Ace of Space: Guide to Indoor Composting

Summer is almost here and now is the time to start gardening! You don't need a big yard or huge apartment to make your own plant fertilizer. Along with vertical gardening, you can begin your own indoor composting project.

Compost is a mild fertilizer for your soil and can be used in your garden and potted plants.

Follow these steps to create your own, non-stinky, compost bin for under $30.

1. Buy the essential ingredient -- worms
Believe it or not, you can buy worms on the internet. Worm Man's Worm Farm is a fantastic resource. Or consider purchasing worms from a local bait shop.

2. Collect newspapers without color
Start collecting old newspapers for your worm bin. Once you have a pile of black and white newsprint, shred the paper into pieces about 2 inches wide. The paper is a very simple, easy-to-break-down starter for the worms.

Don't use paper with color. Color paper typically contains chemicals that the worms can't break down and you don't want these chemicals in your garden.

3. Select a good-size bin
Compost bins can be expensive. So we use a shallow, Rubbermaid plastic storage bin that is 2 feet x 3 feet x 1 foot. This litter-box-size container fits perfectly under our kitchen sink.

4. Drill a few holes
Worms need oxygen to turn vegetables and paper into scrap, and ventilation also helps keep the compost smelling like soil. To provide plenty of air, make sure you drill a few holes into your plastic bin. No drill? No worries. Just use a sharp object (like a knife) to create small holes just below the top of the bin. And no, the worms won't make a great escape.

5. Throw your shredded paper in the kitchen sink
Worms thrive in moist environments. So your shredded paper needs a little moisture. Throw it in the sink and wet it down. The paper doesn't have to be soaked with water, just damp. Then, you'll loosen up the newspaper and spread it in the bottom of your compost container.

6. Let your little friends acclimate
Before adding scraps to the worm bin, give the worms a least one week to adjust to the new environment.

7. Let the worms do their job
Cardboard, newsprint, and vegetable scraps are a perfect feast for your worms. A New York Times article says that the squirmy creatures can "eat half their body weight in a day." In about 4 months you'll have compost ready to harvest. The best use for compost is as fertilizer for gardening.

How do you know your fertilizer is ready? Worm Man's Worm Farm says, "Your compost will look like granules of dirt or dust when it is done. You will start with fluffy peat moss and newspaper shreds, food and manure and you will end up with a solid type consistency. These granules are worm castings. When you see more of these than food it is time to remove the worms to a new container."

Important tips:
  • Your little worms love cool dark places, so store your bin under the sink, in a closet or in the bathroom. Not by the heater.
  • Don't forget to ventilate and turn the compost. If you don't turn the compost, you apartment will start to stink. Turning the compost once a week will help you avoid apartment stink.


Tammy Strobel blogs at RowdyKittens about simple living and is the author of Simply Car-free: How to Pedal Toward Financial Freedom and a Healthier Life.

The Ace of Space is a bi-weekly column that will provide you with the tips and tools to live lightly and creatively in a small space.
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