Worm Composting at the Office: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!

About 25 years ago, I was working in an office outside my home. There was no compost bin and yet, plenty of things that could be composted. So, I discreetly started a worm composting bin under my desk. This actually worked wonderfully! 

I used red wriggler worms (Eisenia fetida), more heat resistant than garden worms, and made my bin from a used Rubbermaid container. I fed the earthworms scraps of food from my lunch (even orange peels, which they’re said not to like, but my worms loved them!), coffee grounds from the office coffee machine, crabapples from the tree outside and yellowed leaves from the numerous office plants that I took care of. Even old potting soil. I used shredded paper as bedding for the worms: easy enough to do, as there was an office shredder. 

Every few months, I’d come in on a weekend when no one was around and to a rough triage, separating the worms from the compost as best I could, then adding new bedding to the bin, bringing the compost home to my garden. I can tell you: plants love worm compost! It’s just the best!

A Secret Not Well Enough Kept

Worm composting bin hiding in plain sight. Photo:

Of course, I kept this activity secret. I’m pretty sure if everybody knew, somebody would be sure to complain. And the bin was easy enough to hide: it looked just like the kind of storage container you might have kept files in. I’m sure others in the building had similar storage boxes, although probably wormless.

This went on for about two years. I’m sure I could have kept it up much longer, but… 

I then managed to negotiate a deal whereby I would be able to work from home. The office was jammed and having one employee less taking up space was seen as a blessing. And I’ve always done best working from home anyway: you get so much more work done! 

There was just one problem.

You see, the only other person in the world who knew about my worm compost bin was my wife. I’d talked to her briefly about it, but let’s just say she isn’t much into creepy crawlies and showed little enthusiasm for the project. In fact, I figured she’d forgotten all about it.

My wife was less than overjoyed at the idea of my bringing worms home with me. Ill.: &, montage:

However, when I told her I would be working from home, the first thing she said, before even congratulating me on negotiating the work-from-home deal, was “Fine, but there is no way in hell you’re bringing those disgusting worms home with you!” I tried to negotiate, promising to keep them out of sight in the basement, but to no avail. She wasn’t going to budge on this one. 

I easily found a new home for my worms with a friend from my community garden. She died a few years ago, but I’d guess her daughter, a serious composter herself, probably has them now. 

Deep Regrets

It’s a shame that I can’t worm compost anymore, as I have lots of space for a worm compost bin or two under my desk. And I repeat, worm compost is just the best additive to any garden soil. But my wife is still adamant: no worms are allowed in the house. 

The moral of this story is never tell your spouse anything, at least, not if worms are involved.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

5 comments on “Worm Composting at the Office: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!

  1. how easy is it to start one? you literally just put worms, paper, and food in a closed bin?

    • Pretty much, yes. You need to pierce the bottom and put a try underneath to catch excess moisture (you can then use to water plants).

  2. Laughing… you should have kept it a secret.

  3. Worms are not native to America and be careful what worms you let out into the environment they can destroy things lookit up

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