January 14, 2016 – Kenosha News

Question: My garden and compost pile are at a community garden and not in my back yard. This time of year it breaks my heart to throw away vegetable peelings and coffee grounds instead of putting them in the compost. (I can’t easily get to the compost pile this time of year.) Do you have any suggestions? M.S.

Vermicompost Bin

Photo from NC Cooperative Extension

Answer: Vermicomposting, also called worm composting, is a great way to recycle your kitchen scraps at home. The worms turn vegetable and other food waste into a rich compost that can be used as a soil amendment, potting soil ingredient, or as a top dressing in the garden or on houseplants.

Worm composting is easy and, if done correctly, has less odor and mess than regular garbage. Most people put their worm bin in the basement or attached garage, but I’ve known a few people who keep their bin under the kitchen sink. Worms prefer temperatures between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

A worm bin may be purchased from on online retailer or make your own from wood or plastic. You can weigh your food scraps and use a formula to calculate bin size or estimate based on the number of people in the household. A rough guestimate for one to two people is a 2 x 2 x 1 foot box or container. For three to six people a container of 2 x 3 x 1 (or 1 ½) feet should work. Worms need air so the box shouldn’t exceed 18 inches in depth and holes must be drilled in plastic containers. (A heavy duty plastic storage bin with holes drilled in it is an inexpensive and easy to make option.)

Standard bedding material for worms is shredded newspaper, without glossy inserts, or computer paper. The paper is mixed with water to create a nice home for the worms.

Red worms (Eisenia foetida) are best for vermicomposting because they eat large amounts of organic matter and prosper in artificial conditions of the worm bin. If you produce one pound of food scraps per day, you should start with two pounds, or approximately 1000, worms. You can get worms from a vermicomposting friend, local retailer or online.

For more information, google SHWEC or “Wisconsin Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center,” and check your local library for “Worms Eat My Garbage” by Mary Appelhof.


Kenosha County UW-Extension LogoBarb Larson is horticulture educator for the Kenosha County University of Wisconsin Extension. She holds a master’s of science in horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If you have a plant or gardening question, email her at or call 262-857-1942.