Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vermicomposting (or, Worms Eat Our Garbage)

"We have 1000 worms in our basement! Wanna see?" For months these were the first words out of Ellie's mouth whenever someone visited our home for the first time.  She would proudly lead the unsuspecting guest(s) to our indoor composting bin and pull back the layers of newspaper and cardboard to reveal 1000+ red wiggler worms hard at work. This would lead to the inevitable explanation of why in the world we would keep a large rubbermaid bin full of worms, garbage and food scraps in the closet under the stairs.  

Now I have photographic evidence to answer that question: they make they good stuff.  There are a plethora of reasons for jumping on the vermicomposting bandwagon, but my favorites are: worm castings are high in plant nutrients, composting can happen year round (outdoor piles are usually dormant for much of the winter), and I think it's easier to maintain the proper composting atmosphere in the bin rather than a traditional pile.

We made our bin using something similar to these instructions (but with much smaller ventilation holes) and after a few months of dumping kitchen scraps in it (mostly vegetable peelings and the like) we had some worth-their-weight-in-gold worm castings to add to our garden soil.  

The small bin in the pictures is what we use to carry worm castings around the garden.  I scoop it full from the big bin and set it next to where we are working.  Gradually the worms dig away from the light and deeper into the compost so we can skim the stuff off the top to add to the soil.  The kids' favorite part of planting time is pulling the worms out of the compost we're using to place them back in the vermicomposting bin.

Once the worms are removed we work the castings into the soil, place our seeds on top, cover them up and water it all in. 

{the good stuff}

{this is what happens when kids are in charge of seed spacing :)}

Because people always ask, I want to clarify that composting should not be stinky.  If your vermicomposting bin smells like rotting food, it is because the balance of carbon:nitrogren is off.  Adding more newspaper/cardboard and holding off on the kitchen scraps for a week or two should solve the problem.

My goal for today is to plant the rest of our spring garden (snap peas, lettuce, beets, carrots and kale). 

What about you? How does your garden grow?

Happy planting!


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