Basically everybody should have worm bins. No, actually, all of everybody should. Yeah. They can easily fit into any lifestyle, as long as you eat vegetables in your house or have access to some herbivorous manure. Their containers can be made handsomely with a wooden exterior, or you can go cheap-O like us and pick up Rubbermaids at Bimart while they’re on sale. They make composting a MUCH simpler endeavor. For the apartment dweller without outdoor space, it makes the very impracticable convenient. Conventional composting requires you to store up your food wastes in a container in the kitchen until there is enough accumulation to motivate you to go outside and dump it in the bin. This container inevitably becomes the most disgusting hell-hole in one’s home, which is avoided like the plague by anyone who is not significantly ‘crunchy’. Once you’ve got a good pile going, you are supposed to pitch fork your pile over once a week. If you are consistent in doing this, then you have truly earned my respect. I would wager however, that for the large majority of the population all that just isn’t compatible with their living situation or with their inclinations. Of course, the whole reason we compost is to reduce waste and produce a valuable bi-product from that which would otherwise be a burden. Worms are the all time champs at efficiently converting kitchen waste into super nutritious plant food. When you think about it, your food becomes bacteria food, which then becomes worm food, and finally becomes food for your food… Huh, it’s as though the universe was designed to work sustainably, all on its own.
While the worms are obviously taking advantage of some of the minerals and such from your food waste (at least until they push up daisies and give them back), what they are really taking advantage of is the remaining energy in the food, which originally came from our friend the Sun. What they leave behind however is many of the goodies that were taken from the soil to produce the food in the first place. Modern Ag is notorious for depleting our earth’s soils, taking and taking and taking the minerals and other micro nutrients, until there are none left to be had by the plants, so ‘naturally’ they simply mine the major vital minerals from another source and sprinkle it around again, so that their ‘fairy dust’ of ‘goodness’ can ‘replenish’ the soil. Yup. Wouldn’t it be much more sensible to take the nutrients in our left overs and just put them back where they belong? Although much would still be missing without taking advantage of our ‘leftovers’ of a more digested variety. But more on that in a future post. I digress, worm bins are an exceptionally easy and at least in my opinion, a fun way to do our part to put our earth’s resources back where they belong.
Essentially all you need to do is facilitate their natural habits by providing them a warmish space to do their business, bedding to hide and make babies in, and waste food to convert to magnificent compost. The container in which they live their fascinating little lives should be perched upon a matching, empty container, and their ‘home’ box should have very very small holes drilled between the two containers for all of their worm ‘peepee’ to drain down. This worm ‘peepee’ is a high quality compost tea that should be removed from their bedding to keep their living space healthy, and luckily is very valuable on its own. It can be watered down and sprayed on plants as a fertilizer, and can be sprayed on fruit trees when they first start to bud to colonize the leaves with good healthy bacteria, giving the good bacteria a chance to fortify and better compete with problematic organisms. Their bedding, typically shredded newspaper, although we are experimenting with maple leaves, should be layered like lasagna with their food, whether that be carrot skins and tater peelin’s, or horse poopy, with the uppermost layer being bedding. Things that you probably shouldn’t put into your indoor worm bin, either because they won’t be eaten or because they will get stinky, are anything from the onion family, citrus, banana, avocado peels, meat products as well as dairy, straight oils, and anything salty. I’ve heard a bit of coffee grounds is okay, but too much can mess up the pH of the bin. As you produce waste food for them, you simply pull back a layer of bedding with a garden fork or trowel, drop their rations in, and cover them up again. viola! When they’ve begun to turn all their bedding and food into a nice, dark, homogenous compost it is time to harvest your plant food. Many people construct a nifty wheel to spin the compost out and sort the worms into a wad, which we eventually we will do, but for now, given that I am rather anal retentive in nature and like getting my hands covered in compost and adorable little worms, I just pick them out one by one. By one. By one. By one. For hours. It makes sense that I would painstakingly save every last worm (of those visible to the naked eye), given that as I child I would spend rainy afternoons wandering about on the road picking up the drowning worms to save them. The pressure to save them was even greater when I learned that the little hermaphrodites have the potential to live between 5 to 10 years.
It’s funny, for a long time I’d thought it would be interesting to compost with worms, but somehow I made it out to be overly complicated in my head without ever actually looking into it. In fact, worms have a particularly interesting place in Nick and I’s romantic history. Back in the day, in that long week between when Nicholas and I started talking and became ‘Facebook Official’ (a.k.a. dating), we were talking nonstop on the phone about permaculture, and farming, and every last detail about our lives before we met. One night Nicholas mentioned that he had several composting boxes of Red Wigglers, and I told him how I’ve always thought it would be super cool to raise worms and that I’d like to try it one day. When he said “Maybe if this thing works out, someday, you’ll have worms”, I knew it was getting serious. He may have even asked me to officially adopt his worms when he proposed.
Below are links for the supplies needed to get started. If you do some digging around you could probably find better prices on the things you need, but for the sake of convenience we’ve provided a quick list:
P.S. Sharpies are included on the list of supplies because Nicholas likes to write words of encouragement on the worm bins to give the little wrigglers a healthy dose of good vibes 😉