Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Wiggly with It!

Houston, we have a problem; a compost problem.

I have been composting for years.  There are many things I can say about the many benefits of composting.  But, for me, it's simply a great way to get good, free soil.  And, when you aspire to have an entire yard full of beautiful things other than red clay, good, free soil is very good thing.

The problem?  I have been warned by several fellow beekeepers, who have been beekeeping for a lot longer than I have, that composting and beekeeping don't mix.  Composting leads to higher levels of bugs, namely small hive beetles, which are a major pest.  If left unchecked, they can kill a strong colony of bees.  So, what's an avid composter, lover of free dirt, to do?  Get worms.

I have been putting this off for years.  I have always thought it would be fun to do with the kids.  But, I have been unmotivated lazy and well, if it ain't broke don't fix it, right?  It broke!  Here's how I fixed it and how you can, too.  For $30 and in under 30 minutes, I built a worm bin.


  • 3 10-gallon dark plastic storage bins ($5 each for Sterilite brand.)
  • Drill with 1/4 inch and 1/16 inch bits
  • 2 packages of Red Wigglers (or Eisenia Foetida for you science people) from Angler's Corner in Doraville.  They are $5 per package.  Ideally, you want 1/2 to 1 pound.  I have no idea how much I bought.  Two packages seemed like a good start.  You can also buy them online for a small fortune.  Your best bet is to Google for them in your area.  Regular garden worms are not suitable for vermicomposting.
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Food scraps
Three 10 gallon bins.
Drill about 20 1/4 inch holes around the bottom of two of the bins.

Drill 1/16 inch holes around the tops of all three bins.  Note:  my 1/16 inch drill bit snapped right off while drilling a hole.  So, I used 1/8 inch bit.  Don't do this.  As your folks always said, "Do as I say, not as I do."  Why?  Because the baby worms can wiggle their way out of the 1/8 inch holes.

Close up.

Now, drill 1/16 inch holes all over one of the tops.  Again, do as I say, not as I do.

--> At this point, you should have three bins.  One bin still has a solid bottom.  Two bins have holes drilled into the bottoms.  One lid has ventilation holes drilled into it.

Take one of the bins with holes drilled into the bottom and fill it about 6 inches high with 1-inch strips of newspaper, fluffed up.

Wet with water and squeeze excess out.  Re-fluff.  (That is the technical term.)  Add some leaves to the mix if you want.

Add your Red Wigglers to the damp newspaper/leaves.  My worms came packed in this soil mix.  I added both the worms and the soil mix to the newspaper/leaf mix so they would feel right at home.

Cover the whole bin with a damp piece of cardboard.

Now, set the bin with the worms inside of it into the bin with the solid bottom.  Cover with the lid that has the ventilation holes drilled into it.  Done.  The third bin, also with holes drilled into the bottom of it, is going to hang out for a little while, but will be needed in a few months.
Then what?
  • Place the bin outside in the shade or, get this, in your house under the kitchen sink, in the laundry room or basement or in the garage.  Composting doesn't get much more convenient than that!
  • Feed your worms.  You do this by burying the food scraps.  Each week, bury the scraps in a new area of the bedding and cover it back up with cardboard.
  • When the container is full and food scraps can no longer be seen in the bedding, it is time to introduce the third bin.  Add newspaper bedding in this container like you did when you set up your original bins.  Now, place this inside the bin that currently contains the worms right on top of the worms and bedding mix.  Add new scraps into the new bin.  The worms will migrate from the old bin into this new bin through the holes drilled into the bottom.  The black/brown stuff left in the original bin is what you are after- vermicompost, worm castings, "black gold." 
  • The liquid, or worm tea, that is in the bottom container is also excellent to use in your garden. 
What do worms eat?
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps  (You do not need to chop these up.  That is the whole point of letting the worms do the work!)
  • Tea bags (not the plastic ones!) and coffee ground and filters
  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Grains
  • Crushed egg shells
***Do not add dairy, fat, meat, oil or feces to the worm bin.***

What do you do if your worms try to escape the first night like mine did?
  • Check your bedding.  It may be too wet or too dry.  Or, they need more bedding.  Or, if the bedding is all used up and all you see is black/brown vermicompost/castings, it's time to harvest.  Worms don't like living in their castings.
  • Add a light to keep them contained.  Worms live in the soil.  They don't like light.  I placed the bin under the outside light and left it on all night and they got the point and settled down. 
And, there you have it!  If you are nervous about worms, handling them, getting close to them, putting them to work at your house, you might consider a small investment in a box of rubber gloves.  It is amazing how brave I get when I don a pair of those!  I can move the worms around like it's spaghetti.  I can put on a show for the kids!  The second I take them off, I am back to not wanting to touch.  I benefit from glove-induced bravado!

1 comment:

  1. I thought this sounded like an awesome way to enrich our garden without the bugs involved in traditional composting. I have just "built" our storage boxes to your specs...that is a lot of little holes. I have cut the paper and on Tuesday I will go to Anglers Corner to purchase my worms. By Tuesday night, the Dunwoody Pines vermicomposting adventure will be in full swing. Thanks for the idea. We'll let you know how it goes.