Kitchen Compost Bin Minus The Worms

Posted on Feb 10 2010 - 5:16am by Mike Lieberman

I started a kitchen compost bin since I’m done with worm composting.

Gabriel Withington (@IntegroDesign) gave me a great idea. He said to compost in buckets similar to the
the aerobic compost bin that I built.

The main difference is that there is no need to drill holes to aerate the compost. If you leave enough room, you can shake it up to aerate. If it gets too moist, drain off the liquid and use as fertilizer. Brilliant!

Here’s what I put in the bin in order:

  • Fresh compost (b)
  • Old potting soil (b)
  • Shredded newspaper (b)
  • Old worm compost bin (b/g)
  • Coffee grinds and tea bags (g)

(b) indicates browns
(g) indicate greens

I layered them in the bin in the order above. Some more finished compost and newspaper was laid on top of the coffee grinds and tea bags.

When composting you want a balance of browns and greens. If you have too many greens, it will smell horribly. Trust me. has a good list of browns and greens to add to your compost bin.

If this works out as well, I’ll be starting a lot more of them in my kitchen.

What are your thoughts on composting this way?


54 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. truecrimson February 10, 2010 at 7:46 am -

    Very cool, and simpler than the previous design. We will probably try one of these.

  2. ShawnaCoronado February 10, 2010 at 7:57 am -

    You kill me! Poor worms…

  3. Mike Lieberman February 10, 2010 at 8:07 am -

    Yes. Much easier. I want to make like a million like this. That way I'll have plenty of compost. I def generate enough food scraps to make it.

  4. Mike Lieberman February 10, 2010 at 8:08 am -

    Seriously. I killed about a thousand worms. Easily.

  5. Elena February 10, 2010 at 9:02 am -

    What I want to know is how your roommate puts up with this ;)?

  6. Mike Lieberman February 10, 2010 at 9:16 am -

    Haha. As long as their is no smell, he is good.

  7. jennypeterson February 10, 2010 at 9:34 am -

    So aside from the coffee grounds and tea bags, you're not adding any kitchen scraps? That's what I like to recycle the most! I generate a ton of peelings, stems and cores.

  8. Mike Lieberman February 10, 2010 at 9:36 am -

    When I started the bin, I was doing a 10-day cleanse, so I didn't have any kitchen scraps. Just the coffee grinds from my roommate. I'll now have plenty of kitchen scraps to add to it.

  9. Meena817 February 10, 2010 at 10:18 am -

    This is a great idea! Thanks for sharing it. I've always been compost shy as I didn't want to deal with worms but this shows me a way to do it without creepy crawlers. Do you add the whole tea bags or do you take the leaves out of the bags. I currently just toss the grinds and egg shells in my garden but never know what to do with the bags.

  10. Mike Lieberman February 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm -

    Thanks. I toss in the whole tea bags. I need to get more containers and start more of these up.

  11. Gabriel Withington February 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm -

    Thanks for the mention and I'm really excited to see how this turns out.

    The origin of the idea came from this article (…) which I came across a while back. What they describe is certainly overkill and I think your method will be successful with minimal issues. A friend of mine was doing this in 5 gallon buckets mixing his compost with hand shredded newspaper with good success (no soil or finished compost). He said the big issue was managing the moisture (draining and adding extra paper will likely help). He also advocates leaving the buckets uncovered to let the excess water evaporate.

    I have had the space to compost outside until recently so I'm only just exploring this method now. I don't need to be successful (I live in an apartment but my farm is about a mile away and if things get stinky I can just dump it there) so my current efforts are in finding the minimum effort to make this workable. What that means now is I dump my food scraps in a bucket with the occasional toilet paper roll or used paper towel. No problems so far (a couple weeks in).

