Why is Lillyan looking through a bin of rotting food and dirt? She is looking for worms. They “help me feel better,” she says.
With all the gardening going on around here lately, we’ve decided to start composting as well. But not just good ole, garden-variety, big pile in your backyard composting — vermicomposting!
Vermicomposting means using earthworms to aid in the process. Everything you could ever want to know about it is here, at Worm Digest. Worms eat organic matter and turn it into enriched soil. They are little, wiggly natural fertilizer factories.
This is our worm bin. It came from Worms Wrangler, but there are plenty of places on the web to find one. Ours has five trays and a drip pan with a spout for “worm tea.” We’ll talk about the tea another day.
The idea is that you fill the bottom tray, the worms completely compost whatever is in there and then they move up to the next tray. You don’t have to mound and sort and dry out and separate your worms from your compost like you do in a traditional worm bin.
The worms need bedding along with all the old food, and from my research, Coconut Coir is their favorite. Lord knows we want these worms to be happy! Coir fibers are found between the husk and the outer shell of a coconut, and coir is a sustainable resource. It is sold in compressed blocks like this, but I didn’t need near that much, so I cut one in half with my trusty hand saw. More difficult than you might think. That’s one dense block of coconut hair.
You have to soak the coconut coir in a bucket of water. That one half-brick was way too much for this bucket. As you can see it’s still pretty dense in there. Be sure you give yourself plenty of room for coconut hair expansion, I guess. Who knew.
Then squeeze the excess water out of the coir and you have worm bedding! Those worms are just going to be in worm heaven … wait … Would EARTHworms enjoy heaven?
Then you add a couple of handfuls of organic potting soil, and voila, a five-star hotel for Red Wigglers. Just wait until they hear about the 5-course meals!
It’s helpful to have a two-year-old mix it all up for you while you take the photos.
Most compost bins just love grass clippings, so Daddy has been saving these for us, but we discovered worms are just not that into them. They can’t be bothered with grass when there are organic navel orange peels to eat. Guess the grass clippings have to go.
This is the stainless steel pail that sits on our kitchen counter for collecting food for vermicomposting. It has filters in the lid, so even though there may be strawberry tops growing fuzz in the bottom, you’d never smell it. We put all our fruit and vegetable waste in here, but no meats, fish or dairy.
Again, try to get a two-year-old to do your dirty work. She’s mixing up the old food with all the presoaked coconut coir and a tiny bit of potting soil.
All set. Now all we are missing are the worms. We wait eagerly everyday for the mail lady to arrive. (Worms come in the mail, didn’t you know that?)
Delivered fresh by your US Postal Service: two-pounds of Red Wiggler Earthworms. There are about 2000 of those little guys in that sack (according to the seller). They are packed with a little more of, yep, you guessed it, coconut coir. Lucky worms.
Here they are, in all there wiggly, rotten-food-lovin’ glory. Lillyan was thrilled.
Yes, we used our hands to mix them all up with the old food and coir. Nothing like squishly earthworms and black banana peels under your fingernails. Now those worms just need to get to eating!
Everyday we peek in at our worms. Lillyan insists on telling them “night night” before every nap or bedtime. They are shy creatures, though, so she has to make it quick. They hate the light, so when we take the lid off, they dive under the surface.
Now we just wait … and let the earthworms feast at their all-inclusive resort.
We’ll let you know what happens in this riveting tale of rotting food and squirmy worms.
SPOILER ALERT: We started this project about a month ago, and boy, have those worms been busy. Stay tuned for more.