Easy indoor vermicomposting in NYC

My family and I just moved to NYC, and don’t have the outdoor space we had while living in Asia. So at first we just took food scraps to drop off when we shopped at the Greenmarket – New York City’s farmers’ market network – which is where we met Pamela, our market compost coordinator.

Grow NYC org

A thick layer of moist newspaper strips on top of the compost smothers the fruit fly larvae and insulates the bin.

Pamela at the Mt Sinai Greenmarket is chock full of information. We were intrigued by the vermicompost system that she gave us a brochure for. We thought if we managed to make indoor composting work, it’d sure beat dumping food scraps into the incinerator or trekking across town to the 97th St Greenmarket when ours closed for the winter!

The instructions in GrowNYC’s brochure were a good start, but Pamela’s guidance was indispensable. Her minimalist approach is right up our alley: set up the bin, feed the worms, and check on it every few days. For every problem we encountered, she worked with us to find a great solution.

We got to see what a healthy system looks like because Pamela regularly brought her own portable worm bin. The kids love digging into it to see the worms in action!

Occasionally taking our bin to Pamela for a “checkup” was helpful, and after a few weeks we had a viable setup. Who knew that indoor worm bin composting can be so easy! To boot, it was a great learning process for our two preschoolers, as they were in on the effort from the start.

Vermicomposting is our small effort for the environment, and it can be easy with minimal upkeep. But without Pamela’s hands-on advice and practical techniques for building, maintaining and troubleshooting a system that works for our family, the frustration might have trumped our efforts.

Thanks Pamela and GrowNYC!

Grow NYC org

The red wigglers, or Eisenia foetida, are hardy little worms.

The size box we started was 14" L x 11" W x 6.5".

The box we started was sized 14″ L x 11″ W x 6.5″.

Grow NYC org

Pamela helped us drill ventilation holes into a regular plastic container.

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We fit these small 2 inch vents with screened backs into the holes she drilled.

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We drilled small holes at the top of the bin, about 30 of them down the middle strip on the cover.

I don't currently have all bins set up, but working up to three, under the sink.

I don’t currently have all bins set up, but working up to three, under the sink.

Note: I wrote this for the GrowNYC team for their annual report.  

The worms we started with were the standard wigglers sold at the local pet shop. But the proper worms for a productive bin are Eisenia foetida. Check out this informative illustration, Making heads or tails out of severed earthworms, on these interesting creatures in the Washington Post.

For vermiculture articles and advice in forums online my search words were “indoor vermicompost”, “indoor vermiculture”, “apartment composting” etc.

Also, check out Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, which for some reason is not easily available in the NYC public library system but used copies are listed for about $1.75 online. I’ve also checked out Compost City: Practical Composting Know-How for Small-Space Living by Rebecca Louie, and Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals for the kids.

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