Many would-be composters interested in reducing the amount of organic waste that they send to landfills often assume that they need fresh-cut grass or yard waste to process compost. Although grass is a prime source of nitrogen for traditional composting, you can easily compost without it by using worms. According to Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture, red worms typically convert food scraps and newspaper bedding into nutrient-dense humus in as little as 10 weeks. This worm bin provides enough room to compost up to four pounds of food waste each week; create extra bins if your household produces more waste.
Purchase a plastic bin measuring approximately 2 feet by 2 feet. Make sure the bin is no more than about 10 to 12 inches tall. Drill 10 to 12 ¼-inch, evenly spaced drainage holes in the bottom of the bin. Drill a double row of 20 to 25 ventilation holes along the top edge of the bin; locate the rows about one inch apart, with the top row approximately one inch from the top edge of the bin.
Fill the plastic bin three-quarters full of finely shredded newspaper. Spray the newspaper bedding with a water-filled spray bottle until it is about as damp as a wrung-out sponge to provide the worms with enough moisture to keep their bodies from drying out. Gently dump three-quarters to one pound of red worms (approximately 750 to 1,000 individual worms) into the bedding, and cover the bin loosely with a sheet of cardboard.
Place the worm bin in a warm, dry area in your home, such as the basement or the garage. Hang a thermometer near the bin so you can monitor the temperature; according to Loren Nancarrow, co-author of "The Worm Farm," your red worms will process food most quickly between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and below 50 degrees Fahrenheit to minimize potential stress on your red worm population.
Bury food scraps beneath approximately three inches of bedding once or twice each week. Use mild foods, such as banana peels, melons, potato peels and stale bread. Avoid smelly foods, like meat and milk products, since they take longer to decompose and tend to attract pests. Deposit the waste in different areas of the bin each time you feed your worms to minimize food buildup.
Monitor the moisture level of the bin each time you feed your worms. Avoid letting the bin get too moist, as that can lead to anaerobic decomposition, which creates odor problems and attracts pests. Aim to keep the bedding about as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
Look for signs of finished compost after approximately 10 weeks of feeding your worms; according to Nancarrow, the bedding should resemble dirt, with a brown, clumpy appearance. Scoop finished compost to one side of the bin and add fresh bedding to the empty side. Give the worms 24 to 48 hours to move to the new bedding before you scoop out the mature compost. Use a trowel and check each scoop to ensure that you're not removing worms from the bin.