Lessons Learned From My First Worm Compost Bin

So it's been around 6 month since we started composting.  I built my own wooden compost bin for our apartment with two adults who primarily eat meat and vegetables (minimal packaged products.) My first garden is doing well though next year I think it will be even better.

Here are a few things I have learned since we started the process.

  1. I wish we had started sooner.  The best thing about our apartment is that we have a nice, fairly large deck.  It remained unused for a good while.  This year was the first that I started a garden and my compost bin.  The compost bin sits nicely in the corner.  It doesn't bother anyone or anything.
  2. We don't compost everything.  We are two people living in a one bedroom, but we still generate a good amount of compostable trash.  We've been on whole30 a few times and our worms just could not go through the amount of vegetables and fruit scraps we had.  I have one or two containers of food scraps in the fridge at all times.
  3. I keep our food scraps in glass gars in the fridge.  Yes, my husband has mistaken them for food once or twice.
  4. We have been on vacation at least two times since we started composting.  Each time we were gone at least 10 days.  The compost was fine.  A little dryness, but nothing too alarming.
  5. It is currently the middle of summer where we are (New Jersey), our apartment faces the east side and therefore we get a lot of sun rise exposure.  There has been NO smell coming from the compost at all. 
  6. I noticed some gnats around the compost for a few days, but after I added more dry paper and dry cardboard, they went away.
  7. Early on in the process, I noticed some ants inside the bin and found the compost too dry.  I sprinkle water on top to keep it moist at least once a week when I am home.  I haven't seen the ant issue come back since then.
  8. I usually add new food scraps around every other week. 
  9. No animals have come to bother it.  We live on the second floor. 
  10. While the worms do a fair amount of work to turn the food scraps and paper into compost, it does take time for them to turn a good amount of compost.  I was hoping to have enough to put into my other plants before the summer is over, but that doesn't look to be the case.
  11. The worms appear to be healthy.  Varied in size.  Quick to move when I open the bin and it gets exposed to light.
  12. Before our blender broke down, I did use to blend the scraps together which included peels, egg shells, coffee , some paper so that they would be smaller.  The worms appeared to have eaten this much faster.  I went back to regular scraps and those get eaten though not as fast as when they are in smaller pieces.  I probably will go back to doing this to accelerate the decomposition process. 
  13. Some of my standard food scraps in the compost are: coffee grinds, banana peels, carrot peels, potato peels, salad greens, onion skins, eggshells, tomato stems.
  14. I have a box that I keep close to the door so that any mail that doesn't contain plastic or lots of color I immediately rip apart into scraps.  Those can then easily be accessed for when I need paper for the compost bin. Despite my attempts to reduce junk mail, we still get them.  I also include receipts in this box.  I also used a Wholefoods paper to seal it at the top, but it eventually got eaten through so I switched to cardboard.
  15. I turn the compost by hand (with gloves) at least once a week or with a trowel.
  16. I thought I would be grossed out by the worms, but after a few months, I'm ok with them.  They don't get out of bin. 
  17. I do sometimes experiment and put in things in the compost to test if they are really compostable.  So far I have confirmed that the paper our toilet paper is wrapped in do decompose.  Some of the mailing envelopes don't decompose as fast.  I found plastic film in it so I'm trying to figure out where it came from.
  18. Even with composting, we still do have regular trash, but we don't fill it as quickly as before.
  19. I have to figure out what to do with the bin once it starts getting cold.  I still have a few months, but need to plan.
  20. I did take some compost ahead of time and sprinkled it on my tomato plants.  I'm hoping it helps a little bit.

What the compost bin looks like a few months into the process.  Note the receipts and paper slowly getting eaten. 

I store the kitchens scraps in glass containers in the fridge.  No major issues with smell in the fridge or by the compost. 

My little urban garden. The compost sits under a table of plants.  I originally built two bins, but have only used one so far.  I also found some wooden scraps my neighbor were throwing away so I picked up for when I need to build that third bin whenever that may be.  It gets sun, but because it's wood, doesn't overheat too much.


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