Hey Mama: Make a Worm Compost Bin

By

Summer… summer…. summer.

Goes so fast, and yet so slow.

This year I decided I was NOT going to just let time pass us by, because at the end of each summer I say, “I wish we would have….”.  This summer has been different.  Even with some hot moody moments in the midst of a remodel that left me and hubby without a bedroom and the kids without a playroom, this has arguably been the best summer EVER!  Such a good balance of me finally learning to use sitters (sigh of relief), letting go of inhibitions and “to-do” lists to play, and impromptu road trips making for fun family time.

What does this all have to do with WORMS?

Nothing, really.  Except that starting a worm compost bin is one of those things we usually talk about but never do.  So for Jaxson’s birthday, after watching him enthusiastically dig for worms, but sadly rarely finding any, we went for it.  I ordered 1000 WORMS (yes, ordered), from Amazon, and Paxton rigged up their little home using a plastic bin.  Yes, there are fancier ways to do it, but part of the reason behind composting is that you use what you have to make something better.  It doesn’t need to be pretty or perfect.

photo 1

So why a worm compost bin?

Well, worms can eat almost anything (they’re kinda like goats, but not really), and they turn it all into the most fertile soil.  I am PUMPED because what the heck else do I do with all my nutrient-free fiber from my juicing?  It’s perfect for the worms!  Then the worms turn all of these crazy things (coffee grounds and filters, banana peels, cardboard, leftovers, etc…) into something you can use in your garden.

How To Do It?

I got some help on this portion from: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Your-Own-Worm-Compost-System 

1.) Worms: I ordered my worms before we build the habitat.  You need a worm that eats and re-produces quickly.  After researching, I chose red wigglers.  Problem is, sometimes finding local farms/ feed and plant stores/ companies, that carry composting worms can be a challenge.  So I ordered mine from a company I found on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Uncle-Jims-Worm-Farm-Composting/dp/B000Q5S7RM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375143392&sr=8-1&keywords=compost+worms.

photo2.) You need to decide on your home, and it has to be well ventilated.  We chose a plastic bin and drilled several small holes in the sides and bottom.  We propped it up on some bricks to help with the ventilation.  The useful depth is 24 inches, as composting worms will not go deeper than that.  There are other options besides plastic bins, so find the option that’s best and easiest for you.  You also need to keep the bin in the shade if outdoors, and create a lid that lets air in, but keeps intense sunlight and bugs out.  Paxton created  lid out of layered screen tied on with a rope.

3.) Prepare the bedding for your worms. The bedding is the natural habitat of the worm that you’re trying to replicate in your compost bin. Fill your bin with thin strips of unbleached corrugated cardboard or shredded newspaper, straw, dry grass, or some similar material. This provides a source of fiber to the worms and keeps the bin well-ventilated. Sprinkle a handful of dirt on top, and thoroughly moisten. Allow the water to soak in for at least a day before adding worms.

  • Over time, the bedding will be turned into nutrient-rich compost material by the worms. When you harvest the composted soil, you’ll have to introduce new bedding into the worm bin again.
  • Canadian peat moss, sawdust, (rinsed) horse manure, and coconut pith fiber are also great for composting.
  • Avoid putting pine, redwood, bay or eucalyptus leaves into your bedding. Most brown leaves are acceptable in vermicompost, but eucalyptus leaves in particular act as an insecticide and will kill off your worms

4.) Feed your worms digestible amounts regularly. The bedding of your compost bin is a great start, but the worms need a steady diet of food scraps in order to stay healthy and produce compost. Feed your worms at least once a week in the beginning, but only a very small amount. As the worms reproduce and grow in numbers, try to feed them at least a quart of food scraps per square foot of surface area each week.

  • Worms eat fruit and vegetable scraps; bread and other grains; tea leaves; coffee grounds; and egg shells. Worms eat basically what humans eat, except they are much less picky!
  • If you can process your scraps before you introduce them into the compost bin, you’ll find that your worms will eat them quicker. Worms go through smaller-sized food more quickly than they can larger-sized or whole food. In this respect, they are also like humans.
  • Mix the scraps into the bedding when you feed the worms. This will cut down on fruit flies and will give the worms more opportunities to eat. Don’t just leave the scraps on top of the compost heap.
  • Here is what I walked out today… big chunks of food, cardboard, and paper towels  laying all over the top— NOT THE WAY TO DO THIS.  We had flies and ants and a little bit of a smell.  Turn the soil, cut or process the foods prior to throwing in if you can, and keep an eye on your bin.  photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope this gives you an idea of a fun, environmentally friendly project you can do with your kids!!!  Happy worm composting!

tawny