These will not be pretty photos, consider yourself warned.
I have been lusting over high-end vermicomposters for months now; but the price tag and shipping costs leave me less than enthusiastic. What I really want is something simple that can house red wiggler worms – not a crazy worm condo. The rich castings that these red wigglers generate will supplement my own compost, which is a frozen heap for 5 months of the year.
The soil I have inherited in my garden is awful. Completely devoid of organic matter, rocky beyond belief and left bare without anything to anchor it from blowing away or to provide a home for good micro-organisms. I have spent a fortune on compost in the past two years. No more. I will now be producing my own top quality worm castings to boost the nutrients in my soil and save some money in the process. Of course, this involves a little DIY.
First I found a local company online that sells red wiggler worms. The site also offers lots of information about the benefits of vermicomposting and sells their own pre-fabricated bins for those looking for a one-stop shop. http://cathyscomposters.com
The next step was to create a simple worm bin using a plastic storage container I could easily modify. Depending on the size of your bin and your gardens’ needs you might want to begin with either a half-pound or full pound of worms. I went with a half-pound as my garden is small and the worms also breed quickly. The bin needs to be opaque as red wigglers do not like light. Drill holes into the sides and bottom for air and place old newspapers or a plastic boot tray underneath to allow moisture to escape. If the worms don’t have enough oxygen they will begin to slither out of every hole searching for more air – a very disturbing sight – so make sure to put at least a dozen holes evenly spaced throughout the bottom and around the sides.
Their bedding consists of shredded newspapers; any paper other than glossy pages will do. Spray this with water until slightly moist but not dripping wet and throw a handful of potting soil in to get things started. The worms eat their bedding as well as the food so you may need to add more paper every few months. Put roughly a cup of kitchen scraps under the bedding in one corner of the bin. Any vegetable and food scraps will do but avoid too much citrus or coffee grounds because of their acidity and do not put in dairy or meat (as you would with any compost). Put the cover back on the bin and let the worms do their thing. Once a week check to see how much food the worms have eaten, you’ll eventually get to know how long it takes them to digest what you give them. Cutting the scraps into small pieces will speed up the process if things are moving too slowly. When the scraps get low add more to another corner of the bin, constantly rotating which corner the food goes in. The worm bin does not produce any odour if you give them a chance to eat all their food before adding more.
When you’re ready to start collecting some of the castings for your plants move all the bedding to one side of the bin and give the worms a day to migrate over. Worms hate the light and will move quickly to burrow under. You can then scoop up this black gold and apply directly around plants, mix with compost or soil or dilute with water to use in the garden. How much and how often you harvest will depend on the size of the bin and how many worms you house in it. Remember to keep your worms in a room temperature environment such as basement or heated garage or outdoors in a sheltered area when the weather is mild. They will stop producing if they get too hot or cold.
Vermicomposters are great for someone without an outdoor space large enough for a compost bin or who doesn’t produce enough vegetable waste to create a steady supply of compost. It not only provides you with the ideal organic matter for your soil but also reduces your garbage output as the worms do the recycling for you. There is no end of information online regarding vermicomposting if you’re considering this organic and economical way of improving your garden soil.