Essential Living Worm Composter Review
Worm composting is a thing, and we tried it—inside the house
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Composting is a great way to recycle organic material, like leftover food scraps, and use it to fertilize the soil in your garden or elsewhere in your yard. One way to speed up the composting process—and enrich the soil with even more nutrients—is to add worms. Yes, worms.
I spent nearly two months worm composting in my apartment using the Essential Living Worm Composter. The idea of having one-pound of worms wiggling around in a bin only a few feet from my plants, kitchen, and bedroom made me squirm. Here's my experience testing a worm composting bin.
What is worm composting?
Worm composting is the use of worms to break down organic matter like food scraps into nutrient-rich soil. According to Cornell, “worms eat food scraps, which become compost as they pass through the worm's body.” The specific compost created is called vermicompost, which boosts nutrients within the soil to support young plants for a large, bountiful crop.
When it comes to worms, certain types work better than others. The EPA recommends red wriggers because they’ll break your scraps down quickly. I used Uncle Jim’s Red Wrigglers, which comes with 250 worms.
Where to set up a worm composter?
Setting up the worm composting bin required several steps. Putting together the bin took me about 10 minutes (just insert the legs and build the bin) and I found the instructions easy to follow.
The bin should be placed in a cool, dark area (which can be hard if you live in a small apartment like me). I settled on the space between the kitchen and living room—the best "cool and dark" spot in my space. The bin fits right into my routine, and having it near the kitchen made it easy to compost my kitchen scraps. I decided against placing the bin in my closet because I was worried about bad smells from the food scraps. I also found that having it in a central location made it easier for me to monitor the progress.
How to set up a worm composter
Next up was adding the soil and preparing the bin for the worms. I soaked the two pucks of coir in 2 liters of water, per the instructions. As the coir absorbed the water, I lined the middle tray of the bin—dubbed the working bin—with two sheets of newspaper to prevent the soil from falling through the drainage holes but still allow excess liquid to drain. I then fluffed up the coir and water mixture until it resembled soil and added the provided mixture of shredded newsprint.
I poured the soil mixture into the working bin evenly and then added one pound of worms. The worms looked small and thin, but the package ensured that they’d get larger once they soaked up some water and began to eat. I put the lids back on and left the worms for about 24 hours before adding in food scraps and other compostable materials.
What we like
A worm composting bin makes the process easy
Overall, using the worm composter was easy, but there was a bit of a learning curve at the start. The bin is sturdy, even when full of dirt and worms, and sealed tight. Despite my initial reservations, there is no way these worms are escaping.
A day after adding the worms, I layered the soil with food scraps like onion skins, half a butternut squash, banana peels, and carrots, but it wasn't tall enough. The soil and worms need to be able to reach the holes in the bin layer on top of the working bin, so I moved the soil toward the center. I made a mound shape (rather than a flat layer) to help the worms reach the food. (In addition to fruits and veggies, I also added eggshells, toilet paper rolls, and coffee grounds to the compost mixture.)
By Day 3, the worms were hard at work. A peek inside my compost bin showed that the top layer, where the food was, was wet and smelled like moldy food. In the middle layer, known as the working bin, my worms looked larger and appeared a brighter pink color—two signs things are going according to plan. The bottom layer of the bin remained empty (aside from a few drops of liquid), but not enough to require me to drain it.
The worms do (most) of the work
The worms chowed down on most of my compost goodness. I checked on the bin every few days and continued to add compostable materials from my kitchen scraps. As the days went by, the working bin continued to fill with freshly-composted soil and began emitting an earthy fragrance. Worm composting was working.
There was more soil and compost in the bin than when I started, but the worms didn't love everything I fed them. They left behind eggshells, butternut squash (including the skin), toilet paper rolls, and avocado skins. (Avocados and eggshells can be more challenging to break down than other items.)
My favorite part about the Essential Living Composter was that it didn’t require me to do much at all. Once I added the worms and the organic materials, the worms did most of the work. Other types of composting need more intervention, whether it be turning the bin, mixing the materials, keeping a balance of green and brown materials, or emptying the bin frequently.
You can use the nutrient-rich compost to give your soil a boost
Now that my compost was ready for use, I drained the liquid from the bottom bin. I moved the compost bin onto my balcony, making it easy to move the compost mixture into a bin or mix with soil for repotting plants and starting seedlings. The compost the worms created was rich and fluffy.
What I didn’t like about the Essential Living Worm Composter
Worm composting can be smelly
Adding food scraps to the compost bin created a funky odor in my apartment, despite the bin being completely sealed. On several occasions, I opened my apartment windows to let in the fresh air.
I’m not sure if it was the temperature inside of the bin or the types of foods I added, but the odor was one of my chief complaints about the worm composter. Though the smell wasn’t pungent, it did get stronger any time I opened the lid. If you're sensitive to smell, worm composting might not be for you.
The bin is too small
The working bin tray was large enough for the coir mix and worms, but I needed more space to put compostable materials. I eat a vegetarian diet and try to compost anything that can be composted before other recycling formats, so the bin was a little small for my purposes.
The instructions are lacking a few key composting details
The instructions aren’t entirely clear about how to restart the composting process after the worms break down your scraps. The directions say you can fill the upper tray again and the worms will migrate and begin to break the food down, but I would assume you’d need to remove some soil to make room in the working bin and to use the compost you’ve created.
Should you buy it?
Yes, this worm compost bin works great for indoor composting.
Having an indoor composter was convenient for me because I don’t have outdoor space for a large compost bin and it was easy to toss scraps into the top layer of the bin while cooking. If you are in a similar situation, the worm composter may be an effective way for you to turn your food scraps into compost with minimal effort.
However, if you have outdoor space for a larger bin and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then you may find that traditional composting is just as fruitful.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.