the bin and allows the worms to breathe and allow oxygen to contribute to the decomposition process.

 3 Step 3

• Drill 3 holes on each side of 1” lip of bottom
• Compost juice (aka castings) will come from here
• Place bin on grass and allow castings to enter soil
• To harvest castings, raise with bricks over a pan
• Collect the castings and dilute with water 1:20

Castings are the excrement of the worms and is a natural fertilizer, soil enhancer and plant food. The worms will not come out – they prefer to be where the food is.

 4 Step 4

• Find newspaper in your recycling bin
• Shred length-wise to 1” strips
• This create bedding for the worms inside
• Acquire enough newspaper to fill the bin

The bedding will give the worms the brown component needed. The worms will also eat the bedding, you will need to add newspaper accordingly. As you notice it go down, add additional shredded newspaper.

 5 Step 5

• Place half of shredded newspaper in bin
• Soak newspaper to get all angels wet
• Ring newspaper like a wet sponge
• Remove excess water

This will help create the optimum condition for proper moisture levels.

 6 Step 6

• Fluff compressed moistened newspaper
• Compare perforated holes inside bin to yours
• Consider using half the bin for one person

This allows for air to enter and facilitate the ventilation.
 

 7 Step 7

• Add 1 lb. worms (only to one side of the bin if you are one person and choose to do that.) ‣ Purchase them here or ‣ Acquire a bag from a friend
• You will begin using only one side
• This will help in keeping the worms in one area
• Using one side will facilitate during harvesting

The worms will adjust and procreate according to the size of the bin – within due time. It is important to purchase the proper amount to facilitate this process. 1 lb has 1500 worms.

 8 Step 8

• Add food scraps to same side of bin
• Do not add any meat or dairy
• Place only organic scraps for compost in gardens

Heavy metals found in pesticides and herbicides and possible GMO contaminated residue can stay within the decomposition cycle and be returned to your crops.

 9 Step 9

• Add the second layer of dry bedding over bin
• Continue to replace this layer as it gets eaten
• Place lid tight
• Adding food scraps remove newspaper, add newspaper and cover with lid again.
• Newspaper should be fluffy and not compact
 
This layer add coverage and protection to the worms. There should always be a layer covering the food and the worms.


How to Maintain:

You will need to turn the compost heap every couple of weeks – that means you will need to mix all the ingredients. This will assure that enough oxygen reaches
all areas.

Depending one the size of the bin, the amount of food and the overall condition of the compost heap, will depend on the amount of times you will need to turn it.

Start monitoring the conditions of your worms, moisture levels and overall appearance. You want to be able to gauge an issue, should one arise by simply looking at it – i.e. too wet or too dry.

You will have a complete Eco System in there, and it will self regulate – just as long as food is being provided and moisture levels are maintained, at the state of a wet sponge.

Keep in mind if you are only working with one side of the bin to try to keep contents on that same side.

How to Harvest:

Depending on the weather and conditions, your pile may take from 6 – 12 weeks. Once you begin to notice most of the pile become a rich dark humus, you may be ready to harvest.

A simple way could be to empty the contents on a tarp and sift through it. The worms will crawl away from any light and into the protected space of an available pile.

Another simple way is to scoop 1/3 of the humus and use generously. Don’t be concerned to take worms with you – that may be inevitable.

For those that chose to use one side of the bin, start adding new bedding and new food to the side that has been ;eft alone. After a couple of days, all the worms will have migrated to the other side. At this point you will remove all the contents from the composted side and use.

If you are harvesting the worm castings as well, you will start to notice it in the tray, once it is ready. Collect what is there and dilute it 20:1 with water and use on
your plants or garden.

What If:

Bin Smells

Check Conditions:

• Is there enough bedding?
• Is there a material that should not be there?
• Is food exposed?
• How is circulation?
• Check moisture levels:
‣ If it is too wet: Add additional shredded newspaper – stop feeding worms. Wait till a balance has been reached before continuing
‣ If it is too dry: Add more food (produce) and consider adding some water.

Worms are Dying

Check Conditions:

• Is there enough bedding?
• Is there enough food?
• Is it too hot?
• Check moisture levels:
‣ If it is too wet: Add additional shredded newspaper – stop feeding.
‣ If it is too dry: Add more food (produce) and consider adding some water.

Tips:

An easy way to collect your food scraps in your kitchen is by keeping them in a bowl or in a jar. Keeping it too air tight will cause mold. Make sure to not keep it out too long – you may attract fruit flies. Storing it in the fridge or in the freezer is great option in hot and humid places.

For more on Nancy, visit Astrid Design Studio
 

Related posts:

My Journey to Pass On My Father’s Legacy—What Will You Leave Behind?
Would You Feel Better Without Coffee? Why You Should Quit—and How
(Video) DIY Sheer Back Cutout Top

20 Comments