Thursday, July 30, 2009

Worm Food

Ahhh, just finally harvested my first batch of vermipost. This tub was almost spilling over, but look how much room we have now! (With a good 3~5 lbs of fresh compost left over waiting to feed my plants.)

I started this bin about 4 months ago. And these guys (about one pound of red wigglers and their friends) have been steadily monching through all my veggie and coffee waste since—I'd estimate it to be about 3 lbs. a week. I haven't had any trouble with odor, a bit with flying insects...but mostly localized. And have kept it under my kitchen table just fine, even with my normally overly curious dog. Want to start your own? It's easy.

plastic bin (mine measures 12" x 16" x 9" deep)
1 lb red wigglers (available at these places)
old B/W newspapers, torn in strips (color inks are more toxic)
vegetable scraps, used coffee grounds, tea bags, etc. (avoid any fats, dairy, or meat)

Drill enough air holes all around the top and through the lid so the worms can breathe but can't crawl out (click on the second photo above to get a better view).

Toss in a couple handfuls of soil (just get some from your local park or backyard), then the worms. Cover with about 4 pages worth of newspaper strips. Dampen paper unless the soil is especially muddy.

Now whenever you have extra veg scraps, uncover the newspaper, throw in the scraps, then cover back with the newspaper. Even better, age the scraps for a week before adding to make it more readily digestible by the worms (instead of the flies).

Other species
After a while you may notice some other critters crawling around. Tiny (less than 1/8 inch long) white pot worms, little hard shiny brown mites, roly polies, fruit flies, and soldier flies. They all prove beneficial, feeding on different stages of the plant decay. You can use common remedies to catch the flies if they're a nuisance, but if not, they'll help speed up the composting.

You should also start to notice tiny yellowish, translucent pods. These are the worm babies, so yay, they're reproducing! A healthy colony of worms can double their population every two weeks.

Some common problems and remedies
  • Mold/mildew: feed less
  • Too liquid: drain, add more newspaper, air out by leaving lid ajar, or drill more holes to increase aeration
  • Ants: Set bin on a tray of water to prevent access

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