…..but, don’t worry, they are the good and helpful kind!

When my plans to learn some outdoor composting didn’t work out due to base regulations, I decided to resort to a friend’s technique of “vermicomposting,” aka worm composting.  This can be done very simply, indoors, with nothing more than a bucket, some shredded paper mixed with soil, and some red wiggler fishing worms.  For several personal reasons, though, we decided to upgrade to a more deluxe setup that looks better, functions easier, and allows me to easily collect the “compost tea” that is a by-product of compost.

My setup consists of a unit that utilizes upward migration of the worms.  There is the base, where the excess liquid (compost tea) collects, and it has a convenient little spout to drain it periodically.  Then there is a “work tray” to which the worms are added, with their bedding, and then the food is added to this.

Looking into my working current working tray, you can see the scraps we have put in there. It currently includes some pea pods, leafy green stems, egg shells, bananas, onion roots, shredded paper, dried out bread crust, and even some of remnants of cleaning out my rabbit cage like shavings, droppings, food pellets, and a few sticks of hay.

The worms gradually eat everything in the tray–the paper, the bedding, the food scraps, almost everything.  Once they really get going, they are estimated to eat about 1/2 lb. of food a day for every pound of worms in the bin.  They, in turn, produce worm “castings” (isn’t that a nice way of saying “worm poop?”).  These castings look like the healthiest soil you have ever seen, and contain tons of nutrients for plants to use later.

Under the top layer of food and newspaper, you can see the dark, nutrient-rich, worm castings beginning to develop.

As the tray fills up with castings, the worms migrate upward in search of more food.  We continue to layer the food on top until the tray is almost full.  Then, we add another tray on top with new, fresh bedding of shredded paper and some of the old worm castings.  The bottom of each tray has holes all over, so the worms can easily pass through. We’ll start adding food to the second tray to encourage the migration into that tray.  Eventually, probably within 2 weeks, the majority of the worms will migrate, which will be our cue that the bottom tray is completely composted.  At that point, we can do what we want with those castings–use them in flower pots, mix them into a garden, give them away, sprinkle on the ground outside to fertilize the grass, you name it!  The compost tea can be used to water plants, as it is extremely nutrient-rich.

The fascinating thing about this system is that it doesn’t smell badly.  I have heard that if you add too much food too fast, it can attract fruit flies, but we haven’t had that problem.  The bin actually sits in a corner of my dining room, and you don’t even know it’s there.  We check the worms every day to make sure they seem active and to ensure the food is being eaten.  When we open the bin, the only smell is the smell of moist, rich soil, despite the fact that some of the food is obviously rotten and even has disgusting “hair” growing on it!

I will try to remember to give an update on this as the worms really get going.  I am pretty new to it, but based on my friend’s results, I expect we will learn to love these squirmy, slimy, little guys pretty quickly!