WORM BASICS! Setting up a worm bin!
Like anything, you can spend as much as you want on a worm bin setup. Pre-manufactured, multi-tiered worm bins are offered by several brands, but a suitable home can be made from a plastic Rubbermaid storage tote for less than ten dollars. A twelve-gallon storage tote is ample for one to two pounds of worms. Red Wigglers, which are available through Little Red Wigglers!
Drill air holes in the sides and lid of your storage tote. Then add the bedding material. Newspaper is a very popular choice because it is plentiful and also grows mold, which the worms will digest. Shred newspapers into one inch strips and soak in tap water. Thoroughly wring it out and fluff it up before adding to the bin. Cornmeal is a favorite worm food that can be added to brand new setups to help the worms get acclimated.
One pound of worms can consume a maximum of eight ounces of food per day. If the bin is full of food scraps, additional material may be saved in the freezer and used later. Freezing also kills pesky fly larvae. Worms will eat all fruits and vegetables except citrus. Worms can also consume natural fibers, like dryer lint, worn out socks or jeans. It will just take awhile. Things that should not be added include onions, meat, and dairy.
One of the most popular ways of feeding is the pocket method, which means the day's scraps are deposited in one small "pocket" and covered with bedding. Always cover food scraps with bedding to cut down on fruit flies, fungus gnats and odor. One of the best reasons for pocket feeding is the entire bin is not disturbed at once. If the worms' habitat is disturbed, they will feel threatened and look for a safer place to go by escaping from the bin. One of the fascinating things about the worms is they will adapt to the conditions in your bin. For example, if a filter of coffee grounds is added to the bin everyday, eventually the subsequent generations will consume more coffee grounds than the worms who were not accustomed to that food.
STEP 3: HARVESTING AND USING CASTINGS
Collecting Your Worm Compost
A bin containing one pound of worms in a two-person household may yield approximately fifteen pounds of finished worm castings, or vermicompost, in a year. There are several ways to harvest the vermicompost. The idea is to let the remaining eggs hatch before removing the castings from the bin. An effective way is to separate thefinished vermicompost from the active feeding area, so the hatchlings are forced to migrate to the food.
Finished and partially finished vermicompost can be used in several ways. It can be added to potting soil, potted plants, garden beds, or used to make "worm tea," a mixture of castings and water.
Worm tea is very easy to brew. Fill a one-quart container with water. Add a small amount of worm castings, up to one tablespoon. Add an equal amount of sugar source for the microorganisms to consume, so they will multiply. Molasses, which is a microorganism supplement on its own, is great for this. When the tea no longer smells like molasses, the microorganisms have consumed the sugar source and the worm tea is ready. Fruit juice, feed hay, or cornmeal can also be used as sugar sources. Kelp, comfrey, alfalfa and anything else that is beneficial can also be added. It can take anywhere from 4-24 hours depending on the temperature. Always leave the container uncovered and stir the water several times to add oxygen.
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