Apartment dwellers who have potted plants or window herb gardens often long for a simple, low-maintenance way to convert vegetable waste into nutrient-dense compost. Although you may not have enough room to build a compost heap, you can compost vegetable waste in a space as small as a 1-foot-by-1-foot plastic bin with the help of Eisenia fetida, a native red worm species with a hearty appetite for decomposing fruit and vegetable waste. Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture recommends that you allow at least 10 weeks for the worms to produce finished compost.
Weigh your vegetable and fruit waste for one week to determine the bin size you'll need for your red worms; allow 1 square foot of space for each pound of weekly food waste. For example, if you produce 2 pounds of vegetable and fruit waste in one week, then you'll want a bin that measures approximately 1 foot by 1 foot by 2 feet. Select a plastic bin with sides that measure approximately 12 inches tall.
Drill 10 to 12 evenly spaced 3/8-inch holes in the bottom of your plastic worm bin so excess liquid can drain easily from the bin. Drill two rowa of 3/8-inch holes around the top circumference of the bin to provide adequate air flow. Locate the top rows approximately 1 inch apart, with the individual holes in each row 1 to 2 inches apart.
Spread shredded newspaper and dead leaves in the bottom ¾ of the plastic bin, dampening it with water until it's about the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Put your red worms in the bin--approximately 1 pound of worms for every 3 pounds of weekly food scraps--and cover the bin loosely with the plastic lid or a large piece of cardboard.
Store your worm bin in a warm, out-of-the-way location in your home. Make sure the bin remains between 55 and 77 degrees F for maximum composting activity, as recommended by Loren Nancarrow, coauthor of "The Worm Book."
Bury vegetable and fruit waste such as potato peels, carrot scrapings, old green beans and banana peels, beneath about 3 inches of the bedding once weekly to feed the worms. Add the food in a different section of the bin each time you feed the worms to prevent food buildup--and possible odors--over time. Sprinkle several handfuls of plain topsoil on top of the bedding once every two to four weeks to give the worms grit, which helps them process the vegetable waste more quickly.
Leave the worms in the bin for approximately 10 weeks or until the bin contents begin to resemble clumpy dirt. Shove the clumpy bedding to one side of the bin and add fresh bedding for the worms. Wait one to two days before scooping out the composted material with a hand trowel to allow the worms time to migrate to the new bedding.