This past Saturday (February 5th) a free class on Worm Composting was offered at Sky by nursery employee Emily Wilkins. She has been Seattle Tilth certified as a Master Composter. The class covered the benefits of worm castings, how to use castings and worm compost tea in the garden, how to set up a new worm bin, how to keep your little wigglers happy, basic worm anatomy and additional resources.
|Emily tearing up newspaper to make worm bedding|
First, just so all the terms are clear, vermicomposting = worm composting = the keeping and feeding of certain species of worms to convert organic waste into rich hummus. Vermicomposters harvest worm castings for use as a garden soil amendment and may harvest worms for use as fishing bait. Worm castings or vermicast are fancy, non-silly terms for worm poop.
Emily described worms as the “missing link” in organic gardening. She said they “unlocked” the nutrients from organic fertilizer and made it bio-available to plants. Emily claimed plants grown in vermicast were not attacked by insect pests or fungi and grew stronger. Independent studies show her to be right: worm castings mixed heavily into the soil improve plant health, vigor and yield.
In addition Emily promoted worm “tea” made by soaking worm castings in water for several hours as an excellent foliar feed, transplant soak or fertigation for plants that need a boost. She said that, when used as a foliar feed, the beneficial microbes in the worm tea colonized plant leaf surfaces and made them inhospitable to fungal spores and other decidedly non-beneficial microbes that might land on them. I love anything that harnesses the power of beneficial microbes so you can bet I’m going to be spraying everything with worm tea this summer.
And the cost to you, the vermicomposer, for all this goodness? Once you set up your worm bin, you have to feed your worms fruit and vegetable scraps that would otherwise get tossed (or perhaps go into your garden waste composter if you already roll like that) like banana peals, melon rings, carrot peelings, coffee grounds, old cooked rice, the heal of the bread your kids won’t eat…that kind of thing. The worms aren’t too picky, though Emily said they don’t like a whole lot of citrus or allium (onion family stuff).
Okay! You’re sold. You’re ready to start your own vericompost bin, right? Good news, it’s super easy. We have been vermicomposting for several years now and worms are the easiest pet ever. They are more bulletproof than goldfish, can go months without any attention if you forget about them (ask me how I know this) and when their box gets all full of dirt – well, that’s the whole point of having them!
Here’s the basic recipe for a worm bin:
|Worm Bin Ingredient List|
You need an opaque plastic or wood container, bedding like shredded paper, leaves, or torn-up cardboard, water to moisten the bin until it is as moist as a wrung-out sponge, food scraps – vegan only, please! – and red wiggler composting worms. If you are looking for cheap and easy, follow these instructions for something very close to what we did. It doesn’t get cheaper or easier than this, and it works just great.
Our worms have always seemed perfectly happy in their downscale bin but if you want something a bit more elaborate and fancy-pants, you’ve got some options. Here’s a few:
- Seattle Titlh’s instuctions for making a Wood Worm Bin.
- Seattle Titlh’s instructions for making an Off-the-Shelf Worm Bin.
- Many styles of commercially-made worm bins for sale.
- Journey to Forever’s excellent page on Vermicomposting will tell you all you really need to know to manage a successful worm bin in a concise but thorough manner.
- A cool method of separating worms from their castings.