Worm bin: a vermicultural update.

In March I started a worm bin as a mini compost project. I bought red wrigglers at Walmart and added them to a large Tupperware container that held a mix of dirt and random kitchen scraps. I left this experiment in the detached garage in case all the worms wanted to escape. After one night, three dried up corpses were on the floor. I read about what to do and Google told me to put a cardboard cover over the dirt.

No more escapees! The worms have been happy and prolific, giving me lots of worm babies and grandworms. I have added weird things to the container, like haircut trimmings, but mostly I stick to a non-steady diet of vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds. They don’t make it through a batch of potato peels very fast, so I avoid adding big bulky things to the mix. Last week I added some thatch (grass clippings) and it seems to be a big hit with my wormies.

As I have tended my garden or needed something compost-y to beef up the soil, I will dig deep to the bottom of my worm bin and get a scoop of castings. Yesterday I got some sick-looking freebie eggplant and jalapeño baby plants from the nursery down the road. I wanted to plug a few veggies into some empty spots in the garden. Before I put them in the ground, I mixed a handful of worm castings (and worms, because they are THICK) into the dirt and today my jalapeños look like they’ve never felt more alive.

Here is what I have learned from the project:
*A fancy worm setup is not necessary unless you want to rely on it as your only compost. The worms don’t like being disturbed when you go digging for castings at the bottom, but they are worms, after all. They’ll get over it!
*Adding variety isn’t as important as adding the stuff that breaks down easy. I kind of thought I would have to do more chemistry—a little of this, a little of that—but the worms are happy to live a coffee-eggshell-lettuce-cardboard existence. It’s better to go light-handed on the scraps than overload them. I wouldn’t ever put in a watermelon rind or something that size. It would attract more flies than anything, and I’d forever be pushing them out of the way to get to the castings. If I need bulk because I’ve been using up castings in my garden, I add some shovelfuls of cleanish dirt.
*Putting a layer of cardboard on top of the worm bin before lightly closing the lid on top keeps things dark and damp.
*The worms did fine, weather-wise, from March until now when it’s getting pretty hot in the garage. I’ve moved them onto my enclosed porch now, where it is much cooler.

I guess the idea behind vermiculture is this: you’re creating a happy, designated worm home to multiply and harvest the effectiveness of these little decomposers. You’re not necessarily looking for an alternative garbage disposal, just taking advantage of the quiet, helpful critters in your Tupperware bin.

Straw bales covered in shrooms, another project in the works. I’ve been adding worm castings on top to boost nitrogen. Stay tuned; my strawbale project is definitely more iffy than the worm bin.

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