Sunday, March 30, 2008

Basic Worm Composting and Compost Tea

Last year we started composting with worms. I posted a few of these pictures last November when we harvested the first batch of vermicompost from our worm bins and added it to some of our garden. I'm posting the photos again to show how rich the castings look compared to our sandy soil. The second picture just shows what these little red wrigglers actually look like.

These are my worm bins that I keep on our front porch. I started with the blue one then decided to give them some more room to spread out and added another bin. They will actually reproduce really fast so if I can keep them alive we'll keep getting more worms!

It's very easy to assemble the bins.

First, you just drill holes for air all around the box. I used these plastic bins but a lot of people build small wooden boxes for their worms.

Then you add the bedding. You can use some dirt, compost, or more commonly people use shredded newspaper sprayed with a little water.

Then you add your worms. The red wigglers can be bought online or from a local bait shop (just make sure you are getting the composting worms (red wigglers)and not nightcrawlers).

Then you start feeding them. They eat kitchen scraps--rotting fruit and veggies, coffee and filters, tea and bags, and any grains. They don't eat animal products. Cover the worms and food scraps with more bedding. In a few weeks the worms will eat through the scraps and will leave behind beautiful, rich, fertilizer that you can add to houseplants or anywhere.

This is a terrible picture since you can't even see any of the worms but this is what the inside of the bin looks like.
About a month or so ago I started making compost tea with the vermicompost. The tea is made by putting some of the worm compost in a tea bag and letting it sit for several days. There are many ways to do it but I decided to use a fish pump to aerate the water as this was recommended to produce the best tea. The finished product is used to water or spray on the beds as a fertilizer. It helps to prevent foliar diseases when sprayed on leaves,and it increases plant growth and helps make nutrients more available to plants when added to the soil.

Here's what my tea bucket looks like before I add water and the pump. The mesh "bag" is actually flexible window screen. It is filled with about 2 cups of vermicompost and tied together with a thin string then attached to a stick so it will be suspended while sitting in the bucket.

This is what it looks like after I add the fish pump and water. There are 4 hoses that are pumping air. I also add a little molasses for the beneficial bacteria to eat. After 3 days I pour the tea into a watering can and pour it on our plants and seedlings. I've been making it once a week for the past 3 weeks.

When I first started the worm compost I was a little freaked out by the worms. But now I feel completely the opposite. I love them. I put my bare hands in the bin filled with bugs and worms all the time. I think it is really amazing how they can turn our trash into such treasure! They are amazing creatures.

This is a very simple explanation and I'm sure I left a lot out. There is tons of info on the web giving detailed instructions on how to start worm composting and brewing compost tea. If you are is at your fingertips!

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