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Indoor Composting and Vermicomposting

Many lack the space for an outdoor compost pile. A composting neighbour will gladly accept your kitchen wastes, or alternatively, one can compost using a large garbage can or two. Perforate sides and lid, then line it with a bottom layer of some six inches of brown material. Add several days' worth of kitchen scraps at a time, and cover each with brown stuff to control the odour. Again, keep this material as moist as a damp sponge. When full, allow the contents to stew while filling a second garbage can in the same manner.

One newer approach to composting, and one growing in popularity, is vermicomposting. Worms - usually red wigglers, though some other varieties are also used - happily and without thought of escape, inhabit plastic or wooden containers, digesting kitchen leftovers and producing castings rich enough to satisfy any gardener. This approach is ideal for an apartment or small house, takes little room, and is quick, clean and odourless.

Commercial kits are available to introduce the beginner to this setting, though any setup involving a sturdy bin with tight-fitting lid, perforated with small aeration holes in the lid, is perfect. Earthworms can't handle the heat; the requisite red wigglers may be available locally, sold as fish bait, or can be obtained through mail order.

The ideal bin is some 10-12" deep, and is kept in a warm, dark location; protect from extreme heat or temperatures under 60F/15C. A neutral, moist environment is important, as is adequate ventilation. Beware of adding chemically treated wastes, too much acidic citrus waste, or overly wet scraps, and your worms will thank you.

Bedding must be provided for the worms, and should allow for some air circulation. Torn black-and-white newsprint, straw, or torn corrugated cardboard can be wet down and mixed with some soil and is place in the bottom 4" of the entire bin. Cover this with another 2" of clean soil, and spray until lightly damp.

Add one pound of worms; they'll automatically multiply until their numbers are in balance with the amount of waste they process. Stir in chopped-up food wastes daily, or every few days, making sure these are buried completely. If there's a smell, you've either added too much at once, so that the worms can't keep up, or not covered the scraps completely.

Every three or so months, when the bedding also has been turned into worm castings, you'll wish to harvest and use this fine new 'compost.' Push all the old stuff to one side of the bin; add fresh bedding to the other side and bury food wastes on this side only, the next few weeks. When finished with the old menu, the worms will move over into the new bedding, and the finished castings may be removed, worm-free.

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