How to vermicompost: composting with worms
Posted on 04 March 2014
We are packing. We are moving to Australia, starting all again. I find myself a little teary occasionally as I say goodbye to all our babies – our plants, bacterias and yeasts I’ve nurtured carefully over the years here in Bolivia. Kombucha SCOBYs, kefir grains, sourdough starter, worms and apple cider vinegar mothers all to be distributed to caring souls wanting to improve their health. I think about the future, starting them all again. I’ve had so much pleasure with my weekly routines – feeding the worms, watering the plants, kneading the sourdough, bottling the kombucha…
Anyway, I’m a sentimental little thing sometimes, even over non-human microscopic babies. Our worms too have been so happy. I can tell by their prolific numbers! I realised when giving them to their new owners that we haven’t written a blog post about how to start a worm farm. So, here it is! Vermicomposting is easy, so I’ll keep it short with a few links as references.
Our Californian Red Worms have been breaking down our food scraps, pooing out lovely nutritious castings that we have been using as fertiliser for our plants (I’m going to miss our apartment garden too!). Actually, letting your waste material sit for a period of time is better than adding it right away (I freeze my waste to ensure possible fruit fly eggs are killed and it also breaks the cell walls during freezing meaning that on defrosting the food breaks down quicker). Often people assume that the worms feed directly on the waste materials themselves. In a sense they do, but more specifically they are slurping up the microbial soup that forms on rotting materials. If you throw in a bunch of fresh carrot peelings the worms won’t be able to start processing the material until sufficient microbial colonization has occurred.
(Photo source: sigmundqgardenhiresblogspo
You can go out and buy a commercial worm farm that has trays in it, allowing the worms to move between levels. This means you can put your scraps in one level, all the worms will move there to eat and you can remove another layer to empty the castings into your gardens. Living in Bolivia we didn’t have the luxury of buying such a ready made farm so we used a shallow bucket, drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, propped it up on some timber and put some containers underneath to catch the liquid fertiliser. Whenever we wanted to harvest our castings we simply opened up the worm bin and the light would send the worms to the bottom. This would then allow us to harvest the castings from the top. Of course, we still caught some worms in the process but we just didn’t worry too much about that.
Perhaps you are wondering what you can and can’t feed your worms? Well, here’s a handy little reference I’ve put together for you:
Other tips for avoiding flies in your worm bin are to bury your scraps (don’t just put them on top), chop/blend the scraps, freeze your scraps to kill larvae and start the breakdown process, put a thick bedding layer on top (we were using a layer of shredded newspaper and then a layer of folded newspaper), use traps of apple cider vinegar with a dash of dish detergent and a cover of plastic wrap with small holes punched in it to trap fruit flies and vacuum up adult fruit flies to reduce the number of adult breeders. But really, after we worked out we should freeze our scraps, bury them and cover everything we haven’t seen any flies at all! So don’t worry that your worm farm will be disgusting… some people even put them inside their apartment.
Want to know more about vermicomposting? Have a read here: http://www.redwormcomposting.com/ and here: http://www.organicagcentre.ca/DOCs/Vermiculture_FarmersManual_gm.pdf
I hope this helps you get started on your own worm farm, even if you live in an apartment!