    I've already filled a 5 gallon bucket and put a pile of coffee grounds on top. I planted tomatoes, basil and cilantro into the grounds (all seeds) and mulched over it with some hand ripped newspaper. I keep going back and forth between “of course it'll work” and “there's no way this won't fail miserably”. We shall see. Because I didn't add much in the way of low nitrogen carbon sources and I won't be shaking it, I might need to constantly add newspaper as mulch and throw some worms in to keep things mixed. And yes, I do love irony.

  12. GlobalPatriot February 12, 2010 at 8:32 pm -

    I've never been a fan of worms indoors, so this is a method worth trying, as long as the balance is right and there is no smell!

  13. Mike Lieberman February 13, 2010 at 9:37 am -

    Trust me I don't want the smell either. I've had that problem before and it was horrendous. With this I'm not planning on opening it for a while. I'm hoping for a quicker decomposition and being able to produce more.

  14. Zoe February 17, 2010 at 10:55 am -

    Great tips, thanks…well I just started mine and wanted to share a tip for reducing possible odours…I took a little muslin drawstring bag (but a clean ole tight/stocking would do too, even a sock), fill it with Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda (deodorizes and draws whiffs), I added a few drops of lemon essential oil, but lemon juice would be ok too…and then tied it to the little hole on mi clip lid (not sure how this would work if the lid has no hole) and popped it inside, closed down the lid…it does mean I can only lift the lid at one side, but hey ho, am happy with the whiff reducer :0)

  15. Mike Lieberman February 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm -

    Thanks for the tip Zoe. This sounds like it would work great for regular aerobic composting bins. Since this is sealed, I'm hoping for odors not to be an issue.

  16. Pure2raw twins February 19, 2010 at 12:36 pm -

    Awesome! Question for you – can you start the kitchen compost without having old compost to start it? Can you just use regular potting soil, newspaper and food scraps to start? You have inspired us to give this a try.

  17. Mike Lieberman February 19, 2010 at 3:16 pm -

    Absolutely. You should be able to. Make sure you shred up the newspaper nice and fine. Do it and lemme know how it goes.

  18. Pure2raw twins February 19, 2010 at 8:36 pm -

    Awesome! Question for you – can you start the kitchen compost without having old compost to start it? Can you just use regular potting soil, newspaper and food scraps to start? You have inspired us to give this a try.

  19. Mike Lieberman February 19, 2010 at 11:16 pm -

    Absolutely. You should be able to. Make sure you shred up the newspaper nice and fine. Do it and lemme know how it goes.

  20. Meemsnyc June 17, 2010 at 7:05 pm -

    I decided to only compost outdoors from now on. It always attracts fruit flies for me.

  21. Anonymous October 14, 2010 at 5:57 am -

    Awesome new way to compost! I really enjoyed reading this. I recently published a piece called “4 Composting Options That Anyone Can Do!” at

    The next time I do something on composting, I might hit you up for a point of view.

    BTW- I stumbled ya + thumbs up’ed it =]

  22. Mike Lieberman October 14, 2010 at 2:02 pm -

    Sweet. Thanks. Feel free to hit me up with any questions. Appreciate the stumble.

  23. Arojit Kuet November 10, 2010 at 7:24 am -

    I have already waste money to buy plastic composite bin. In the end I found stainless steel compost bin. Its validity is more better over plastic bin. Here I found a new idea about composting its really a great idea.

  24. Josiewolf January 14, 2011 at 12:49 am -

    I love the simplicity of your post, it’s inspired me to give it a try. Most other posts look way too complicated.
    I have a few questions for you if it’s ok? I have just bought some Lowe’s buckets to start…
    1) If I put 2 buckets inside each other and drill holes in the bottom of the upper bucket, will excess liquid drain out of here, and if so, can it be used on pot plants?
    2) Also, I would prefer not to have to shake the bucket up for aeration as I am going to be away for a few days at a time each week. Would drilling small holes in the lid be good for getting air in? Does this then increase the chances of fruit flies?
    THanks very much, Josie

  25. Mike Lieberman January 14, 2011 at 2:15 am -

    1) You can put a bucket inside of another bucket. But you can also put the bucket with the compost in it on a tray. You can put something to raise it about 1″ off the tray to let it drain and aerate.

