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DIY COMPOSTING: Worms, Backyard Piles and Compost Bins, Oh My!

By: E. Somes

Most Oregonians are familiar with the plethora of countertop compost collectors and yard debris rollcarts that have now become companions to our garbage and recycling bins. Composting is not a new idea brought about in recent years by environmentalists, however, it’s an age-old method of turning would-be waste into nutrient rich mulch. Mesopotamian clay tablets from as far back as 2120 BC mention composting, so it’s definitely not a new concept! So, what is composting and how can you employ these historic practices in modern times?

Composting is the act of taking organic matter—leaves, grass, flowers, fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, even paper towels and pizza boxes—and letting them naturally decompose. Worm Bins have slightly different requirements regarding what you can add, but can be maintained in a smaller area, even inside the home and share the same idea.

Backyard Compost Bins can be purchased or made from wood pallets, or a simple wire structure. They don’t have to be complicated. Toss in anything from your gardening escapades: leaves, grass clippings, old pumpkins, remnants of flower and vegetable gardens, as well as the collected bits from your kitchen.

Apartment Dwellers, Don’t Despair. Worm Bins are here!

A worm bin can do the composting for you in a relatively small space. There are various types of worm bins you can purchase online, or you can make you own using a plastic tub with drilled holes for air circulation. In three to six months, the worms will have magically created a bin of rich castings (worm poop) as a soil amendment you can add to the top of your houseplants, or mix with potting soil to use as a planting medium.

With so many options available, from streetside composting and backyard compost piles to various worm bin contraptions, there is an easy mode of composting for everyone. Save space in the landfills and make your own homemade, nutrient-dense soil amendment! It’s simple, it’s easy, and as Martha Stewart says, “It’s a good thing.”

What to Compost in Your Backyard

Fruits and Vegetable leftovers such as apple cores, carrot and potato peelings, lettuces, and citrus rinds. Egg shells, tea bags, and coffee grounds, paper napkins, pizza boxes. Old flowers, garden trimmings and grass clippings.

Worm Bin Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s:

  • Keep it between 50-75 degrees
  • Add to the bin 1-2 times a week and bury scraps under the bedding
  • Add fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds (including filter), tea bags, houseplant clippings
  • Add crushed egg shells along with food scraps to maintain a healthy pH
  • Add the remnants of your joints! Roaches for worms!

Don’ts:

  • Add onions
  • Add pasta, rice or bread
  • Add meat or dairy products
  • Add pet waste

Worm Bin Assembly

  1. Fill worm bin with dry bedding material (leaves, shredded newspaper, straw)
  2. Add water and mix with bedding to the consistency of a wet sponge
  3. Pour out any excess water (worm bin should be ½ full of wet material)
  4. Add crushed eggshells
  5. Add the worms
  6. Add food scraps to the worm bin by burying them under the bedding
  7. Harvest the castings 3-6 months later!

What Types of Worms are in a Worm Bin?

Eisenia fetida, Eisenia hortensis and Perionyx excavates, AKA Red Wrigglers

Places to Buy Worm Bins

  • Worm Farm Composter: gardeners.com $139
  • Nature’s Footprint Worm Factory Composter: Amazon.com $75

Places to Buy Composters

  • Hayneedle.com All different styles from $32-$260
  • Any Home Supply Store as well as Amazon.com.

Check out these websites for more on composting, worm bin advice and instruction: motherearthnews.com | diynatural.com

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