Tag Archives: worm composting

Can you Compost Indoors with a Bin or Tumbler?

Depending on where you live, composting in the winter can be a real drag.

Every winter I receive emails asking if it’s possible to compost indoors.

The answer is pretty simple- If composting with worms, yes.  If you want to keep a compost tumbler or compost bin in your basement or the garage…no.

Well, I guess you can do what you want really, depending on your tolerance for other forms of life sharing your space.  Remember that compost piles are ecosystems full of life.

Materials break down year round…decomposition slows in the winter, but not enough to warrant bringing a composting system indoors.

Here’s the factors that come into play when trying to compost in the basement/indoors:

1) Mice.  Compost piles are nice, warm places to live…this can invite mice.  A compost tumbler can most likely avoid this issue, but then there’s…

2) Ants/flies/other critters.  Chances are they will find the compost pile.  They can enter a compost tumbler through the air holes.  If your compost tumbler doesn’t have air holes, return it and get another one.

3) Pests aside, composting indoors can allow for leachate to run from the bottom.  This would be a fun challenge, as with a good 12″ of fluffy browns in the bottom of the pile, this should sponge everything up… but you may still see a little bit depending on what you’re adding.

4) While composting shouldn’t cause any odor issues, a restricted space with that much material increases your chances that you will smell something.  Now that I’m naming all these reasons discouraging you from trying, it makes me want to try it.

5) Mess.  For this reason I’d say a compost bin is out of the question.  What do you do when you have finished material you’d like to remove?

Keep your composting system outdoors (unless you decide to start vermicomposting).

Stash enough cover material to last your weekly trips outside for the winter.  This could be as little as just a few bags of leaves.

Your pile will still shrink as time goes on, just not as noticeably as it does in the months well above freezing.

If you need to compost indoors for space constraints, leave it to the worms.  Otherwise, set something up outdoors.

Worm Inn MEGA Review

Worm Inn MEGA Review

The Worm Inn MEGA is the latest improvement on the original Worm Inn system.

With this system you can turn huge quantities of organic materials into worm castings fairly quickly, without the hassle.

Simply add a layer of shredded cardboard, some shredded paper, a dash of leaves and of course food scraps.  Let the material sit for a week while you order the red wiggler worms for the system.  Anywhere from 3-5 pounds will do.

From there, it’s as easy as adding your food scraps each week and removing fresh castings from the bottom via the drawstring opening.

This system reigns superior over the others simply due to its huge capacity in a footprint of just 20″ x 20″ and its exceptional airflow which prevents it from getting oversaturated.

If you aren’t working with a lot of space and want to compost year round, the Worm Inn MEGA can really make it happen for you.

Helping Your Worms Beat the Heat! Keeping Worm Bins Cool

Helping Your Worms Beat the Heat! Keeping Worm Bins Cool

Smart idea for the summer time!  If you store your food scraps in the fridge before you compost them, then this is a default no-brainer concept.

My basement stays cool or freezing cold all year long it seems, so I’ve never really thought about this so much.

Over at redwormcomposting.com, there’s several accounts of people’s worms surviving at extremely hot and cold temperatures, well above and below the suggested temps for their survival.  Worms are resilient little critters, aren’t they?

Plastics in the Worm Composting System

After a few months of not adding substantial amounts of material to my Worm Inn (I slow down the feeding to my worms in the warmer months), I decided to take it outside and poke around in the castings.

There was a good six inches of beautiful, crumbly castings…great stuff!

However, there was also several pieces of plastic film…huh?

Then I remembered, a few months ago I placed some waxed paper, an ice cream carton, and a chinese food container (without the metal handle)…and that’s what’s left!  I don’t recommend adding this kind of stuff to a worm composting system, but my curiosity got the better of me.

What’s sad is that a large portion of single use paper products have plastic liners embedded in them to keep the contents from leaking out all over the place.  I can’t imagine that plastic liners are a favorite of worms…so I think going forward I’m going to keep all paper products other than cardboard and (dull) shredded paper out of the system.

Recognize the item in the lower left?  Yep, that’s a tea bag.

It looks like the worms ate the contents, but the bag must be synthetic.  There’s definitely some fully compostable tea bags out there…look for those.  I guess the string isn’t appealing, either!  Good thing I took the staple out.

Worm Wonderings #1: waxed paper

For fun, I decided to add some materials that would break down eventually in a compost pile to my Worm Inn:

I decided to add a disgusting Jimmy John’s wrapper and also some little blueberry muffin cake things left over from Thanksgiving I forgot about.  Seriously messed up on that one- my mom makes killer food.  Sorry mom!  I’ll let you know if the worms like it.

