worms! eat my garbage! 500 new friends for urban composting…

29 Mar

Vancouver is known as the green city of Canada but coming from Toronto, the recycling program here is completely lacking and the green bin program is non-existent (although there are plans for 2010).  My mom always composted in her backyard and several years of saving fruit and veggie remnants at her house made me feel guilty throwing it out in the garbage in my own apartment.

Digging around on the internet, I quickly realized that those fancy automatic composters cost an arm and a leg and that worm composting was the next best alternative.  Thank goodness the city of Vancouver has a government funded program that provides instruction, materials and a workshop right in Kitsilano to start your own mini worm factory.

On to City Farmer!  Located on Maple and 6th, this quaint garden provides tons of information for new and seasoned gardeners with expert advice and instruction.

The workshop holds about 25 people and each person leaves with enough materials to start their own worm composter.  For $25 you receive a ventilated box with a lid and a tray, a bag of worms, straw and newspaper for bedding, a trowel and an instruction booklet.

A good mix of shredded mix of black and white newspaper plus an dried organic like straw makes a nice cozy bed for the wormies.  Dried leaves also work well too provided they are not oak leaves (apparently they possess a chemical that is a growth inhibitor).

The box itself has ventilation holes along the top and drain holes at the bottom.  It comes with a tray for the bottom to catch drippings as well as a fitted lid.  The bin is black because worms like a dark environment and shy away from light.

The bedding is placed inside the bin and filled to the top.  The idea is to have this bedding very airy so the worms can move about so don’t mash it all down.

Next moisten the bedding so it feels like a wrung out sponge.  Too dry and your wormies will be dehydrated and too wet will drown them…although that is near impossible with the drain holes at the bottom of the box.  Make sure all the bedding is moist and not just at the top.

Worms have no teeth!  They have a gizzard and to help your little friends out, add a handful of sand or soil from the garden.  The grittiness of the sand/soil will help them break down their food.

Next, put some food in one corner under the bedding.  For worms, you want only veggie and fruit scraps, tea and perhaps some coffee and their filters.  Avoid too much acidic fruits like citrus and limit only one coffee dump once a week.  Save your scraps and feed your worms one day of every week and put the food in a different corner every week.

This encourages your worms to move around and not mound a pile of compost in one spot every time.  For the first month, only feed 1 litre per week.  After your first month…check the original corner and assess how much has been eaten.  If most of the food is gone, go ahead and add 2 litres for another 4 weeks.  Every month, check the original corner and slowly add more if you see they are eating almost all of the food.

For this type of box (approx 500 red wriggler worms), they can eat up to 4lbs of scrapes per week in ideal conditions (about 25 degrees, minimal vibrations, enough bedding…yada yada).  Keep in mind that if you overfeed your wormies might get sick and your box might start to stink, so start off slow and add more as you go.

bury that food under the bedding to avoid smells!

Now let’s take a look at my 500 new friends!  They weren’t so creepy because they were way tinier than I thought they would be.  They’re no where close to the bait worms my dad used to use fishing, most of them were only 3″ long and super duper skinny.

Hello worker #1/500, please eat 1/2 of your weight in garbage and poop out fertilizer for me.

These little wormies were just gently dispersed in the bedding mix, they’ll eventually find their way to the food and find a cozy spot.

This box can put inside your house or outside out of direct sunlight.  You never want it go below 4 degrees and just keep an eye on the moisture level of the bedding.  It doesn’t hurt to mix it up a little bit every time you take a peak to ensure there is enough air cycling through.

It’s fairly easy to maintain this little worm factory, feed once a week and check on the moisture.   That’s all about it takes.  Once in a while, the tray will collect some liquid called “Worm Tea”, it’s an excellent source of fertilizer and so potent that you would need to mix it 1 to 10 parts water before adding it to your plant’s soil.  Use a turkey baster to suck the liquid from the tray and squirt it into a bottle with a cap for storage.  This liquid stains like a mo fo fyi.

After 4-6 months, your first harvest of compost can happen!  One way of encouraging your worms to migrate is too move all the compost/left over bedding to one side of the box.  Fill the empty side with fresh bedding and put some food underneath.  Eventually all your worms will move from one side to the other and you can harvest the compost on the worm-free side (ok there might be a few stragglers, but you can pick those fellows out).  Compost is super potent, so you’ll have to mix it with some soil (approx 1/1 ratio) before using it.

a cross-section of what my worm factory will eventually look like

Worms reproduce…surprise!  After about a year, you’ll have to remove some of the worms because your population will be too great for your box size.  Start up a new box and double your factory or give one to a friend!

Going green is so 2011.


4 Responses to “worms! eat my garbage! 500 new friends for urban composting…”

  1. Fendi Designer Purses April 7, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    Every time I come to theurbanpocketknife.wordpress.com there is another interesting article up to read. A friend of mine was talking to me about this topic several weeks ago, so I think I’ll send my friend the link here and see what they say.

  2. Eddy March 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    Gee Serena! I am amused and glad to find out such a great way to handle the remains. May be I’ll try it out here in HK and see how it goes!

  3. Annie March 29, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    Serena I had a red wiggler worm composter for the longest time! It’s amazing! In a couple of weeks look inside and you’ll find the eggs and teeny weeny baby worms. 🙂 Annie

  4. Jennifer March 29, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    So cool!!! I wants one! 😀

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