Sunday, March 25, 2012

The joy of vermi-composting!

Last year I decided I was going to start vermicomposting, or worm composting.  So I did all this research, went out an bought my bin and that was it.  I never got around to buying the worms.  So my bin sat for a year, collecting my recycling, I'm sure living a sad existence because it was not contributing to the greater good of the world.  Then last week I decided to get off my ass and just buy them.  A few days later my box arrived and I realized I needed to hurry up and set up my bin! 

Here are some questions you might be asking yourself if you are wondering what in the world is she going to do with worms? 

What is worm composting?
Worm composting is using worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material into a valuable soil amendment called vermicompost, or worm compost. Worms eat food scraps, and basically poop it out in what is called "castings".  

Why compost? 
There are several beneifts to vermi-composting, but the two main reasons for my doing it are so the food doesn't end up in the landfill and so I can use the castings in my garden.  I don't have the space for a compost pile, so vermi-composting fits my apartment living.  The castings are rich in tons of nutrients and are a great addition for organic gardens.  

What type of worms do you use? 
Red wigglers and brown nosed worms work the best, do not use regular earth worms.  I decided to go with red wigglers.

How do you set up the box? 
1. Buy a big plastic tote. I bought an 18 gallon tote. 

2. Drill holes in the sides, bottom, and top.  This is not only for ventilation, but for drainage.  Your worms will produce this fabulous "tea" that can be put in the garden as well. 
But what when you are drilling in the top, you don't bust through. Whoops! 
3. Add several inches of newspaper and cardboard. This is the bedding for the worms.  I would recommend taking several days to shred all this paper, my wrists started to hurt while ripping cardboard.  Not the funnest part of the process. 
 4.  Wet the cardboard.  You do not want it dripping wet as this will drown your worms, but a good bit of moisture is ideal.  I set my bin in the shower and let it soak, you could also pour water into it.  (my picture below is after I added some dirt and food).
 5. Add a bit of dirt.  I've read several places that worms need "grit" to help digest.  You can do this in the form of coffee grounds or dirt. I'm not a coffee drinker so dirt it was for me.
  6. Add a bit of food. Do a small amount so your worms adapt to their new home, they are already in hyper-shock from their journey to you.  They will not start eating everything right away and if you add too much, then you have a fruit  fly problem which is no bueno.   You can feed them almost any fruit and veggie, however too much acid is not good, so limit the citrus.  Also never feed them dairy or meat products, although eggshells are good.  You will start to see what your worms like best by how fast they are eating. They got a bit of kale and carrot leftover from my juicer here. 
7. Add the worms! When you add them, they will be all small and shriveled and you'll wonder if you got ripped off, but the worms are there. They just haven't been feed in a couple of days so they are a bit dehydrated.  

8.  Sprinkle a bit of water on the worm pile, but don't overdo it. Put the lid on and leave your bin in a cool place.  Check on your worms everyday to make sure they are not drying out.  You will want to add about a pound of food everyday once they get adjusted which should take several days.  More on taking care of your worms later. You want to make sure you put another bin underneath the worms to catch the tea later. I had a different size tote laying around and it fit perfectly! 


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