|WORM BIN FOR COMPOSTING|
Last week I talked about the free way to build your soil by way of a compost heap. You can also hire some industrious earthworms to build an extremely rich soil amendment by way of a worm bin. Worm bins can be homemade or purchased. Using worms to build compost is called "vermiculture".
I purchased The Worm Factory from Cascade Manufacturing. It couldn’t have been easier to set up and came equipped with everything, even starter bedding, to get my worms off to a great start.
The purchased bins have stackable sections so that the worms can travel from one area up to the next as the bin in progress fills with worm compost. The bin also has a drain faucet at the bottom to make it easier to pull off the rich worm "tea".
The by-product of garbage-eating earthworms (worm poop) is so strong, you have to be careful to use only a tiny bit in containers and mix it well into the garden soil. Vermiculture usually results in alkaline compost. Some experts suggest mixing it with peat moss to lower the pH level, since most garden plants like a slightly acidic soil. I would rather add it to the compost heap.
Worm bins you can buy come with everything you need, ready to set up. Except for the worms, which you need to order separately. You cannot use worms you dig up in your backyard, I’m told, because they do not eat garbage. You need red wigglers to process kitchen scraps.
You don’t even have to go outdoors with your kitchen peelings. Worms can be put to work in your garage or even in your home if you have a spot for the containers. I’m talking worms in a worm bin, here, not worms lazing around the kitchen waiting for snacks.
To make a homemade worm bin, you can use a plastic container. A large clear plastic storage container with a lid works well. Be sure to install a drain of some sort to draw off liquid from the bin. You can drill a hole the size of a cork, and use that as your drain. This could be a messy solution, but better than trying to tip it out, I think.
Tear up black and white newspaper into long half-inch to inch-wide strips. Soak the newspaper as you go. Before you cover the bottom of the container with a thick layer of the newspaper, wring it out until it’s almost dry. Then pull it apart so that it isn’t stuck together in a mat.
Fill the bin to about three quarters full of the damp newspaper. Then sprinkle a handful or two of dirt onto the news. Now you can place your red wigglers on top of the new bedding. Leave the top off and a light shining on the container. This will encourage the worms to burrow into their new home.
Give the worms a few days to settle in and then bury household garbage an inch or more deep in a hole under the bedding. Wait a week before adding more food, and then bury the garbage in a different area.
It will be three to four months before you have enough worm castings to use. According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service website, you may harvest the vermiculture compost by placing food scraps on only one side of your worm bin for several weeks. Most of the worms will migrate to that side of the bin.
Then you can remove the vermiculture from the other side of the bin where you have not been adding food scraps, and add fresh bedding. Repeat this process on the other side of the bin. After you harvest from both sides, you can begin adding food scraps to both sides of the bin again.
Use any "worm tea" you draw off to fertilize container plants, such as Hydrangea macrophylla Cityline Venice PP#10,928 or one of my favorite ornamental perennials, 43407 Kent Beauty oregano (Origanum rotundifolium 'Kent Beauty'). Be sure to dilute it in water before you pour it on.
I have a friend who has been using this method of vermiculture successfully for years now. In addition, thank you to Rhonda Sherman, Extension Agricultural Engineering Specialist with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service for the excellent information posted at their website.
---Posted by Anne K Moore, December 15, 2008---
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"Gardening is my passion. If I could indulge myself in it for every waking hour for the rest of my life, it would not be enough time to learn all I want to know or grow all the plants I dream about."