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Fear my multitude of Evil Minions!

worms

If you’re one of the millions (And MILLIONS!) of loyal fans who can’t wait for me to take the reins… err keyboard… away from Joanna here at Midwestern Bite, you’ll recall a previous post where I admit I *might* be a Compost-aholic.

I’m saddened to say things have gotten worse and those large pallet bins were apparently just a gateway.  Unfortunately for my skeeved out wife, I’ve progressed.  That means working smarter, not harder.  You see, I’ve outsourced additional composting to a few thousand slimy, spineless garbage eaters.

Hi, my name is Mike and I’m a Vermicomposter.

Yep.  We’re the proud parents of composting worms.  Indoor composting worms.

Joanna was thrilled.

Before I show you their de-luxe rubbermaid apartment and how to best care for your subterranean underlings, here are a few fun facts I learned about worms along this journey.

  1. There are over 4000 different species of earthworms alive today.
  2. The largest earthworm can grow up to 22 feet long! (Luckily only found in South America… unless you are Kevin Bacon or Reba McEntire.)
  3. Out of those 4000, only four worms are suitable for composting kitchen scraps.  So don’t just go to your driveway on a rainy day and start collecting.

The specific worm you want for this type of work is the Red Wiggler.  If you want to be all snooty about it and impress your friends – call them Eisenia fetida.

There are a bunch of outlets that specialize in Red Wigglers.  I placed an order through Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, and in just a few days had 2000 hungry dudes in a burlap sack delivered straight to the ol’ homestead.

Now what?

None of the plastic totes we had laying around were large enough considering how quickly these suckers can reproduce, so I went and purchased this guy on sale.

bin

Pretty much any container will do.  Go for surface area over depth though.  Red Wigglers only live in the top three inches of soil or bedding.  Opaque is a bonus as worms (obviously) prefer the dark.

Wormies need their oxygen too, even though they have no lungs and absorb it through their skin… so drill a few air holes on each side.

binHole1

binHole2

I had plans to attach some window screen or something over those holes, but in the two months our tote has been wormy, we haven’t had any escapees, nor any uninvited guests.  A happy, balanced worm bin keeps everyone wanting to stay inside, does not attract unwelcome pests like fruit flies, and has no odor.

Next, Let’s fill up that container with something comfy.

bedding1

See that plastic trash bag?  It’s full of years of shredded bills and other documents my wife apparently brought to the new house.  It’s like she knew we were future worm farmers!

The bedding can be made of many materials, and a mix is best.

  • Shredded paper (nothing glossy)
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Dry Leaves
  • Paper egg cartons

Note that dirt is not on that list.  While you do want a small handful of dirt or finished compost sprinkled throughout to give the wormies a little grit, you don’t just fill up a tub with Mother Earth.  That’s a vermicomposting no-no.

Everything needs to be moist.  Tear it all up and let it soak in water for a few minutes.

water

bedding2

bedding3

 

Then dump all the water out.

Wring out your bedding.  Perfect stuff is when you squeeze it and produce just a drop or two.  If you still get a stream, it’s too wet.

Fluff it all up to make it nice and airy, then add your one and only handful of garden soil.

compost

 

Nestle your garbage eating babies in.  Then pull back the bedding, give them a little food, and cover everything up.

What to feed:

  • Most fruits
  • Veggies
  • Coffee grounds & (natural) filters
  • Breads (in small amounts)

What not to feed:

  • Citrus
  • Onions, garlic, similar (not harmful to the worms, they’ll just make your bin smell until consumed)
  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Dairy

How much to feed:

Red Wigglers can eat up to 50% of their weight each day.  1000 worms weigh approximately one pound.  So theoretically, my initial 2000 worms could convert one pound of scraps per day.

Things will start off slowly at first and you don’t want to feed them more until the previous meal is gone. Spread the food around and always feed in a new spot.  I mark my covered food pile with a rock so I know where to feed next.  Every few feedings, add additional bedding and always keep it slightly moist.

How to harvest the compost:

The worms consume the bedding and scraps, and their manure (called castings) is some of the absolute best plant food and soil amendment possible.  Seriously, go Google how much a few pounds of organic worm castings will cost you.

There are several ways to mine your black gold.  After a few months, you can stop feeding on one side of the bin.  That will force all of your worms to travel to the side with food, allowing you to harvest the other side and replace it with fresh bedding.

Or, you can set up a multi-level bin where you drill holes in the bottom of a second tote, fill it with bedding and food, and set it on top of your original (now bottom) tote.  When the worms run out of food there, they’ll travel up hrough the holes into the top tote.  Repeat and rotate every few months.

Easy peasy.

There you go.  That’s everything you need to become a Worm Overlord for yourself.  Trust me, your spouse will love it!

–Mike

Question of the Day: Awesome?  Or creepy?  I know how Ann and Patrick will answer.

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11 Comments

  1. Does this mean we’ll be getting worm poop for Christmas? (I was secretly hoping for manatee pornography.)

  2. Awesome! Reeed wigglers, the Cadillac of worms. Any WKRP fans? Sorry, this was the best audio I could find http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUYOzZqQcpk. I really miss my little minions. Congrats on yours!
    Ann recently posted…Moving difference, chocolate chip cookies, and Wendy BabcockMy Profile

  3. Great post. My worms have consumed a lot of the original bedding material. When they are done I plan on doing a split and making two bins. Its funny, now we have three containers for compost material, one is worm food (which I freeze until needed), one is mostly garlic and onion scraps and the other is coffee grounds. I can’t wait to harvest my bin and make some worm tea!
    Patrick recently posted…A Very Addictive Yard GameMy Profile

    • I put coffee grounds and filters right into the worm bin. Don’t you?

      • Yes, but we go through so much coffee I couldn’t possible give it all to the worms. I keep it separate so I can use the extra on my blueberries and other acid loving plants. We bought a Keurig and the re-usable inserts, so we don’t use filters anymore unless a bunch of people are over, then we pull out the old coffee maker.
        Patrick recently posted…A Very Addictive Yard GameMy Profile

  4. Sigh…I know I should quit being lazy and learn how to compost. I should but I probably won’t. However, if I do this post would be priceless (no sarcasm there.) You are the Worm King, my friend!
    Abby recently posted…A Letter to the One “Real” Bra That I WearMy Profile

    • You’re in luck since composting favors the lazy. It’s easier to randomly pile stuff in a corner of your yard (or in a bin) and not look at it for six months… compared to bagging stuff and taking it to the curb, then going to the garden center twice a year and hauling purchased compost home (if you do that).

  5. Interesting, but you will never get me to willingly play with bugs 🙂
    Aly recently posted…Panfried Egg Noodles with ChickenMy Profile

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