Yep, worm poop! Some call this stuff black gold because it’s so good for the garden. It helped my garden tremendously last year, and I swear by the stuff! Composting is basically just decomposing organic matter that can eventually act as a fertilizer, or as a way to avoid landfill garbage. If you do some research online it sounds really complicated, but I’m here to tell you it’s really not.
I have an indoor and outdoor compost bin. For outdoors I like to use the barrel tumbler method. This is great if you don’t own your property (or if you do). Eventually I will set up a pallet framed compost pile once we purchase land. My parents have had huge piles in their backyard since I was born and it works amazing with little to no effort. Because Utah gets so cold in the winter I choose to do worm composting indoors year around. The worms actually turn the organic matter into compost faster than the tumbler method anyway and it doesn’t smell – if you do it right. This wouldn’t be necessary in warmer climates, although I still prefer it because it’s faster.
First thing’s first, get a bin. I started out with a big durable plastic bin that you would use for storage. I had my dad drill some large holes in the top of the lid, then I glued some mesh screen over the holes so the worms couldn’t get out. I tried to keep this bin inside, but the smell was terrible. Not to say I wasn’t doing something wrong at the time, because I was (see newspaper part). — I ended up keeping them outside, which was fine because it was in the Spring. Then we went on vacation in the Summer I called and asked our neighbor to move the bin under our cherry tree for some shade. I didn’t realize how hot it would get when we were gone. Well, I didn’t think far enough ahead because the sprinklers came on… and that was the end of that worm bin. RIP little guys, please forgive me. It did work pretty good though, and the bin was only $4.
My next and current bin is the Worm Factory 360 I bought from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. This bin was a small investment (around $100-ish). This bin can hold around 20,000 worms! That’s what I’m talking about! It’s a 4 tier (I’m only using 3 in the pic) contraption that is made for indoors and is supposed to not smell. I have been pleasantly surprised with mine so far. I’ve had it for maybe 8 months or so, and I haven’t had any problems, smells, or escapees.
Whatever way you choose to vermicompost, this is what I suggest for getting started:
You need a starter bedding. This really could be dirt, but I absolutely swear by compacted coconut fiber. This can be purchased at pet stores in the pet bedding department (my bin came with some). Just a warning, it usually has a thin plastic wrap around it. I let that slide because buying that will ultimately save a ridiculous amount of food from rotting at the landfill. After I rehydrate the bedding I add shredded paper, cardboard, and tissue.
The bin I got came with crushed pumis stone and that seemed to work well. I don’t plan on investing in more of that though, because it’s not essential. I recommend saving those annoying ads that won’t stop coming in the mail no matter what you do. Recycle the shiny ones, and save all of the dull ones.
Starting Your Bin (or a new tier)! – First, rehydrate your bedding, add paper bits and stuff, dig a little hole in the corner of the bin and add some food, cover with bedding, add worms. Cover the whole thing with sheets of newspaper. That’s it.
There are types of food that are better than others. Pretty much all veggie scraps are great, all fruit (limit citrus), any starches (pasta, rice, bread, crackers, etc.), fibers such as egg cartons, nut shells, tissue, toilet paper, junk mail, and then other stuff like tea bags (no plastic or staples), coffee grounds, dead flowers and plants, leaves, etc. Worms do not like oil, meat, dairy, or animal products (besides crushed egg shells). This is debatable but I would advise against it.
So you’ve got your worm bin started. Every few days add a couple cups (for about 1,000 worms) of chopped up food and products listed above. I know the ratios matter, but this is where I like to keep things simple, keep it moist, not too moist, add dry stuff, don’t let it get too dry, add a variety of food, the smaller the better. If it starts to smell it’s probably because it’s too wet or you added too much food. If you make your own bin and worms are escaping, make sure you have thick layers of newspaper over the top, shine a light on the top (they move away from light), and make sure there aren’t too big of holes for them to escape.
If you have a specific problem or question, please ask! There is usually a simple way to remedy any problem with a vermicompost bin. They usually just get a little out of balance and can be brought right back. If you buy worms or a bin, then read the instructions.
I get all of my worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. They are great!
Outdoor tumbler type composting is very similar in terms of balance. I’ll get to that in another post, once it warms up!
Check the photo captions to see what I’m doing in the pics!