I know what you’re thinking. Where does that girl get such beautiful compost?
I thought I had written about our vermicomposting system, but searching this blog indicates that actually, I have never really talked about our worms here. That’s weird. We love composting. We’re composting people. We have greatly reduced the amount of waste that leaves our house by composting. We compost food waste, junk mail, cardboard, most of our yard waste, pizza boxes, my co-worker’s food waste, coffee grounds from local coffee shops, and a lot of other things I’m not even thinking of. I talk about composting a lot. I urge everyone to do it. Are you already composting? No? You should be. Too much good stuff is going to landfills.
The main compost strategies of our household:
1. Biostack Composter.
I mentioned this before. This is our main composting solution for yard waste, cardboard, and food waste while waiting for the worms to finish.
2. Cold Composting
This is a pile of branches from various yard projects that are too big to fit into the biostack. It might be several years before this compost is done. This is only marginally, technically a “compost strategy.”
3. The worm bins!
Two, stacking plastic bins full of worms, worm food, and worm bedding.
I bought worms at the Olympia Farmers Market about 15 months ago from the Wiser Worm Farm. I think I spent $10 on them. I drilled holes in some plastic tubs from Target. If memory serves, they were $5. Drilling lots of holes is critical – worms need oxygen to live. They can drown or suffocate if you don’t aerate properly. Here’s a photo of our worm hi-rise.
I use various trays from around the house underneath the tubs to catch the liquid that comes out of the bottom, aka “worm tea,” which is technically “worm leachate” but worm tea sounds cuter, I guess. I shredded all of our junk mail and several newspapers, and then moistened it with water. This is the worm bedding.
Then, you bury food waste in the bedding. The worms find it with their magical worm senses, eat it, make more worms, leave behind a legacy of worm castings (or poo) for you to feed to your plants. Don’t feed them citrus, bones, meat, dairy, eggs, and oil/grease. It’s not good for them. When the bin looks like this, it is ready to harvest.
I like worm composting because it is faster than regular composting. Worms can eat more food waste in a smaller space than traditional composting can take. It’s better in smaller spaces, especially apartments. With traditional composting, you need to balance your wet/dry or green/brown materials. With worm composting, you just have the bedding, the worms, and the food waste. The “mess” is controllable, and if you do it right, there’s no odor. It can take a little practice to “do it right” but I believe it’s within your reach.
“Harvesting” the compost is what I struggled with the most. I have read dozens of “methods” for harvesting worm castings, all of which sounded complicated, messy, or ineffective. I never found a magical solution, so I pulled on my latex garden gloves and sorting through the castings. It was slimy, but it didn’t smell bad. I picked the worms out by hand and dumped them back into the worm condos for the next round of worm composting. Yes, it was messy. Yes, I probably missed some. But it wasn’t as bad as I expected, so I will probably do the same thing next time. If you have a better castings-harvest method, please let me know.