Composting in the House

From Marlee:

Hello. 🙂 I want to start my own compostat home with food
scraps, but I don’t have a back yard I can make a pile in. I was told
to by a big container with a air tight lid and start putting vegetable
scraps in it. I was wondering if the lid was a good idea, becaue I
looked up actual composting containers and they all have air
circulation. I wanted to keep a lid on it because it will have to be
in my house and I dont want to be able to smell it.
Also, I was wondering if I could dig up some earth worms and put them
in my container. Will they be able to live in it if the lid is air
tight?
Thank you so much for your time and answering my qustions. 🙂

Hi Marlee,
I’m glad you wrote in! I’m sure there are plenty of newcomers with similar questions on their mind.

You are absolutely right – air circulation is very important! I have started tiny worm bins in plastic tubs without any additional air holes added – but the small size of the system, along with the somewhat loose-fitting lid and small holes in the handles made it not so much of an issue. I should mention also that when I DID finally decide to start adding air holes to those small bins, the performance of the system (and overall health and welfare of the worms) definitely seemed to improve.

If you were to simply pile up food scraps in a tightly sealed container, you would end up with a monumentally nasty, smelly mess on your hands! Aside from the issue of air flow, there would also be the important ‘carbon-to-nitrogen ratio’, and moisture content of the bin to consider. Wet, n-rich wastes piled up without any absorbent, carbon-rich materials will definitely go anaerobic (thus creating an awful stench) and potentially produce ammonia gas (also a nasty smell – not to mention being toxic).

Interesting enough, if you provide lots of air circulation and mix your food materials with even more absorbent bedding materials (such as shredded cardboard/newsprint etc), there shouldn’t be any bad odors coming from your bin – even before the worms are added! Once you have composting worms (more on that topic in a minute) in the system, and your are able to provide them with their basic requirements, bad odors should be even less of a concern!

Ok – back to the worms. Unfortunately, you can’t just dig up some garden worms and put them in your bin (especially not the bin you’ve described). Worms suited for composting are specialized species that don’t really burrow in soil – they are adapted to live close to, or above the soil surface in rich, organic matter. This explains why they can sometimes be found naturally occurring in compost heaps and aged manure piles! The variety you are likely looking for is the Red Worm (Eisenia fetida) – this is the most common, and also the most versatile of the composting worms.

If you want to learn more about setting up and worm bin, I highly recommend that you check out my ‘Getting Started’ page. You should also check out my ‘Setting Up a Worm Bin’ videos found at the bottom of my ‘Worm Composting Videos’ page.

Hope this helps!
8)

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