Sunday, January 20, 2013

Meet my Worm Bin!

I'm absurdly excited about the latest addition to my little home: 1,000 red wiggler worms! At this apartment there is no way for me to compost, not having any outdoor spaces and not qualifying for the city's curbside food scrap collection program. I can't abide the idea of throwing biodegradable food scraps in the garbage, so I decided to do what many green-minded apartment-dwellers before me have done: set up a worm-composting bin!

I did a little internet research, and discovered that I already owned everything I needed, apart from the worms themselves. So I went to work on an old rubbermaid bin with a hammer and a big nail, making air holes according to the specifications I had read about. It made an awful racket, but, not owning a drill, this was the next best option.

I put air holes around the rim of the bin, and in the lid, and drain holes in the bottom of the bin. It sits on another non-punctured lid, which catches any liquid and keeps it off the floor.

The basic layout for a worm bin involves a layer of damp shredded newspaper, then the worms and food scraps, then a layer of drier newspaper.

I ordered my worms online, and had them shipped to my office. I only have a tiny mailbox at home, and no porch or stoop for the postman to leave a package on, and anyway it's been so cold that it would be no good for a box of worms to sit outside for even an hour or two. They have to be taken out of the package, watered and put in their new home as soon as possible, having been packed in dry peat and in the mail for three days (they came from the east coast). Since I only work part-time, I put my coworkers on alert that I was expecting a shipment of live worms (thus simultaneously horrifying them) and asked them to call me if the package turned up when I wasn't at the office. As it turned out, I got the call early on Wednesday afternoon, when I was at my field work and in the middle of my busiest day of the week, when I am going non-stop until I get out of class at 9:30 PM. So I ended up on the bus back to my office at 10 PM to pick up my new friends, and finally got them into their new home at 11 PM that night!

Wetting down the newspaper- I put more in later, turns out this wasn't a sufficient amount.

Bag o'worms

Heap o'worms! I'll admit, there was a little squeamishness involved at this particular stage. Once they're all dispersed through the bin, it's much less apparent how many of them there are!

Leaving the bin in a well-lit area for the first 24 hours encourages the worms to spread out through their new home. 

There was some weeding of the gene pool during the first couple days, as about a 15 of the worms decided to go exploring, and were later found dried to the floor (Ew. Ewewewewewew!). My sources say that this is totally normal, and that there are always a few "dummies" who don't have the sense to stay where their food is. I added a bunch more newspaper (thank you, free Portland newspapers available on many streetcorners...) on top, and that really helps to discourage them from climbing up the sides of the bin too. 

Now, whenever I have food scraps (everything besides meat or dairy, which I still have to throw away, but I don't eat much of those things anyway), I can just pull back the top layer of newspaper, stick them in, cover them back up, and the worms will get to work!

You can see all the nice dark brown castings (worm poop) stuck to everything. It makes the best fertilizer there is, once it builds up a bit. 

Sources differ as to whether it's okay to give the worms citrus, because it can throw off the pH of the bin. I eat a lot of citrus, especially in the winter, and I hate to think of it going to waste, so for now I'll keep adding it, but monitor things closely to make sure the worms stay happy. 

The bin lives under the table/island in my kitchen, where it is easily accessible for me to throw scraps in. There haven't been any escapees in three days, so I think they're settling in well, and I'm very happy to have them here!


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Very resourceful and I'm glad you've had no more escapees.

Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

Heather said...

Ack and you wouldn't have had to buy worms if I knew! I have a neglected worm bin.
It does help the smaller you chop the stuff, the faster they can get it eaten.
Enjoy your little guys! It looks like you started with a huge number. They're going to reproduce like crazy, especially with you feeding them so much. Find a friend to share some worms with soon!

farmer_liz said...

a very clever design, and so many worms, I started with only a small handful and they have taken a long time to fill my bin, yours will be doing a great job of consuming all your scraps. My biggest problem is meat ants getting in and eating the worms, so I've had to put the legs of the bin in tubs of water.

Liz said...

I know it's a big number :) But from what I have read/gleaned, they will actually self-regulate, population-wise. If they get too crowded, they won't lay as many eggs. Plus, I wanted my bin to be efficient- the more mouths the better.