Hello, friends! After reading the SpoiledNYC on Sep 2 newsletter that included GroundCycle (NYTimes article here), I went on a spree on finding composting opportunities in NYC now that the Department of Sanitation has suspended compost (brown bin) pickups since May 4, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
Compost in NYC: GrowNYC locations
IMO: The DOS never brought this program fully across all NYC neighborhoods and the areas that were part of the program didn’t participate. Honestly, when this rolled out, they should’ve fined people for NOT using it, or changed the collection schedule for compost to 2x a week and shrink the landfill garbage collection to 1x a week to drive people to compost more to take their “trash” out. I remember my dad was so scared we were going to get fined that we bought a ton of compostable bags. (DSNY did not fine for using clear plastic bags plus I’ve learned from use that the BioBags for 13 gallon can barely hold 6 gallon without breaking… often requiring double bags.)
Alrightie. So I know my friend Belinda over at A Healthy Blueprint has this amazing Google Sheet with all the NYC composting options. I also remembered reading her blog post about a worm compost bin: how to start and what she wish she knew, so I decided to embark on this journey too. I also found a good resource from NYC Compost Project on indoor composting with a worm bin.
I started collecting my food scraps right away! I know that home composting solutions are not as all-encompassing for food scraps as DSNY was… so I was saving veggie scraps as I was prepping meals. We already save coffee grounds (they are great at deodorizing) and started to save tea leaves as well.
Finding the Right Worm Bin
I wasn’t in love with the one plastic tote solution since it makes it difficult to actually get the compost soil out without disturbing the worms. I was browsing Uncle Jim’s outdoor compost bin options and saw the Hungry Bin Flow-Through Worm Farm, but not sure if I wanted to invest the $350 for a “garbage” bin just yet.
On YouTube, Kevin found an easy DIY that emulated this tiered bin contraption from the Epic Gardening:
I remembered my cousin has extra plastic storage bins laying around, so we went to pick them up! Epic Gardening has 3 plastic bins, so I’ll have to pick up a 3rd bin from BJ’s once it’s in stock.
Prepping Food Scraps for My Wormies
After reading a ton of articles online on caring for your worms, one thing that a few bloggers/gardeners noted is that the red wiggler worms will need about 6 pounds of “bedding”. So I am glad that LES Ecology Center didn’t have any worms on Fri Sep 5 (they said it was too hot) because I need more time to collect 6 pounds of scraps!
I actually moved the red lid plastic jar’s contents back into the gray-plastic jar and put it into my freezer. Since it will be at least another week before I can actually use the scraps as worm bedding, I don’t want stuff to start rotting. I also save my coffee and tea compost by leaving it open in the kitchen (it does not attract pests), so I can reduce the space needed in the freezer/bin. I also realized I didn’t need to shred paper to put into the plastic bin since I can just save the brown paper in a paper bag and shred when ready to load the worm bin! I already have a brown paper bag so separating my paper recyclable to pick out the brown bags was pretty easy.
Rinsing eggshells is a new process for me. With DSNY, we typically just throw it straight into compost, but I read that rinsing is better. Not sure if for for the worms or just for spoilage.
- Chopping up the scraps will help your worms eat faster
- Try to balance the green and brown levels to 25/75
- Red wigglers can eat up to 1/2 it’s weight per day
- Sources: LES Ecology Center, TheSpruce, The Squirm Farm Infographic
|OK – GREEN / NITROGEN||OK – BROWN / CARBON||NOT OK|
|carbon air filters|
egg shells, rinsed
fruit scraps (except citrus)
tea bags (that are not plastic)
virgin human hair & nails
|brown paper bags|
animal products, feces
anything treated with pesticides
citrus (lime, lemon, pineapple – acidic)
white napkins (bleached)
Try to limit or avoid these foods entirely:
avocado pit (will spoil)
dairy foods (will spoil)
fats or fatty foods (will spoil)
meat (will spoil)
onions & skins (acidic)
potatoes & skin
tomatoes & peel (acidic)
Prevent and Be Aware of Other Bugs/Pests
- Learn more from: SF Gate – Problems With White Bugs in a Worm Farm
- Check on the bin often, especially in the beginning
- Every worm bin is different in the food / water levels it needs
Time to DIY the Worm Bin!
Sep 5: Since I couldn’t pick up worms from LES Ecology Center, we decided to drill holes another time to prevent bugs from crawling into the bins (which will require clean up later). Plus, we didn’t buy any breathable mesh to cover the holes so… gotta wait! Hopefully I hear back from LES soon so I can pickup my 1 lb of red wiggler worms!
