Vermicomposting or worm composting is one of the easiest ways of ridding yourself of those kitchen scraps without sending them to the Edmonton Waste Management Facility.
I read Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof many years ago when I began my first worm bin while living in an apartment in Winnipeg. I didn’t have any place to compost on a large scale, so vermicomposting was my solution to reducing my waste.
I discovered that worms were voracious eaters and could multiply at a rate that would put rabbits to shame. My Rubbermaid bin of worms could go through almost four litres of kitchen waste per week.
Starting your own worm bin is an easy task.
What do you need?
A non-biodegradable bin that can be drilled with holes.
A lid for the bin.
Bedding material such as shredded newspaper or leaves, corncobs, or paper towels.
Worms: usually red wigglers because they like shallow depth
Your bin should be about five times the size of your weekly volume of waste. A microwave size bin will handle an ice cream pail full of waste.
Begin by filling the bin with bedding material. Soak this with water for a few minutes and drain off the excess. Add some starting microbes by adding soil or compost. Add your food waste, burying it below the bedding. Add a handful of worms. It will take the worms three months to multiply to their maximum number, so initially be careful not to over feed them.
Feed them: vegetable scraps, tea bags, tea leaves, coffee grounds, dried out and crushed egg shells, fruit and fruit peelings, grains and nuts.
Don’t feed them: lots of fresh discards, meat and dairy, oily or salty foods, lots of one thing, quantities of yard waste, chemically treated items, non-biodegradable items, cat, dog or human feces.
To harvest worm castings you can use:
1. The side-to-side method. Simply move the old bedding to one side of your bin and add fresh material on the other. The worms will migrate to the new food source and you can harvest the completed material.
2. Bright light and scoop method. Shine a bright lamp on your bin and scoop castings from the top as the worms scurry for darkness.
3. The Sun-dried Method: Make piles of compost outside in the bright sunlight. The worms will work their way down to the bottom of the pile.
Castings can be used in potting soil (25% by volume), as a top dressing for perennials and annuals, or as a starter mix for seedlings (add an inch to the bottom of a transplant hole or seed row).
Special thanks to this weeks special instructors:
Christine Werk, MCR 2010
Hannah Heaton, MCR 2012