    2) I think the first answer applies for this as well.

  26. Josiewolf January 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm -

    Thanks very much for the quick reply.
    So from your answer, I guess there’s no need to put holes in the lid as the holes in the bottom will do for aeration as well as drainage?
    Since I’ve already bought the buckets I might just use them to sit inside of each other, rather than find a tray, but will consider the trays for further buckets.
    Love your posts on your balcony garden, by the way.
    One more question if it’s ok?
    I have heard many people say you shouldn’t put citrus in compost as it doesn’t break down as well. But I kind of figure that if the aim is to also cut down on landfill, then I might as well use the citrus and wait a bit longer for the compost to break down. Or am I missing something, is there something in citrus which will prevent the composting?
    Thanks very much again,

  27. Mike Lieberman January 15, 2011 at 5:25 am -

    If you put the containers within each other, then I’d drill holes around the sides of the container near the bottom to allow the compost to drain and breathe.

    I’ve heard the same about citrus as well. I’ve never experimented with it though.

    No more questions 😉

  28. josiewolf January 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm -

    Thanks very much…now more question 🙂

  29. Josiewolf January 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm -

    whoops I meant “no more questions”

  30. Jennifer February 13, 2011 at 7:43 pm -

    Nice! I’m totally gonna give this a try!

  31. Mike Lieberman February 14, 2011 at 2:57 am -

    Cool. Keeps me updated.

  32. Kari February 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm -

    I loved your idea, so simple and easy to do…I’ll give a try!!! thanks

  33. Mike Lieberman February 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm -

    Lemme know how it works out for you!

  34. Lindatrzybinski February 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm -

    Compost is black gold! I have five compost heaps/bins going at all times in my back yard and would definitely keep on composting if I moved to an apartment. I got one of my granddaughters sheet composting without her father knowing it as he said he wasn’t going to have a compost pile! That’s my girl! She also approached her school principal about composting/recycling school waste and they totally were not interested in even discussing it!

  35. Mike Lieberman February 24, 2011 at 6:34 pm -

    Nice. Yea the school’s are way to understaffed and funded to worry about composting.

  36. Sales March 12, 2011 at 3:20 am -

    You can also add poop of Rabbits. Those are great fertilizers for the plants!

  37. Ckindl March 13, 2011 at 11:41 pm -

    I just bought a compost bin and want to set it up on my brick patio in an urban area. Can’t lift the bricks to set it on bare soil. Will this be a problem?

  38. Mike Lieberman March 14, 2011 at 2:56 am -

    If I’m understand properly, it is necessary to have the compost bin a few inches off the ground to allow for airflow circulation below it. That is if the holes are on the bottom of the bin.

  39. Antntta April 5, 2011 at 8:01 pm -

    How long does the system take? What size of bin/bucket is too small to be effective?
    I am using two 12quart bins and finding I’m making much more kitchen scraps and brown-materials than I originally estimated. I do not want to use worms. Would you recommend getting a bigger bin or more same-sized bins? (the bins stay in my garage next to the recycle bin. I am also using a kitchen crock pot to hold my scraps)

    Thx for your advice!

  40. Mike Lieberman April 6, 2011 at 12:03 am -

    Nothing is too small. Whatever size you use, you want to still have a balance of greens and browns. Too many greens and it’s just gonna be sludge.

    Also the larger you have it, using this system, the more difficult it will be to shake.

    If you want to go big, you should likely either make or buy a larger bin or compost tumbler.

    Lemme know if you have any questions on them.

  41. Carol_chef April 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm -

    I have a 28-quart lidded container that I had put potting soil in. It was doing fine until I added some potting soil that had dried out.That was several months ago. I just opened it and there was gray mold on one end. I scooped out the molded part; can I add something to prevent future mold.

  42. Mike Lieberman April 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm -

    Have you been turning it?

