The following is a guest “Wednesday on Waste” post from Brenda Pike at PragmaticEnvironmentalism.com.
When I talk about my worm bin, people tend to be a) squeamish or b) fascinated. Either way, they have lots of questions. Here are some that I’ve gotten:
1. Does it smell?
No. Worms eat the food as it decays, so you don’t smell the rot. Instead, it just smells like dirt. You could theoretically overwhelm them with more scraps than they can handle, but they eat a lot (half their weight per day), so I’ve never had that problem.
Bonus FAQ: It shouldn’t attract flies, either, but fly eggs could come in on the scraps. To kill them, freeze the scraps first (defrost before adding to the bin) or microwave them.
2. Can I keep it in my apartment?
Yes. In our current apartment, the worm bin is in the basement, but in our old apartment it was just in a closet. The occasional worm does escape (if their bin is too wet or if they haven’t been fed for a while), but the poor things don’t get farther than a foot before they dry up.
3. Can I just dig up worms from my backyard?
No. Red wigglers are more efficient at processing scraps than earthworms, because the environment inside the bin mimics the leaf litter on the forest floor that they’re used to. You can probably pick them up at your local bait shop, or you can order them online.
Bonus FAQ: You should make sure there are no red wigglers in the compost before you spread it on your garden, because they’re not native.
4. What can I feed them?
All fruit and veggies are okay, as are most table scraps, coffee grounds, and breads. No meat or feces. Eggshells are fine, if you rinse them out. They don’t break down, but the calcium is good for the soil and the worms like to curl up inside them and make babies.
5. What do I do with the compost?
This isn’t really a question for people with gardens, but it can be an issue for apartment dwellers like me. You can add it to your houseplants, either in a layer on top or in 1/4 mixture with potting soil. You can also add water and use the resulting “tea” as a liquid fertilizer. This doesn’t come up as often as you might think, though. The worms reduce the volume of the scraps dramatically.
Any more questions? I’m happy to answer, since I’d like to think that all my trial and error (especially error) was worth something. If you’re really interested, I’d recommend reading a good book on the subject to save yourself some trouble. But it’s really remarkable how forgiving of mistakes a worm bin can be!