Saturday, October 6, 2007

Let the Vermiculture Begin!

I got my composting worms on Thursday morning. I went over to Wilson's Worms + Veggies (aka Amy and Allen Wilson's house), to pick them up. 45 minutes and 20 dollars later, I was home with my wigglers, ready to start throwing rotten (or soon-to-be rotten) food at them.

Want to see them? Too bad, cause they (like mogwai) don't like light, and they won't sit still for pictures. I tried any way, though, so... want to see a box full of dirt? Good! here it is!

In the lower left hand side of the picture you can see the open top of my bin, into which I am placing the worms. The "Vermicompost Manufacture and Containment Apparatus", or, more succinctly, "bin", is full of specially prepared "bedding", which is simply shredded biodegradable matter, a tiny bit of dirt, and enough water to get it damp all the way through.

Want to see what "shredded biodegradable material" is? It's the unwanted credit card, insurance, and "warranty extension" offers I (and probably you) get in the mail several times a week. The same day I got the worms, I happened to get a bunch of junk mail.

So I shredded it....

...And put it in the worms' "in" box. The system I got, the "Worm Factory" from , is a three-tray system (also available in four and five tray varieties), so the worms initially go in the bottom (and only) tray, and as they eat up all of their bedding, and are increasingly living amongst their own poop (which is, the worm experts assure me, no better for them than it would be for you and me), then you add another tray right on top of them. The trays are all basically big, flat-bottomed colanders, so the worms can wriggle right on up into the new, cozier setting, and start eating up the food and bedding in that tray.

While they are working on tray two, their poop, and the very tiny bits of organic material, and the excess moisture (the "worm mucus", really beneficial - if you are a plant) filter down into the bottom tray. Then a third tray is added (your worms can multiply super-rapidly to take advantage of the available space and food), and the processing continues above.

Then you take the bottom tray out when:
  1. You need the tray to re-use on top of the stack.
  2. Most of the worms have moved out of it, into the upper trays, after being "Trickled-Down" upon by their more "Upwardly Mobile" brethren.
  3. You want to use/sell the resulting nutritious worm-poopy goodness that it contains.

So here's the next tray, currently being filled with my junk mail (which I generate a lot of), and my (non-meat) food scraps (which I don't generate so much of).

This is all of the mail I had to throw away... the little plastic windows off of the outer envelopes

I am personally a big fan of the "upward migration" setup I described here, but there are plenty of other really good single-bin systems out there, too. You can even convert one of the Rubbermaid-brand storage bins available down at your local department store, if you have a drill to put some air holes in it with.

Then all you need is
  1. Some ripped up paper. (newsprint is the best, and a shredder helps, but pretty much any paper that will absorb water will do.)
  2. Some food garbage. (Meat, grease, milk, eggs, and salad dressing will cause nasty odors, but just about any other food will do nicely. Breads, Pastas, Pizza Crusts, Fruits and Veggies, Jelly, Nuts, Seeds, Cake, Gravy, Whatever!
  3. Some "Red Wiggler" Worms. There are one or two other species that make okay composters, but I can testify that these little dudes really "chow-down" on some garbage.
In a couple of months I will probably have some for sale, too! (or for free, if you know the right people!)
If you pay for your garbage pickup, or, like me, have to haul your own garbage to a local pick-up center, you might want to consider an investment in a worm bin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe you can breed some that eat old lumber, plywood scraps etc. I don't really go in for termites, so maybe specialty worms would work