Worm Bins: A Vermiculture Update

I am happy that I still get regular “hits” on the vermiculture post I created earlier this year. I hope it means that people are searching for ways to help the environment. Because of this frequent attention, I thought it was prudent to provide an update, especially as things have changed! I re-read my vermiculture post, and found that most of what I covered there is still relevant and still reflects the importance of keeping worms. There is little I can add to that other than to update my procedure:

The vermiculture bin I created to get myself started has had a draw-back that I never considered before – the weight. Well, I realized it was heavy, but as the weight slowly increased, I slowly adjusted. When the bin is full, I can barely lift it. And to get the liquid out I had to take the following steps: Remove the lid and place it upside down next to the bin. Grab hold of the inner bin and heave it up and onto the lid (The bottom is dirty so the lid protects the surface it will sit on.) Then take the outer bin and carefully pour the liquid into a bucket or watering can. Then replace the inner bin and put the lid back on. The problem with these steps is that the inner bin gets incredibly heavy and it’s low to the ground, making for an uncomfortable lift. So, I opted to buy a proper worm bin.

I purchased ‘Nature’s Footprint’ 3 tray worm bin off of Amazon. It came with the stand, a spout for draining the liquid, three main body trays and some bedding material.

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(Above, my new bin – dark side of the house)

I immediately set it up and transferred – one at a time – worms from the old bin into the new one. For some time I have had both bins going. I stopped regularly feeding the old bin with hopes that the larger bits of material in there would be consumed.

A few months later, I went back to the old bin and gathered more worms for the new bin. The new bin is now rocking! By rocking, I mean that I put food in every day or two and it’s almost a uniform, level bin full of coffee-ground looking worm casings each time. So, it means I have so many worms (and the temperature is right) to consume everything I am putting in. It is satisfying to see how well it is working.

Benefits of the new bin: Now the worms are off the ground – this will help regulate their temperature and make working with them easier on my back. The bin’s collecting tray is angled down to a spout for easy water collection. And the stacking trays allow for worms to follow their natural preference of moving up to the surface to find new food. So, when a tray fills, I start a new one. The new one has holes in the bottom so the worms move up. After a while I can take the bottom tray out and it will be pure worm casings with no worms in it. Before I would have had to empty the contents onto a tarp in the sun and let the worms travel down – away from the sun. Then I would scrape off top layer by top layer until I had worm-free compost. This never worked very well. So I am excited to work with the new bin.

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(Above, cabbage leaves from harvest – this will be gone in days.)

My plan for the older bin is to feed it small amounts of food from time to time, and eventually get rid of it. When I do that, I will take most of the remaining worms and put them in the new bin, and I will turn the old bin contents into my regular compost. My theory here is that the nutrients will be diluted into a greater volume of material, and that the natural enzymes and bacteria that are in the worm bin will help further break down the regular compost. Furthermore, the worms I miss, and eggs and baby worms will be transfered to the regular compost where they will continue or move out into the greater ecosyste,. I will be completing my regular compost site soon, so I will let you know how that goes. If the time comes to spread fresh compost into my garden beds and I find red wigglers, I will be more than happy.

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(Above, the trusty old bin – great for work-outs)

I was keeping the worms in my garage, but the presence of flies was becoming annoying. So I moved it outdoors. The problem with worms outside is the rain and the range in temperatures. The worm bin must never be in direct sunlight or the worms will cook. Actually, they will crawl out of the bin to find something cooler, and those that don’t will die. It is also possible for them to drown if the liquid is not drained, or if the rain fills up the collecting tray. Even if the worms will move higher to avoid the water, the compost in the water will rot, reducing oxygen, habitat and becoming a possible source of disease (for the worms). Also, as I have learned, worms will freeze and die. So my plan is to keep the worms outside, undercover all year, out of the sun, except during freezing temps, when I will bring it into the garage. Perhaps I will empty it twice a year and at those times I will also move it, so it is at its lightest point.

If you haven’t gotten started keeping worms, you’re missing out. I will iterate: Every bit of organic waste from my kitchen (excluding meat or cooked left-overs – of which there is never much) makes it into my bin along with newspaper, cardboard egg cartons, some newsprint fliers, coffee grounds and paper filters. The volume diminishes as worms eat it, so 6 months or so of my new bin and I haven’t yet added the second tray. It is amazing and essential to do your part of maintaining a positive connection to the micro-side of life. Save the world.

Happy Worming.

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