A Worm Bin Report

 

Worm castings in a two-month-old worm bin

It’s been a few months since my red wigglers got cozy in their new digs, so I thought it’d be a good time for an update on how the worm bin composting system is working out.

Overall, it’s going really well — I harvested my first batch of worm castings from the bin last weekend, and I was a bit surprised to discover just how fast worms will eat our kitchen scraps — I think I got maybe two pounds out of the bin in just a two-month span, and I’ve already used most of it!

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my short two months of managing a worm bin:

  • Worms eat a lot. And I mean a lot — a pound of worms can consume half a pound of food in a day. And if you don’t provide enough food for them, they will either start to die off try to crawl out of the bin in search for more food. I’ve started aiming for three pounds per week — an easy way to do this is to keep excess kitchen scraps in the freezer until you’re ready to feed them.
  • Leaves don’t make great bedding unless they’re finely chopped — otherwise they’ll clump together, creating an unideal environment for the worms and taking much longer to break down. Worms breathe through their skin, and if the leaves get too slimy, the worms might have a hard time breathing and could die.
  • Contrary to popular belief, you can add citrus to a worm bin — but it’s all about moderation. It’s important that it’s small quantities and that it’s chopped up. (I eat a lot of oranges, so the majority of the peels go into our compost pile rather than the worm bin, but sometimes a bit of peel finds its way to the worms. They don’t seem to mind.)
  • You learn pretty quickly what your red wigglers like and don’t like to eat — for example, mine love banana peels, coffee grounds, and tea leaves, but they don’t like potato peels.

I’ve gotten in the habit of checking on my bin twice a day — once in the morning when I take the dogs out, and once in the evening when I get home from work. This sounds like a lot of work, but I keep the bin on our deck, and all I have to do is lift the lid as I’m passing by and take a quick peek to make sure the bedding is still moist and that the worms aren’t trying to escape the bin. It usually doesn’t take more than a couple seconds.

Overall it’s not a lot of work to maintain the bin and its population — the most work I’ve put into it was removing the castings and sorting out the worms (which took a few hours), but I plan on making a sifter soon, so it should be a much easier process in the future. It’s pretty rewarding knowing that I’ve kept a lot of waste out of the landfill and in return am left with a nice, rich, organic fertilizer. My garden is going to be very happy!

Have you ever tried vermicomposting? If you haven’t but are interested, I can’t say enough about the book Worms Eat My GarbageIt’s a great resource for getting started and troubleshooting any issues you might have later on. If you do decide to try your hand at vermicomposting, I’d love to hear all about your setup — there are so many different options out there.

Happy composting!

The Red Wigglers Have Arrived!

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If you know me in real life (outside the Internet), then you’ll know I’ve been talking about my worm bin nonstop for the past couple weeks. Composting is something I’ve become rather passionate about over the last year or so, and after mulling it over for a while (and devouring Mary Appelhof’s Worms Eat My Garbage), I decided it was finally time to take the plunge into vermicomposting.

But, why?

Well, many reasons. Namely, our current compost setup is an open pile, and it’s harder to manage in the winter. I don’t really like going out in the rain (in the dark, after work) to bury the compost and turn the pile, and so the compost ends up piling up in containers in our kitchen. Also, an open pile can attract pests (which is why I always bury the compost, but it’s still something that nags in the back of my mind).

So last weekend I got to work assembling a worm bin. I’ve lugged these two Rubbermaid bins around for years — dorm room after dorm room, apartment to apartment, and now our first house — that I thought it was time to use them for something more than storing miscellaneous things.

The blue bin is 20 gallons, and the lower one is 18, so the blue one nests snugly inside the gray one, keeping it slightly elevated off the ground. In the blue one, I drilled holes around the rim, in the lid, and some in the bottom for drainage. The gray bin will collect whatever moisture accumulates.

And the best part… it cost $0 to make. The only thing I paid for was the worms, which I ordered through Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. I ordered a pound of red wigglers, which is about 1,000 composting worms. It seems like a lot, but the bag was surprisingly not that big when it arrived!

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I originally set the bin on our back porch, where it would be easily accessible and in a sheltered location. But with the temperature getting low at night, I worried about the worms dying, so the bin is now in one of our spare bedrooms until outside temperatures begin to warm up.

I’m having a hard time not checking on the worms every day just because I’m so excited, but I’m trying my best to leave them alone so they can get settled — and get to work turning our kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich worm castings for my garden. Hooray for vermicomposting!