By OCMGA Master Gardener Carey Pederson
I have to say, worms really rock! Those Red Wigglers are the best at composting and it is so easy and inexpensive to get started. We bought a few black tubs (20”W x 26”L x 6”D at Menards) for about $5. Use your imagination when it comes to giving your worms a home. This is what worked for us – make yours smaller if you prefer. To start off we put a mixture of shredded paper or saw dust with cut up kitchen scraps. Banana peels, melons, carrot peels, apple cores, lettuce – any kind of fruit or vegetable part that we don’t eat. The only items that I don’t put in are onions and egg shells. I read somewhere that worms don’t like onions, whether this is true or not I have always put the onion parts in the outside composter. As far as the egg shells, I’ve read that the worms don’t like to scrape up their bodies on sharp edges so I also just leave these to the outside compost bin as well. Food for the worms is almost the same as saving things for your outside compost bin. At the end of the day I cut up all the fruits and vegetables into small pieces. I take this along with used coffee beans (coffee filter and all); tea bags and toss it into the bucket under the kitchen sink. The bucket has a sealed top so we don’t have to worry about any smell. Once the bucket is full enough I put it in the freezer for about a day. This seems to kill off any attempt of the dreaded fruit flies or bugs that want to have fun in the worm bin. (We’ve been worming for over five years and have not had a problem with bugs). I take the bucket out of the freezer and let it defrost. At this time I mix in shredded paper or saw dust. You don’t want to let the worms dry out nor do you want to drown them so I add an appropriate amount of water and mix everything together. It should feel like a moist sponge. Then I add this to the worm bin. All you have to do next is put the red wigglers in, cover loosely and let the worms make you compost!
We got lucky and had a really awesome friend give us some red wrigglers, however, you can purchase them from various sites online. To cover the worm bin, we cut black plastic bag to size and lay it over the worm bins. This helps keep any light off the worms and helps it stay moist in the bin. We keep our bin in the basement. Harvest time! Fold half of the black plastic over and keep a light shining on the bin. The worms will slowly move down to the darkness. Scrape the top dirt off into a bucket. Leave the worms move down and over to the covered side, then repeat the scraping of the worm poop. Repeat the process until you’ve hit bottom. Put in your mixture of worm food, cover and let the worms do their business. I’ve read about all the worm juices that you’re suppose to get from this. We never really have gotten much of any juice so the newest bins we have don’t have the little holes in the bottom of the worm bins for the juices to drip down for us to collect. We even had installed the little hose spigot but never had to use it.
Maybe we have not perfected worming, but the point is we try and are still getting lots of valuable material that helps our plants. Worms are pretty forgiving too. We have forgotten about them for quite a few months only to see them still surviving (barely). After giving the worms a bunch of food they came right back. I swear by the stuff. Whenever my African Violets are void of flowers, I just add a little worm poop and within a short period they are blooming like crazy again. If you want to add your worm compost to outside flowers and it is still in the middle of winter, no problem! I have kept worm compost in a sealable plastic bin for months and it is still good.