Sunday, May 17, 2015

DIY Worm Composting Bin

Lately, everyone has been talking about ways to Go Green. Making your own worm composting bin is a cheap, easy, and fun way to Go Green! Not only does it decrease the amount of waste you need to throw away, but it results in amazing nutrient-rich organic fertilizer for your garden, flowers, lawn, or even your house plants.

You can buy fancy bins at your local hardware store, or from multiple places on-line. Or you can save a bunch of money and make your own!

Needed Materials:
2 Rubbermaid-type containers
Small Blocks of wood or rocks
Food Scraps
Red Wriggler Worms

Step 1: Drill the Drainage holes.
Drill small holes in the bottom of one of your bins. This is going to be the bin that the worms will be in, so you don't want to make the holes too large. I used a 1/8" drill bit. The purpose of these holes is to provide drainage. Most of the time, there will be little or no drainage. But if you feed them something like watermelon, you are going to need the drainage holes. Place the holes on the lowest part of your bin, since that is where the liquid would be most likely to pool.

Step 2: Drill the ventilation holes.
Drill larger holes near the top edge of the same bin that you drilled the drainage holes. Keep in mind that this bin is going to be placed inside the other bin. Make sure the holes are near the top, so they won't be covered by the other bin. I used a 1/2" drill bit. If you don't have a large drill bit, just drill many small holes. Don't worry, as long as you provide a healthy environment for your worms, they are not going to escape out of these holes. If you are worried, you could cover these holes with a fine mesh.

Step 3: Place your spacers.
Put some scrap blocks of wood or some rocks inside the outer bin. This is the bin without the holes. The purpose of these is to hold the inner bin up a little for the drainage. If you don't have scrap wood pieces or rocks, just look around for something around your house that will elevate the inner bin a couple inches.

Step 4: Insert your inner bin into the outer bin.

Step 5: Rip up some newspaper and lay it on the bottom. 
I like to rip it into squarish pieces, but you may like to use strips. Whatever you like is fine, this is going to provide the bedding. Be sure to only use the normal newspaper pages. Do not use the shiny ad pages of the newspaper. The inks that they use for those can be toxic to the worms.

Step 6: Cut up some cardboard and add it to the bedding. 
Again, you want to use normal cardboard. Do not use any that is coated in that shiny stuff and be sure that any area that was taped or had a sticker on it is not used. The glues in the stickers and tapes can also be harmful.

Step 7: Moisten the bedding.
I forgot to take a picture of this step, but wet your newspaper and cardboard. It should be wet, but you should not be able to squeeze any water out of it.

Step 8: Get your worms ready.
I ordered my worms from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. I had bought from them before and they also have a live guarantee, but I know there are several other suppliers out there.

I received my worms within 3 days, but I was a little worried when I saw the package. I don't know what the post office did, but the box was completely smashed.

Luckily, my worms seemed alright. I opened them up as soon as I got them and gave them a good watering. They were pretty dry from shipping. Within an hour of getting some water, they started to perk up.

Step 9: Add your food scraps, dirt, and worms.
Worms do not have teeth, so they eat dirt to aid in their digestion. Worms will eat most fruit and vegetable scraps. Things like apple cores, watermelon rinds, potato peelings, and banana peels are good, but try to limit or avoid feeding them citrus fruits, onion or garlic. If you feed them something that has seeds, like pumpkin, they will eat it but they do not digest the seeds. So you will find seeds when it comes time to harvest the compost. They also like to eat coffee grounds, tea bags, breads, egg shells, pet hair, and even dryer lint. If you use a liquid fabric softener, do not feed them your dryer lint. Do not feed them any dairy, oils, salty foods, or meats.

Step 10: Cover the entire pile with wet newspaper, packing paper, or cardboard. 
This helps to keep everything moist and also helps to darken it. Worms do not like light, so the darker the better for them. Try to store your bin either in a darker area inside your house or a shady area outside. I keep mine in my basement. Ideally, you want them to stay around 60-75 degrees F. If they get too cold or too hot, they will die.

Step 11: Continue to feed your worms, as you have food scraps to feed them.
Remember to also continue to provide them with things like newspaper and to keep everything moist. The amount that you feed them, really depends on many factors. They can generally consume about half their body weight a day. But what they are eating, how warm it is and how moist it is all come into play. Also, they are going to reproduce, so you can't really know the exact weight of your worms at any given time.

Step 12: Harvest your vermicompost.
Your worms will consume your table scraps and turn them into a very dense, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer. An easy way to harvest without picking through the worms is to feed on only one end of the bin. When you want to harvest that side, just start feeding on the other end of the bin. The worms will move to the food. Then you can easily scoop out the vermicompost.

Step 13: Add your vermicompost to your garden, yard, or even mix it with water to make worm tea and use it to water your houseplants. You will have amazing results!

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