My fiance and I have been looking for more ways to reduce/reuse/recycle. We realized that throwing away our food scraps was not only wasteful, but made our (garbage disposal-less) apartment kind of smelly if we forgot to take it out.
Home composting to the rescue! Here is complete tutorial for making your own vermicompost bin.
Materials (makes a bin big enough for the scraps of 1-2 people):
16 Gallon Plastic/wooden/whatever container: $9.99 @ linens 'n things
Fiberglass Screen: $5 @ Home Depot
1,000 Red Worms (1 lb): $26 from http://www.capecodwormfarm.com/
16 quart Organic Potting Mix - I forget! Cheap!
Leaf Mold - Free from worm lady
Hot Glue Gun
1 Gallon Water
Total Project Cost - about $45
Step One - Get a binhttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/1.jpg
Our bin is plastic because it's cheap, but I hear wood is much better/easier to maintain in terms of moisture content. Get wood if you can!
Step Two - Drill holeshttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/2.jpg
Drill small holes all the way around the top for ventilation
Step Three - Cut Slitshttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/4.jpg
Worms need oxygen, too. Use a knife to cut narrow slatshttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/5.jpg
Pop out the pieces you cut
**Some people recommend to cut drainage holes in the bottom - if you don't, be extra careful when monitoring the moisture content of your bin. You don't want worm soup.
Step Four - Screen over the holeshttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/6.jpg
Make sure to sand the plastic to make sure your glue will stick!http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/7.jpg
Glue around the edges, allowing the glue to seep through the screenhttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/8.jpg
We weren't sure the screen was fine enough, so I added a second layer at a 45 degree angle to decrease the hole sizehttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/9.jpg
Here's what it looks like from the outsidehttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/10.jpg
And the inside, all trimmed uphttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/12.jpg
Don't forget to put some screen over the small holes, toohttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/13.jpg
Here is the "finished" bin
Step Five - Decorate!http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/14.jpg
Who wants a boring bin in their apartment?http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/15.jpg
People might not believe there are actually worms in there, despite the art
Step Six - Prepare Beddinghttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/16.jpg
This is the leaf mold we got for free from the woman who sold us the worms. Websites SAY that you can use newspaper and a little soil, but Maggie Pipkins of Cape Cod Worm Farm told us that after 30+ years of experience, she would NEVER use newspaper. Yes, the worms eat the newspaper, but there aren't any nutrients in it! She suggests:
1/3 Leaf Mold
1/3 Peat Moss
If you find an organic, no nonsense potting soil you shouldn't need the peat and the manure because it's already in the mix! Therefore, we used with Maggie's Approval
1/2 Leaf Mold (decomposed leaves)
1/2 Potting Mixhttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/17.jpg
Fill your bin about 1/2 way full. You should have at between 8" to 14" of bedding. NO DEEPER otherwise you'll crush your worms.
Before you add your worms, you need to moisten your bedding. We used about a gallon of water, but you should see how much your own mix needs. How do you tell how much? The soil should be about as wet as a rung-out sponge. If you squeeze it, you should see the water but it shouldn't drip
Step Seven - Add wormshttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/18.jpghttp://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/19.jpg
Don't just add any worm! You need Red Worms, otherwise known as Red Wigglers or Compost Worms. One pound of worms will eat the food scraps of 1-2 people.
Don't mix the worms into the soil - put them on top and the light will cause them to burrow. If you're ordering worms online, they should come with care instructions. If you want to find worms locally, check your nearby garden and bait stores, though we didn't have any luck with that here in Boston - we had to visit a worm farm!
Step Eight - Feed your friends
There seems to be a lot of conflicting information on the web about what to feed (and what not to feed) composting worms. The problem is this: people assume that because worms DO eat some things, that means that they should. Cardboard, newspaper, coffee grinds, tea bags, orange peels, lettuce, potatoes -- these are all things that your worms will eat but shouldn't. You'll have malnourished worms and poor potting compost when their done.
Here is some advice on feeding your worms - http://www.capecodwormfarm.com/te_food.asp
After about 6 months, you'll have beautiful compost and a lot more worms... remove the compost, get more bedding, and start again.