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Right In The Kitchen

People start projects for various reasons.  I know many people raise vermicomposting worms to be used as bait or to sell their casting, a technical term for worm poo, or just to compost.  Why do I raise worms?  Convenience and a little bit of laziness.

We have a large compost bin at the corner of our property where we dump a lot of thing in there: leaves, grass, discarded plants and kitchen scraps.  It works well for us. We fertilize the garden with this compost and use the semi-composted material as mulch in autumn.

From spring to autumn it’s easy to take the kitchen scraps to the compost area after I finish cooking and rake it with leaves and whatever is already in there.  It wouldn’t be pretty and it would draw critters in if I just threw it in. However, I have to bundle up in winter to go out there, making it more of a chore.  It’s even more inconvenience if there is snow on the ground since I have no way to cover it up.  I can’t leave it in the sink and have it become a malodorous fruit fly farm.

So, the worms come to mind.  I set the homemade box right in the kitchen. One additional thing I have to do is add bedding for them once a month. Otherwise it’s a very convenient way to get rid of organic kitchen garbage.

Given the chance, I prefer to construct things myself.  The way a commercial compost bin works seemed easy enough to make and won’t cost me an arm and a leg.  There are also plenty of ‘How to’ websites that I can learn from. So I set out to make one and it worked out well.  Here’s an amateur way to make a compost bin at home:

Materials:

  • Two plastic boxes that are big enough to house the worms for a while.  The box used for the bottom should be slightly bigger if the boxes are not tapered in. I used semi-clear boxes.  Many websites suggest a dark color box to keep the light out.  I put a dark cloth around the outer box instead. I use the semi-clear boxes because I want to be able to see how deep the compost is and how the worms are getting along.

Optional: If one of your boxes is bigger than the other, you will need two pieces of wood or brick that are short enough to fit inside the larger box. These are used as spacers between the top and bottom box.

In the smaller box, drill two rows of holes on all four sides, close to the lid: size .25 inch, and about 2” apart.  These are ventilation holes.  Drill a few of the same size holes at the bottom. These are for drainage. There shouldn’t be any liquid in the bin but just in case.

Drill 1/4 inch holes around the box, near the top

Insert the drilled box inside the other box, if they are tapered boxes you should have a few good inches between them at the bottom.  If it smaller than the outer box, put two pieces of wood or bricks inside at each end of the larger box to provide space between the two boxes.

  • Dry, old newspaper, NOT magazines or anything with a shiny texture or vibrant colors, NOT office paper either as it’s been bleached with heavy chemicals.  Brown cardboard box with no printing on it is also good. Tear or shred the newspaper into small pieces.  Leave some larger pieces to use as top cover.  Wet them then wring out excess water.  Fluff them up then spread in the top box.  This is the worm bedding and should be three to four inches deep.  It also has to be just damp, NOT soaking wet.

    I shredded newspaper and put it in the kitchen sink to be soaked

    Quantity of wet newspaper will reduce down to less than half of its volume when dry so shred more than the quantity you need to put in the bin.

    Wring the water out then fluff them up. The paper has to be damp not wet.

  • A little bit of good old dirt, half a coffee mug should be enough.  Mix the dirt with the damp paper.  This dirt is to add some microbes and grit to help the worms digest and break down food.
  • Kitchen scrapes. If it too wet, I leave it on a paper towel in the sink and let the liquid seep out a little. When I have time, I chop them into small pieces which helps the worms to devour it faster. If not, I just add them in the box.  Cover them with a thin layer of bedding so it won’t attract flies. The worms also prefer to work in the dark.

    I put discarded vegetables, banana peels, coffee grounds, crushed egg shells and spoiled fruit in for their food.

    If I have time or I know that I will cook a lot this week, I chop them up. The smaller bits help the worms to get rid of it faster.  Note: above photo, food is mixed with coffee grounds.

  • Vermicomposting worms; Worms that are used inside the compost bin are the Red Wriggler worm (Eisenia foetida) which tend to stay put in the bin. There are plenty of websites that offer them.  I purchased mine from Uncle Jim‘s. I derive no commission here.  They shipped promptly and their worms are healthy and work well for me.

The worms that are use for composting bin are much smaller than the common garden worms

Feeding: I feed them every time I cook.  If I’ll be away, I add new bedding and more food to last them until I get back.  I don’t chop food so it will take them a little bit longer to digest larger pieces.

Peel away the cover sheet: newspaper sheet or cardboard box

Rake up part of the bedding and old food. A small garden rake comes in handy for that.

Spread the food around

Cover the food with the old bedding. If new bedding needed, this is the time to add it. I add new bedding when I note that 85% of their bedding is gone (yes, they eat the newspaper too)

Put the top layer of newspaper or cardboard back so the bin won’t draw fruit flies and will keep the worms in darkness.

Close the lid and leave them alone until the next feeding.  If balanced correctly, the box should not smell rotten or rancid.  A good functioning box should smell like warm earth.  If the worm bin works as it should, you should be able to harvest the casting within a few months.

Happy composting!