  43. CJ June 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm -

    how do you know when the compost is ready? you mention that you are waiting for it to be ready several times throughout these posts. Is it ready when it looks like dirt thru and thru? or is it still chunky when it’s ready?
    simply put, what am I looking for in my compost bin?

  44. Mike Lieberman June 8, 2011 at 10:19 pm -

    It should be crumbly and smell like earth. That’s likely the best description. Shouldn’t be soaking wet, but be damp.

  45. Geena June 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm -

    Very informative and I have been hesitating to start another because I murdered my wrigglers also. Can I buy compost at a gardening center? I live near downtown Chicago in an apartment.

  46. Mike Lieberman June 30, 2011 at 12:08 am -

    I’m sure you can, but there aren’t any specific bagged compost brands that I can recommend though. You def wanna check what’s in the compost.

  47. Daphney Oliveira November 11, 2012 at 9:49 am -

    Hello! I’m looking forward into composting but I really don’t like touching worms! So I’m really excited to try this! This works out in the snow? Thanks! 😀

  48. Lark April 20, 2013 at 9:08 am -

    I have a full bucket of greens that have been sitting all winter. The bucket was originally an intermittent step I used on the way to my tumbler, but I moved and lost the tumbler. Is there a way to save this sludge? Can I mix it with browns at this point?

  49. Meena Sriram September 1, 2013 at 4:12 am -

    Awsum – The one that im looking for !

  50. MegGuest January 8, 2014 at 5:59 pm -

    Caught your informative article some months back. Can’t compost outdoors easily despite available land/space due to (1)bears and (2)very dry climate. I can, and do, ‘compost’ outdoors but only dry stuff + dirt and can’t keep it appropriately moist – takes ‘forever’. A disappointment.

    BUT when reading your article, I was inspired. I had on hand a slew of 5 gal plastic pails. I’d purchased them for gardening but in my location (higher altitude, semi-arid) the pails become brittle if not kept in shade so mostly I stacked them, empty, out of sun exposure. Their ‘uselessness’ a 2nd disappointment.

    Two disappointments solved by your article! I set up compost pails in my pantry, (contractor neighbor generously supplied lids for the pails, I’d not purchased lids.)

    Months later – I’m so impressed with results! I’ve now got excellent compost but am using it to ‘seed’ more pails. Next garden time, (May or so), I’ll have even more pails of excellent, dark and good smelling compost made of weeds, dirt, vegetable trimmings.

    I’ve recently purchased a paper shredder – intend to get more pails going using black/white paper, phone books, and also ‘non-glossy’ colored paper as the word is it’s fairly safe, nearly all ‘soy based inks’.

    Further plans – I can carry on with compost pails ‘outdoors’ in summer. My small lot has a old outhouse converted to a shed. I was going to re-build it as a small green house but it’s construction is not ideal for that. Then I thought of a ‘drying shed’ (i.e. with no windows is shady and ‘airy’) but it would need lots of work, including screening, to work well (and filled with apricots, might suffer a bear attack?) New inspiration – come above freezing temps – the shed is perfect for a place to stack compost pails!

    I’ve shared your post in the past, and will share again – wonderful – thank you!!

  51. Maria Kiser June 18, 2014 at 11:17 pm -

    I’m excited that I found this. We live in Oahu, military housing, so outdoor composting is a no go. I just purchased a 15 qt container to start one in the kitchen, under the sink, hopefully. I just have a small herb/fruit garden with tomato, basils, sage, mints, strawberries and spinach. They’re all looking pretty puny after having filled out nicely soon after planting (in pots). I’m hoping the compost will help. Since I don’t already have actual compost to add to the mix, will it hinder the production, if I just start with newspaper, coffee grounds, potting soil and some dying flowers poked from my beds?

  52. Margene sims March 24, 2018 at 5:22 am -

    curious to know how worms got into my composter that has always been in the garage. It is an enigma to me. anyone know?

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