My Wife Grows Worms In our Closet!

Vermicompost:  Composting food in a small apartment is inexpensive, does not smell, saves the environment, requires almost no maintenance, and your plants will look amazing!

Photo by Chris Gardner
Photo by Chris Gardner

It’s true!  My wife keeps a five-gallon bucket filled with worms and compost in the coat closet-and we’re normal, clean people!  Really! I swear!  After shivering at the thought for almost a year that there are hundreds of worms eating discarded vegetables just inches from my winter coat, I came to realize that there is nothing smelly or nasty about it.  I have slowly gotten on board with this concept and I have to say, I’m converted!  And now I want to preach my wife’s closet compost concept to you.

At first, I thought this was the grossed thing we could possibly do in our closet.  My wife and I are both neat freaks so you can imagine my surprise when she suggested we start doing this.  I even had a little script rehearsed in case I had to unexpectedly explain it to guests if they happened to stumble upon it while visiting.  I also felt it was just a matter of time before there was a great worm escape; I would open the closet door one afternoon and find worms slithering in all directions.  And the biggest fear I had was the smell.  It’s going to smell!  I thought this bucket of food scrapings commingling with living creatures would surely stink up our expensive coats, the closet itself and even worse, stink up our apartment.   I think I may have even wanted it to happen so I could once and for all tell my wife what an awful ideas this was and get rid of this whole contraption.  But, as the months turned into years, nothing bad ever happened and it never smelled!  Ever!  In fact, if you lift the lid and strain to sniff anything all you can smell is the faint smell of fresh soil.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for vermicomposting, but composting is for people with backyards, not renters of a small apartment.  Boy was I mistaken.  Having a compost bucket in your living space is incredibly easy and makes such an impact on your garbage.  The worms do an amazing job of breaking down food.  They’re also pretty resilient!  We’ve neglected to drop any fruit and vegetable scraps into our worm compost bucket and they have held strong!  So, it’s not even something that requires much maintenance either.

Composting newspaper, egg cartons, vegetables and fruit alone can really make a difference in the amount of garbage you throw away each week, but the truly amazing benefit to composting food in your closet is when you add this rich soil these little guys create in your potted plants.  Every time my wife adds the fertilizer from our vermicompost to our plants you can actually see them grow a few inches in just a weeks time.  This organic fertilizer is much more effective than any chemical fertilizer you can buy.  We’ve even started giving our worm fertilizer to our neighbors after they commented on how much healthier our plants look compared to theirs.

So how can I start my own apartment vermicompost?  Easy!  All you need is a dark space large enough for two five-gallon buckets, and track down some worms.  Most nurseries carry worms and they are plentiful.  Due to the rise of folks starting their own vermicompost systems some places may charge $20 to $40 for a batch of worms.  Don’t do it!  We’ve given away hundreds of worms to our friends for free and it makes absolutely no impact on our composting.  These little guys multiply like crazy and I’m sure if you find the right person, someone would give you all the worms you’ll ever need for free.

 –  Put pen-sized holes in the bottom of one of the two five gallon buckets.  Slide that bucket into the other five-gallon bucket to catch worm droppings and extra water.  Cut slits into the lid so that the worms can breathe. 

–  Create your vermicompost bed by shredding 1-inch strips of newspaper or egg carton. 

–  Next, wet the paper with water.  It’s important to ring out the excess water and fluff up the wet newspaper.  Place the fluffed-up wet newspaper into the container.  The container should be one-half to three-fourths full.

–  In a well-lit area or outside on a sunny day empty the worms on top of the shredded newspaper (making sure the light or the sun is shining down on the box).  The worms will quickly go down into the bedding material because they don’t like the light. Once they go into the bedding they will start making their new home in the bedding.  Keep the bedding moist.

–  Add a little soil over the bedding material.  Worms need soil or sand to digest their food.  Wait for about 7 days before adding other food to the worm bed.  The worms need to become acclimated to their new environment for the first week. 

–  Add vegetables scraps and fruit as you go.  Never add acidic foods like onions, citrus peels, ginger, or garlic.  They’ll kill your worms. 

–  Never let food get high enough to touch the lid of your bucket.

–  Every month or some slide your buckets apart, add water to your rich fertilizer mixture and feed it to your plants. 

Having an apartment vermicompost system is easy and inexpensive so give it a whirl!  If you’re intrigued to have your own compost but uneasy about doing so while living in a small apartment like I was, give it some thought!  You’ll be glad you did! 


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