Balcony Worm Composter

A properly built and maintained composter is odour free, does not attract pests and is extremely simple to maintain.

Credit: Terry Guscott

One of the oldest forms of recycling, and a way to reduce landfill waste, is composting.

Gardeners have been doing it for centuries, creating soil that is inexpensive and full of nutrients, beneficial bacteria and microorganisms. For a large yard or family a three-bin composting system may be what is needed to recycle fall leaves, spring pruning and year-round kitchen waste. Smaller yards and families may get by with a single composter that can handle kitchen waste and a few garden cuttings. But what about single people, apartment dwellers or patio gardeners – do small producers of organic waste create enough to make a difference, and is there an efficient way to compost?

Make the most of your compost

10 balcony composting tips Composting do’s and don’tsThe great worm debate

My response to both questions is an emphatic YES! Every bit of composting makes a positive difference and the perfect answer is a balcony composter. If you can’t use the compost, there is always a nearby yard or local community garden where it will be thankfully accepted. Composting on a small scale has taken longer to become popular, perhaps because many are unaware of how simple, clean and efficient it is. Some people are turned off by the idea of rodents, flies or foul smells. No need to fear: a properly built and maintained composter is odour free, does not attract pests and is extremely simple to maintain. 1. To get started, purchase a plastic solid-coloured heavy-plastic storage bin. A 20-litre size is good to start with; adjust according to your space if necessary. Drill about nine 1-cm (½-in.) holes throughout each side, and the same on the bottom of the container; do not put any holes in the top. The side holes will allow air flow, the bottom holes will allow drainage, and the solid top will prevent rain from pouring in. Next, line the bottom of the container with a few sheets of newspaper; this will prevent the worms from getting away. Add 250 mL (1 cup) of red wiggler worms, 10 sheets of shredded newspaper, and a day’s worth of kitchen scraps. Toss gently and place the container outdoors, raised on two bricks. (If you are concerned about compost drippings, place a cookie sheet or similar pan underneath.) You are now ready to compost. Toss in your kitchen waste daily, including coffee grounds and filters. Add a few sheets of shredded newspaper once a week. 2. As you add waste the worms will eat it and transform it into worm castings. Keep the bedding fluffy and the vents clear; too little air can cause the worms to suffocate. In summer, leave some bedding undisturbed so it will remain cool. When the compost is evenly broken down (looks like crumbs and smells sweet) remove the worms from the compost and add it to the garden. Create new bedding for the worms. If one box is not enough, consider either increasing your container size or stack another on top and rotate the two.