After weeks spent researching and years spent pondering, I have finally decided to do worm composting. This past summer we had a regular composting bin going, but now that our land is covered in over a foot of snow, I had to come up with an alternative solution for our food scraps. I remembered my grandpa used to have a bin full of worms in his basement which he gingerly took care of (although my grandma was repulsed by them). At the time I was half grossed out, half fascinated. Twenty years later, I'm thinking he was on to something.
One of the coolest worm composting sites I've found on the internet is called Red Worm Composting. Here I learned a few important facts about worm composting that anyone just getting started needs to know:
- Worm composting is known as vermicomposting.
- Contrary to regular composting, vermicomposting can be done just about anywhere, including indoors, in tiny apartments, and in other urban situations that otherwise are not suitable for composting.
- You cannot use regular old earthworms for composting. They are burrowing, solitary worms and will die if put into a composting bin with a bunch of other earthworms.
- The most common worm to use in vermicomposting is the red worm (Eisenia fetida), but, much to my delight, you can also use its larger cousin, Eisenia hortensis, also known as the European Night Crawler, which is a very popular bait worm. Luckily for me, in my tiny rural town, we have 3 stores: a grocery store, a local diner that reads "Good Food" on its sign, and Conroy's Bait Shop. My worm experiment will begin this weekend with worms from Conroy's (assuming they are still open in winter, which I am assuming they are, since ice fishing is one of the few winter pastimes around here).
- The two Eisenia worms congregate in the surface layers of decomposing material. Therefore it is common to find them in manure piles on farms. They live on the microorganisms that are decomposing organic debris, not on the organic debris itself.
- A standard Rubbermaid storage bin (the opaque kind) will work as the worm bin. I used an old bin I had in my basement that is about 5 gallons. We drilled 3/8" holes around the rim and into the lid, at about 2" intervals (I am a little worried that the worms may try to crawl out, but I will just have to wait and see).
- The bottom layer of the bin should be a couple of inches of shredded cardboard, egg cartons (the cardboard kind, of course), newspaper, and paper towels. This shredded paper should be soaked in water, squeezed out so it is just barely damp, and added to the bottom of the bin.
- Food scraps, including vegetables, fruits, coffee, and tea can be collected and mixed with some shredded material, then added to the bin. It is apparently a good idea to let the scraps sit around for a week to let microorganism activity begin (this is the stage I am currently at). I've also read at various sites that a layer of damp shredded paper can be used to just barely cover the food scraps. Things that should NOT be added include meat, dairy, oil, and starchy foods.
I am currently at the end of my week of gathering food scraps. I have created a layer of damp, shredded paper and added small amounts of food scraps each day. So far, this has all been extremely easy and totally free (by using an old bin that I no longer needed for storage). Tomorrow I'm off to Conroy's to see if they have night crawlers. I'll be back to add updates on my adventures in vermicomposting......