Clean and Easy Food Waste Composting

Black Gold2Commercial organic compost is expensive. Kitchen scraps are free! And combined with red wiggler worms they create a rich additive for most backyard vegetable gardens. Seattle’s native soil is primarily clay, so adding organic matter is essential.

We started composting with a plastic cone offered by the city. It was buried in the ground and seemed to do the job—until rats discovered the bounty and chewed through. We wanted the compost, but certainly not the rats.

My hubby decided to try a method he’d read about. We purchased two 30-gallon, galvanized metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids. Then he drilled a series of half-inch holes in the cans—spaced about six inches apart—stopping six inches from the top. A few holes were added to the lid to allow rain to enter and keep the mixture damp.

Compost BinsWe buried the cans in the dirt just outside our vegetable plot—leaving a few inches above ground to allow for easy access. Our neighbor provided a quart of worms from his bin as a starter. We put that in one can and added kitchen scraps: coffee grounds, carrot tops and peelings, potato skins, lettuce cores, stale bread, leftover pasta…anything other than meat and citrus. The worms quickly went to work eating, digesting and transforming it all into fine, black compost.

When the first can was full, we shoveled a bit into the second to get that started. By the time it too was full, its predecessor was ready to give up its load to our garden.

Working WormsThe heavy steel kept the rats and odors out, while the holes allow the worms to travel back and forth between our garden and the can if it gets too hot. When we turn the veggie beds, we see the worms have multiplied a thousand-fold and spread throughout the yard, enriching that soil as well. But they always come back for dinner!