Three years ago I felt inspired to compost, but we had limited resources at that time. I was not going to let a little thing like money get in the way of taking advantage of an earth-friendly teachable moment for my kids. I did research on what composting is, how to get started, and the different types. When I was considering composting, I was concerned of attracting pests or the smell it would produce. I have not noticed any of those problems. The bin when opened generally has an earthy smell. While I originally thought the turn-style seemed easiest and less wormy. I learned that worm composting has the advantage that the worms do most of the work for me. With 3 boys, I went beyond my disgust of slimy worms and embraced the opportunity to teach my boys to appreciate worms along with our planet. We significantly reduced our weekly trash between recycling and composting, we put out no more than 1 bag of trash a week. Be prepared that your kids will have a new found respect for all worms, which results in rescuing all the worms that make it to the sidewalk.
Getting started was easier than I thought…
*What you need: plastic tote, drill, brick, worms (red wigglers)
1. The bin: Buy a plastic storage tote; A 31 gallon works best for our 5 person family. Drill holes in storage tote: 1/8 inch on all sides. We have 30 each on top & bottom as well as 25 total between the 4 sides (2-4 inches from the top of the box). The point is you want to make sure there is ventilation without allowing your worms to escape.
2. Worms: Red wigglers are the more common type. They can be found using craigslist.org, ebay, local farms, or garden stores. We use craigslist first because generally this is the cheapest option. Depending on size of box, you will need about 1-2 pounds of worms (about 1000 red wigglers per pound). We started with 1 pound, but depending on amount of food you can decide if you need more or less worms.
3. Beginning Composting: After you have prepared the box for ventilation & bought the worms, the next step is going to set the pace for ease of composting. You will put a 2-3 inch layer of bedding on the bottom of the bin before anything else. You can use lawn clippings, leaves, and/or paper for bedding. Start shredding all of your paper (newspaper, junk mail, paper towels without any of the avoids below) to place in compost bin. I let the kids help me shred the paper each week, so it is ready when we need it. After the bedding add your compostable items. Composting is realitively simple if you follow this rule Never put dairy, meat, or oil in the bin. We keep an old diaper pail in the kitchen to place any compostable items, because the easier you make it the more people will pitch in. Once you have added compostable items, then place another layer of bedding on top. Whenever you add more to compost bin just push aside bedding and dump in. I prefer paper bedding on top. Place the bin in a shaded spot in your yard with a brick (or equivalent) to keep it off the ground to allow for ventilation and drainage.
4. Seasonal changes: I was concerned from season to season how well the bin would thrive. You will notice the bin puts off a lot of heat, so it can tolerate cooling down a bit. However, in the winter you may consider placing it in the garage. In the summer, you should freeze some of your waste before placing it in the bin. This helps the bin from getting too hot from the summer heat.
5. Now what? For the most part, just sit back and let the worms work their magic on your waste. It is time to remove the compost whenever your compost starts to resemble soil instead of waste. We set out a big tarp place the compost on it to remove worms. Then, we put the compost on plants and add the worms back to the bin. I have noticed that my plants thrive better with compost. This is one of the best parts to teach your kids with. You will find pieces of non-compostable items that made its way into the bin as well as showing your kids how the worms were able to transform our waste to help our garden.
Feel inspired to start composting? Let me know if you need any additional information!