The purpose of this blogpost is to show you that everyone has the ability to learn how to maintain a worm composter in their home. As a summer student at Green Venture I started this project – of having my own worm composter for the month of July – with no previous knowledge about vermicomposting (the fancier way of saying worm composting) or how it worked. What I found is a relatively low maintenance, rewarding way of making your own compost! If you are curious about the process or are hoping to start your own bin, read on!
Here’s what I did:
Step 1. Research and Preparation
When taking on a project like this I think you can never have enough information and so that’s what I did. Green Venture has a page dedicated to vermicomposting and that’s where I started. I also coordinated a pickup time from the Green Venture EcoHouse and had found a spot in my home where the bin would go – in my case this was in the basement.
Step 2. Starting the box
This is by no means a detailed step-by-step but rather a demonstration of the basics to get you started. Green Venture is currently working on pre-made worm homes and you can always reach out to ask about receiving your own worms or to learn more about it. The form for that can be found here. If you just purchase the worms alone, you will have to set up a worm bin like I did. So what do you actually do for this process? Giuliana, the Executive Director of Green Venture, walked me through the process.
We started preparing two 10 gallon totes by drilling ¼ inch holes into the lid and sides of the top bin. This allows for air flow into the bin. The bottom bin will catch any excess liquid and keep your worms inside.
(picture of the two bins before filling them)
We then added in about 10 inches of shredded paper (making sure that there was no colour on the paper as that can hurt the worms) and added enough water to make the paper damp – about the consistency of a wet sponge.
(picture of the bins filled with bedding)
The next stage is to add in your worms (in this case the large brown pile) and then cover them back up with the shredded paper (also called bedding). We then put the lid onto your box and left them for about a week to get settled into their new home. Their ‘home’ is best in a dark place so I have them stored in the basement, where they are least likely to be disturbed. Other possible locations would be in the kitchen or in a closet.
(picture of worms before being settled into bedding)
Step 3. Saving scraps
So what do you feed worms? How does that work? This part was a little tricky to navigate because in Hamilton you can compost a wider range of things than can be fed to the worms so we couldn’t fully switch from one system to the other. The solution we’ve come up with is to have two separate compost bins – one just for the worms and one for everything else that they cannot eat. This was a hassle at first but we’ve adapted pretty quickly to the new set up. This is also important because my family of six produces more compost than the worms would be able to eat. A pound of worms will eat the equivalent of two peoples compost per week.
What we put in our worm compost:
- Fruits and vegetable scraps from snacks and salads, i.e. lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, potatoes, apples
- Coffee grounds, tea bags
- Egg shells (crushed up)
- Torn up egg cartons
- Paper (NOT construction paper)
What we did NOT put in worm compost (and instead put in the city compost bin):
- Dairy products
- Fats, oils, salt
- Meat product
- Processed foods
- Tissues or napkins (these currently go in the garbage rather than the compost)
Whenever preparing food, I made sure to put the scraps into the worm bowl rather than the general compost and taught my family to do the same. So far there haven’t been any issues with this system and my family have grown to enjoy figuring out what the worms like to eat.
Step 4. Feeding the worms
Now came the part that I was not looking forward to – actually feeding the worms. I’m not usually a very squeamish person but I was at the thought of feeding the worms. These were unfounded fears though because it ended up being really easy! I used a garden trowel to gently move some of the bedding out of the way, gently placed in my compost, and then covered it back up again easily. The whole process took about two minutes total and I didn’t actually have to touch any of the worms. I have continued to feed them weekly, changing the feeding spot each time, and they are happily living in their bin.
Step 5. Troubleshooting
For the most part I had no issues with my bin. However, after the first few weeks I noticed my worms were at the top of the bin, trying to escape. To stop this from happening, I placed more dry bedding on the top of the bin to remove some of the excess moisture, which makes it easier for the worms to breathe, and placed my bin under a light, so the worms would be encouraged to burrow back down. This has done the trick and the worms are doing much better!
Step 6. Wait
While this post is looking at the first month of having a worm compost bin, it can take from 3-6 months for your worms to produce compost for you to use, so this next period requires some patience. I’ve learned to let your worms do their thing and continued to feed them weekly while they get settled into their new home.
Overall, this was a very cool experience and I learned a lot more about worms than I ever thought I would. I have enjoyed watching the worms grow and eat through my family’s waste and I think I’ll continue to worm compost after this project has finished! If you’d like to request your own worms from Green Venture or find out about the process you can fill out the form found here or visit our website. Thanks for following me along on this journey!