Sep 11: called LES Ecology Center and was told worms would not be available until end of the month. I went to Uncle Jim’s farm online and their shipping took a week but they were listed on Amazon for a shorter delivery time. Sorry small biz, +1 for Bezos. The Amazon listing said 100 worms for $22, which was approx 2 oz. 2 ounces!!!! So little compared to LES at the same price for 8x more at one pound!!
Sep 13: bin prep time.
Our power drill actually didn’t have the right drill bit. We didn’t realize this until attempting to drill holes into the heavy duty bin. BJs GSC 27 gallon bin – HEAVY DUTY AF. We had to hold a nail and use that to drill into the bin and through. Took 2.5 hours for 80% of one box.
Ripped strange ink off the Amazon boxes (they never confirmed it’s soy based and we don’t wanna take any chances so early on). Cut cardboard until my hand got a blister ☹️
Sep 15: Sis starts drilling more holes. We realized it was too small for the worms to crawl through. Epic Gardener recommended 1/4” holes and ours was barely that. Goes on Amazon and buys drill bits. Patiently wait until drill bits arrive.
Sep 16: Gets Amazon alert at 11 AM that worms are arriving in the evening. Freaking out because drill bits are arriving next day. FedEx delivers the box and doesn’t even note it (Amazon delivery notice was a bit late). Worms arrive mid-day 😱. Dashed off with a small plastic bin (Sterilite 6 qt shoe box) as temporary home with a pint of food scraps (about 24 logan fruit shells and 2 avocado shells) and 3 little brown paper bags.
It didn’t seem like 100 worms and definitely felt a bit more than 2 oz but not by much. You can see our worm un-bagging over on Twitter:
I get yelled at by my sister for including logan seeds because they are so big and worms don’t have teeth… so it will take forever to decompose ☹️. We shred more paper and we pour water slowly. Uncle Jim says to add 1/2 cup of water to hydrate the worm soil bag. We put in 4 oz. Food scraps also have water so we think it’s OK. The plastic clear bin isn’t exactly airtight so I put a laundry mesh bag covering it in case worms escape and to prevent pests. Tucks into a cardboard bin in the yard to deter bright light. Wonders if we should bring the bin indoors since it’s so small.
Sep 17: 24 hours later – time to check on the bin. The worms had a field day checking out their new home. They left dirt marks everywhere. I take the lid off and 2 worms on chilling on the lid. A little fly flies out. Or maybe it was already flying around before I removed the lid 🤷🏻♀️. I remove some of the paper shreds on top and toss in 3/4 pint of food scraps (the bag of greens—choy sum—in the picture above and 1 avocado skin). I place a cardboard piece on the top since many on YouTube and blogs say it helps prevent smells and pests.
Hand is tired from drilling. But looks good.
Sep 18: still prepping the bins by covering the air holes on the top of the sides with mesh/light fabric. Can’t have wormies escape and to prevent pests. 48 hours since wormies were put into the bin — and they are bigger!! I saw one crawling on the edge before it burrowed itself back into the darkness.
The greens I fed it yesterday was starting to rot… it was smelling. So we plucked all the greens we saw out, which was about 50% of yesterday’s pint. Good to know the wormies are enjoying their food. The greens brought a LOT of moisture into the bin so we mixed the mixture around to even everything out. Moisture level seemed OK though — that sting out sponge feel. We saw a TON of wormies in one section all lovely. It was a bit gross seeing a bunch of them together at once though tbh 😳
Sat, Sep 19: went out to check on worms really quick. Didn’t have time to snap a video or more photos. Fed it half a pint of scraps. Btw this is the laundry mesh I used temporarily as we finished up the big bins. The 6 qt shoebox does close tight so the worms could still get air. This mesh was used to prevent worm escape and pests from getting in.
Sun, Sep 20: didn’t check the wormies 😦
Mon, Sep 21: moving day!! Worms get a 18x home upgrade to the 27 gallon tote. To visualize, left is the 6 qt shoebox vs 27 gallon (108 qt) bin.
The new 27 gallon bin is so child-proof. I couldn’t get the lid off for a good 30 seconds. I have a video of my struggle sounds, ha! Check out a video of their move here:
Tue, Sep 22: fed a loose cup of egg shells, coffee grounds, enoki mushroom, tea bags. Wormies doing well in the new bin. Food seems to be gone so we can probably start to feed a full pint daily 🙌🏻