Another of my 2011 personal goals was the addition of a vermiposting system to our ever-expanding residential eco-system.
I was well aware of the many benefits of worm compost for the garden and landscape, particularly the wonders of compost tea, which many consider pure liquid gardener gold.
My original plan was to add a commercially manufactured worm tower, like the one Will Hooker and his family use at their “Itty Bitty Farm” in North Carolina.
Will is a professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University, an avid Permaculturist, and an accomplished landscape designer. His Introduction to Permaculture distance learning course videos are a world class resource and are available for free. I’ve included more info about these free videos at the end of this post.
I was content with putting this plan on hold for another year, mostly due to the myriad of other plans and experiments I have scheduled for 2011.
Just when the idea began to slip from top of mind, out of the blue, a co-worker friend asked me if I would like for her to get me some worms. Definitely not an everyday work-related question, at least not where I work, but the question was understood. We are both gardeners- she’s a graduate of the Indiana Master Gardener program and I’m an aspiring Indiana Master Naturalist (with plans to pursue the Master Gardener program after I graduate from the IMN program).
The Fort Wayne Parks Department was hosting an educational session on worm composting titled “Worms Ate my Garbage”. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity and quickly registered for the class.
The presenter for this session was none other than Chicago based (former Hoosier) Stephanie Kichler of Wormplicity.
Through her 90 minute session Stephanie enlightened me on the scalability of a vermiposting system.
After a brief overview of worm biology, she covered the component requirments needed to create and maintain a simple self-contained system and it’s habitat and nutritional requirements crucial to successfully raising happy, healthy, and productive worms.
I’ve read several articles on vermiposting over the years but was often detered by the scale of these systems. I didn’t want to commit a lot of money, a large area, or time to learn and experiment with a system.
Stephanie’s presentation was focussed on what she calls mini-bin systems. These bins are small enough to be stored on bookshelves or under the sink and take, literally, seconds per week to feed and maintain. This opened my mind to the simplicity and scalability of small scale worm composting.
Using her mini-bin system I can start extrememly small, learn, experiment and master my system, then either scale up to a larger system, or create multiple smaller independent systems, as I see fit.
To quote Dr. Seuss- “Sometimes the quesions are complicated and the answers are simple”. So true with worm composting.
Here are the basic requirments for getting started with your own worm composting system.
1.) Container- Water proof, with tight fitting lid w/ plenty of small airholes drilled in lid. Small rubbermaid style containers work great.
2.) Worms- Red Wigglers are best. These can be acquired from local bait shops or from Stephanie, if you attend one of her presentations. She may ship worms, also. Contact her for more information.
3.) Bedding material- loosely torn (or shredded) brown paper bags, black and white newspaper, etc. Moisten well with water, keeping it fluffy (not matted down).
4.) Worm food- Raw fruit and veggie kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg shells, etcetera, cut up into small pieces. Essentually no animal flesh/fat/bones, grease, pet waste, etc.
To assemble the container- simply layer the container with the worms, 1/2 bedding material, food source, remainder of bedding material and secure the lid. It’s that simple!
Feed weekly, or as needed. Determine feeding requirements based on how quickly the old food materials get comsumed. Place new food matter under the top bedding layer. Be sure to maintain a nice degree of humidity by spraying down with additional water if the top bedding is drying out, or reduce the humidity as needed by adding additional ventilation holes in lid, if there is excessive condensation.
This is a very simple overview of the process. For more information, be sure to check out Stephanie’s site Wormplicity.com.
Apparently Fort Wayne gardeners love worms, as they bought out all of the worms Stephanie brought with her. I’m planning on picking up some worms this week and getting my mini-bin started.
Be sure to check back (or subscribe to this blog) for updates on my mini-bin experiment. I’m sure there will be some future posts just crawling with worm knowledge…
Books Stephanie recommended-
Introduction to Permaculture Course at NCSU-