DIY Worm Compost for $35

Looking to improve the soil of your plants or garden? Then home composting is for you! Composting is a way to provide nutrient rich fertilizer to your soil and a way to repurpose your food waste.

Instead of putting food waste in the landfill where it creates yucky methane gas, you put it in a home made composter and let the worms do the work. What you’re left with is an organic soil amendment that plants love.

Compost improves the structure of the soil with good aeration and water retention qualities. It “provides nutrients for plant growth and its organic acids make nutrients in the soil more available to plants.” (How to Grow more Vegetables) It helps reverse global warming – a win/win times infinity!

So, how do you start a compost? I am going to show you how in my first ever video below! I learned this technique from Zero Waste San Diego, and it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

There are many styles of composting but if you’re in an urban/suburban setting like we are, then a worm compost is ideal. We made one similar years ago and put it on our apartment balcony.

Materials

  • 20 gallon opaque container(s)
  • drill (or hammer & nails)
  • dried leaves for the bedding (or shredded paper)
  • food waste
  • bag of red wriggler worms aka Eisenia Fetida
  • old potting soil

Instruction

1. You will need a second container if your bin will be placed on a balcony or patio. The compost bin will sit inside the second container to catch the worm juice. Plants love this juice! If you are placing the bin directly on soil, then you will not need the second container. The worm juice will go directly into the earth. Make sure the container is opaque, not clear, so that the conditions stay nice, dark and moist for the worms. We bought ours from Home Depot for $7.

2. Drill holes on the lid, bottom and sides of the container so that the worms can breathe. If you don’t have a drill, you can punch holes using hammer and nails.

3. Add layer of dried leaves for the bedding on the bottom of the bin. In the video, we added dried bamboo leaves along with a dead lavender plant, which makes the whole bin smell really good. You can also use shredded paper, newspaper, cardboard or egg carton. Avoid glossy paper.

4. Add food waste to one corner. To collect food waste, we keep a pitcher inside the fridge door for all fruit and vegetable waste, seeds, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells and plant trimmings. Feed the worms once a week and rotate corners. Avoid putting dairy, meat, onion peels, citrus peels, or fried foods in your worm compost. We have a paper bag inside our freezer collecting these types of materials and take it to the compost at Whole Foods. They use an industrialized composting system where everything gets ground and heated up.

5. Add red worms. Worms eat half their body weight in food and will multiply according to food supply. A bag of Eisenia Fetida can be purchased at your local nursery or online:

  • Check with your local nursery. I picked a bag of 200 worms for $17, plus no shipping fees.
  • Worms Etc: It’s $18.95 for 1 pound. Use discount code IFH15 to get 15% off. Shipping is around $10.

6. Cover with old potting soil. Always cover food waste with soil; don’t leave it exposed. Compost should be moist but not soggy.

Vermicomposting is a fun way to stay connected with nature and is like having a worm farm.
Enjoy your composting journey and let me know how it goes for you!

(I wrote this post for my cousin Brenda, a Christian member of the LGBT community and my old co-worker CJ, a green building enthusiast. God bless their efforts in creating and maintaining a worm compost!)