Although I’ve done some writing about vermicomposting, I’ve yet to set up a worm composter of my own. It’s actually not due to the fact that I’m squeamish about worms – because I really, really am (just ask my husband, my Dad, and my brother, all of whom have had to bait my fishing hooks over the years). I know with a properly designed bin, there is absolutely no way the little guys can get out, and as for feeding and harvesting time, I can always wear gloves. No, the reason I haven’t yet set up a vermicomposter is that I’ve been worried about space. Y’see, I thought I would need a really large bin, containing hundreds and hundreds of worms, to get any sort of results – and while it is true that the larger the operation, the more waste you can compost, you can also start out small. (You can always add more bins later if you want to, or purchase a commercial stacking system. Or you can use a small vermicomposter in conjuction with a traditional compost pile in the yard).
So, voilà! Here is my wormery:
My bins are only 5 gallons. Of course, I won’t be able to give my worms very much food every week – only a scant cupful, but as a start, that’s good enough for me. As recommended, I will freeze the food to stave off the horrible prospect of fruit flies (of course, it is necessary to return the food to room temperature before feeding! Cold food=unhappy worms).
I’m using a two-bin system so that the lower bin can capture any leachate from the upper bin; also, a two-bin system will presumably offer more aeration. Holes have been drilled into the base of the upper bin, as well as in the lid, and the sides of the upper bin where they are exposed above the lower bin. (My husband came up with a “stilt” design, using small pieces of wood, to prop the upper bin inside the lower bin, but if you would prefer, you can put a rock or a brick or something in the lower bin to raise the upper bin. Or you can buy two different sizes of bins – just make sure the upper bin is the larger one!).
Now, for the worms…these are red worms, also known as red wigglers (Eisenia foetida). Don’t use regular earthworms from your garden, or dew worms, as they live deep in the soil, and cannot adapt to life in a bin. My bin contains a combination of shredded newspaper and cardboard egg cartons that will serve as bedding, and there’s about a 1/2 cup of food in there, as well as some moistened potting soil and a handful of crushed egg shells. Now I’ll just set my wriggly tenants inside, covering them gently with a little soil and bedding. Hopefully, they’ll hunker down and get right to work!
Check out the following link for more information on how to set up and maintain a worm composter: http://www.greencalgary.org/images/uploads/Vermicomposting_GC.pdf.
And, in case you missed it, check out my post about bokashi fermentation, another – and way less “wormy” – method to dispose of food wastes. I welcome any comments on the worm vs. bokashi systems: which works better for you? Or do you use the triple-threat of vermicomposting, bokashi, and traditional composting?