Can you do vermicomposting in an apartment?

vermicompostingWhen I started growing food on my balcony, I soon realized that I wanted to try to make my own compost. There are several advantages to making your own compost. However, composting is not an easy task when you live in an apartment. After my failure at hot composting on my balcony, I turned to worm composting, or vermicomposting, to see if that would work well in an apartment.

You can read my article on hot composting here.

So I started reading and learning a bit about vermicomposting, and I decided that I wanted to participate in a crash course where I would also get my starter batch of worms and make the buckets I needed. Where I live, in Oslo (Norway), I couldn’t find any such courses. It took over half a year of searching before I came across the type of course I needed.

I finally found a course held by Siri Mittet the founder of Gruten in Oslo. She holds several courses, including the one I signed up for. The course was very informative and we soon got around to making our buckets – much in the same way as I made my buckets for the warm composting. We drilled holes in the bottom, around the top edge and in the lid of one bucket. Then we placed this bucket in another one, with no holes to collect the worm castings.

We placed tore up newspaper strips in the bottom of our buckets and sprayed slightly with water. Then we got a handful of worms with compost each from Siri’s own bucket. Then we covered the worms with more newspaper strips. And – voila!

The worms we received are called red wigglers. These are very common in vermicomposting systems. You can also use other worms, but these are specialized in eating decomposing material. So they do a brilliant job at composting. They are also very light sensitive, so they want to stay in the dark space of their bucket. That means they don’t take off and leave the bucket to investigate their surroundings. If you expose them to light by taking them out of the pile they will wriggle, twist and turn to get out of the light. That’s probably why they got their name too.

It takes a while for the worms to acclimatise after they have been moved into a new bucket, and they don’t do much eating or anything the first few weeks in their new home. After a few days in the bucket under my kitchen table, I feed them a chopped up banana peel and a tea bag. A few days went by and I looked in the bucket again and could not see a single worm. The banana peel still laying there – to my eyes untouched.

I remembered Siri’s reassurance that patients is required in the beginning, so I let the worms in peace. Yet another week went by, and then another one. Still no action in the bucket. Half way through the third week the banana peel was more or less gone and I added some more carrot peels and broccoli stalks. The next time I peeked in, the vegetables were still there and I started to wonder if the worms had all died. So I dug a bit to see if they were there – and they were.

So, yet again, patients and more patients! One of these worms can eat about its own weight per day when the bucket is up and running. But with just one bucket in the kitchen I will not be able to compost large amounts of scraps. Still, I can create some compost this way. I don’t have any problems with bad odour from the bucket or any other problems with this system. So for the time being, I will continue composting in this way. But at the same time I will look further for a system where I can compost larger amounts of scraps too as I really would like to be able to compost most of my kitchen waste.

Learn how to grow vegetables on your balcony.


  1. Thank you very much for your article. Cool to learn people who do vermicomposting at home! Hopefully you succeeded well further with your composter. I started my first composter 4 months ago also by drilling bucket myself and taking vorms from my friend – and, yes, same thing with the need to be patient and give worms time and opportunity to get familiar with “new home” and start reproduction. As vegetarian I have a huge amount of organic peels and wanted worms to do everything quickly and eat a lot, so there were some problems at first 🙂 Finally my method is to chop and freeze all peels and organic waste by a 1-litre can – for one week there’s collected about 5-6 cans – before feeding worms once a week to take all the cans out of fridge and get them defrosted and of a room’s temperature, so peels become much softer and give out liquid better. Then I put all this organic to composter, trying to bury it a bit – yes, all these 5-6 litres at once – as I have a big composter of total volume 76 litres. And then I do not bother the worms for a next wk. One problem here – with self-made composter it’s needed to take out the inner bucket and remove worms’ liquid castings from external bucket and my huge composter is too heavy now. So recently I have made a new smaller one and move part of worms there – I plan to feed further only the small composter and leave the large composter to mature until the summer – without new “food” the worms in large composter should eat all remainings of organic and get a better homogeneous compost which I hope to use at a summer-garden in 2 months, while I feed worms in the new composter. Good luck to all us, worms-“farmers” 🙂

  2. I was gratified to read of your attempt at apartment-restricted vermicomposting. I, too, am giving it a go. But, I am having difficulty to find actual composting worms (e.g., eisenia fetida – a.k.a., red wrigglers) here in Norway (Oslo), for small-scale, private use. Do you have any insight on where I may obtain a small quantity?

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