On a side note, did you know that the majority of “paper” cups you see contain a plastic liner in them?  If your end castings seem to have bits of shiny plastic in them, and you put a paper cup or two in the worm composter, chances are the remnants are what’s left from the cups.  Crazy, right?  More info to come shortly…

Without a Winter Worm Worry

I live in a super old and drafty house, and in the wintertime I always wonder if my worms will survive.  The worms reside in the colder half of my basement, but apparently it’s no problem for them: I was reading my Worm Briefs email subscription and there were testimonials of people that had worms surviving in both sub zero and above 100F temperatures!  Check this out:

“I’ve had redworms survive Winnipeg winters for 2 years in a
row.  Frost gets down past 6″ as I recall (could be wrong)
and we do get rather severe winter temperatures. This year we
have a thick blanket of snow but last year the sledders were
complaining quite a bit.  Not sure of temperatures under the
snow but this evening we’re at -32 C (- 25.6 F) heading for
-34 C (-29.2 F).  On top of that they’re giving us a wind chill
of -43 C (-45.4 F).  I was very surprised to find my worms in
the lasagna bed last spring.”
~ Paul

I complain about temperatures in the teens, I have nothing to complain about!  And on the other side of things:

“Just a quick comment re: temperatures that red worms can survive
in. I live in Adelaide, Australia and have my worm farm set
up in a large wooden crate with plenty of ventilation holes
and a moist towel over the top with a wooden lid over that.

We have recently had a couple of days where the temp has reached
45 C (113 F) and the worms appear to be ok and a couple of
years ago we had a heat wave when the daytime temp did not go
below 40 C (104 F) for 2 weeks and they still survived so as
you say they are pretty resilient.”
~ Mark

Wow!  Chances are pretty good my worms will make it through the winter just fine…

Checking In with the Worm Inn

I’m a proud Worm Inn owner that doesn’t have a stand kit.  If you saw my original video for this, I hung it underneath my steps pretty easily.

Then the wintertime came, and somehow the mice found their way into the house.  I’ve spent so much time shoring up the perimeter of my house, but there’s one section underneath the backyard decking that I can’t reach very easily and they must be getting in that way somehow.

I guess they found the Worm Inn quickly, since it’s in the basement and it has plenty of food scraps in it.  One day I came downstairs and noticed some tiny rough spots in the mesh lid.  It appears I’ve gotten lucky and they haven’t ripped a hole.  Now I have to hang the thing up much higher so they can’t get to it.

So why the bucket, you ask?  Well, I like to check on the worms and play with them somewhat often… I’m not able to do that when hanging them up extra high to keep any pests from getting to it.  So once my kitchen jar gets full, I unhook the Worm Inn from the ceiling (this thing is heavy!) and put it inside a 5 gallon bucket…it fits pretty nicely.  Then I can open it up, check the progress and add new material.

My basement is super cold, and I was surprised to see that they’re still in there doing their thing…resilient little guys, aren’t they?  They’ll be getting a lot of extra attention until springtime rolls around, that’s for sure…I wasn’t able to build a pile large enough to make it through the winter, but the worms will pick up the extra slack with no problems.

Winter Composting: Should I Just Scrap It? (article)

By Ginny Figlar Colon, originally found here.

Nice … half-frozen veggie scraps molded together in a solid mass. Not exactly what I want to see in my compost bin. With at least five more months of cold weather before warmth and sunshine reappear, why do I even bother keeping the pile going?

Well, I guess I do know why. Diverting even a handful of potato skins from the trash gives me an unexplainable sense of satisfaction. (If you aren’t yet a composter, you just can’t relate to this strange obsession with vegetable scraps.)

So after filling my compost bin with a big batch of freshly raked leaves this weekend, I did a little online research to see what I could do to make it a wee bit more productive this winter.

Here’s my plan of attack:

1. Get a bigger under-the-sink kitchen compost bucket. Fewer trips through the snow will help me stay motivated to feed the outdoor bin all winter long.

2. Empty the compost bin now. Since decomposition slows considerably in the winter, the contents won’t shrink very fast and the bin can get overfilled in the process.

3. Save some leaves. I’m going to stockpile some of the leaves I’m raking now to periodically mix in with winter scraps. Some sites suggest using old tomato cages or covered garbage cans to hold the leaves.

4. Don’t turn the pile. Yep, it pays to be lazy all winter because turning a pile lets valuable heat out.

5. Break down the bits a bit more. Maybe I can get away with chucking a whole apple in the bin in the middle of the summer, but not when the thermometer is hitting negative numbers.

We’ll see if these extra steps make a difference come springtime. And, even if it doesn’t result in more compost, at least it saved some space at the landfill.

Want to learn more about composting? Check out our Gaiam Life Guide to Composting or watch sustainable living videos on GaiamTV.com!
I definitely recommend following everything on this list…and if you’d like to take it a step further, bring your work indoors to a worm composting system.  Chances are you’ll save space in your freezer, and you’ll create compost through the winter…although I don’t know what you’d do with it. 🙂

How to Screen Worm Compost (video)

How to Screen Worm Compost

Here’s a neat video on how to screen worm compost.  Cassandra keeps it simple in this video and has some nice results.  I do pretty much the same thing, except my screen is a repurposed basket with a piece of wire mesh placed in the bottom.

She makes mention of running a fan over the top of the castings when you first harvest them…it’s true- when you first remove your castings and put the worms back, the stuff is so gooey that a screen doesn’t work so well.  Drying them out just a bit will help, although I wouldn’t want to dry them too much and risk losing some of their benefit.

How-To Compost with Worms and Solve Common Problems

How-To Compost with Worms and Solve Common Problems

While this video might miss on a few good points, I absolutely love the kid answering all her mom’s questions about what to do next with the worm bin… super cool… but what’s up with the lack of air holes in the bin?