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Let’s talk about worms.
Yes, lets talk about worms in your kitchen. Let’s talk about using them to break down organic matter into compost. Let’s talk about….
While you can use worms with a ton of space, you can also use them in very little space. People bring worm bins inside and put them in their kitchen for easy access and due to lack of space. Vermicomposting makes it possible for you to compost in a tiny studio apartment.
No excuses. You can do this. No, they don’t stink (as long as you care for them properly). No, it’s not gross. No, you don’t have to tell all of your friends and neighbors that you have worms in your kitchen.
Your secret is safe with me. Girl scout promise. I won’t tell people you’ve got worms in your kitchen. You might want to share with them how cool it is, though. Composting in an apartment? That just brings you closer to your self-sufficiency, right where you’re at.
Why would I want worms in my… kitchen??
I know I know. The thought of worms creeping around where you prepare delicious meals and consume food on a regular basis doesn’t sound very appealing. But, they are amazing, and you won’t even know they’re there!
They will save you from throwing food into the garbage disposal or garbage bin (we don’t even have a disposal). They’ll save your sewer or septic and the trash man and landfill. You can use this stuff instead of letting it go to waste! They’ll provide you with amazing, organic compost to help fertilize your garden.
What is vermicomposting?
According to Miriam-Webster vermicomposting is the use of earthworms to convert organic waste into fertilizer. How cool is that? Worms make fertilizer!
Instead of throwing organic materials with a mix of soils into a bin and turning it, the worms do the work for you. Worms can break down organic matter faster than any microorganism can, and they do it by crawling through and eating. They grind through it, making it easier for microorganisms to finish the decomposition process. Since they aerate the soil as they work their magic, you never have to turn it!
Doesn’t it stink?
Anytime I’ve researched composting, this is one of the most frequently asked questions. Compost should never stink. Regardless of the method you use to compost.
When done properly, it pretty much doesn’t have an odor at all. The only smell you should smell from any type of compost, including vermicompost, is that earthy dirt smell.
IF a compost pile of any sort smells, something isn’t right. In a worm bin, it could be too moist, you could be overfeeding the worms, it may not have enough air, or the food may be exposed (meaning you need to add a layer of bedding).
- You need some worms. Not just any worm will do. Canadian night crawlers aren’t going to turn your kitchen scraps into fertilizer anytime soon. The most frequently used composting worm is the red wiggler.
- You need a bin. You can purchase one, like the one linked here, or you can build one. There are tons of tutorials online on how to build your own worm bin. One thing to consider is the size regardless of whether your purchase or build.
- A compost bin can process about a half pound of food per day per square foot of surface area. Keep in mind how much organic matter you make when considering the size of bin and amount of worms. You don’t want to overfeed your worms. That will result in stink….
- Adequate aeration. When selecting or making a bin realize the worms and organic matter need to breathe. A lid is a good idea, but if you use a solid lid, make sure it has holes drilled in it so that more air can circulate throughout the bin.
- Consider temperature. Your worms are going to be happiest at the same temperature you’re happy at. If you plan to keep your bin outside during the winter, it will need insulated. Otherwise, your worms will die… no good. Worms will also succumb to extreme heat. The best places to keep them would be your garage, basement, or under your kitchen sink. They’ll be fine and you won’t have to worry about insulating it to keep them warm or keep them cool.
- Consider the lighting. Worms like it dark. If you put a lid on their bin and shine some light on it, they’ll dig deeper to avoid the light. For this reason, and since they won’t be familiar with their new home to begin with, it is recommended you leave a light on it during the night for the first week or so. That way, you won’t wake up to worms crawling around all over your kitchen floor. After the first week or so, they’ll be settled in and you won’t have to leave the light on anymore.
Setting up the bin
Set up your bin with about 6-8 inches of ph neutral bedding material. Shredded up paper is a great bedding material.
Shred some paper into about 2 inch sections, and get it wet. You don’t want it sopping, but decently moist. Then, mix it around so it isn’t just a huge pile’o’wet paper.
You’re going to add about a half pound of worms for every square foot of surface area in the bin. Then, let them burrow into the bedding area before you feed them.
Feeding your worms
Food! As long as it isn’t super salty or really acidic, they can break it down. They can break down fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea leaves, coffee filters and tea bags. Ground up food will be broken down the fastest. They can break down large chunks of food, but it takes them quite a while.
Citrus fruits should be added in small quantities because of their high acid content. Don’t add pet manure, meat, bones, or greasy foods to the bin.
You should feed them a couple of times a week. Place the food, in clumps, in an area in the bin. Each time you feed them, place the scraps in a new area.
Maintaining your compost
Every couple of months, add three to four inches of fresh bedding material to the bin.
Every three months or so, you will want to remove your compost from your worms. You can just push the compost material to one side and add new bedding and food to the other side. Only place food on the new side. The worms will eventually stay on that side. Then, you can pull out your compost and put some fresh bedding on the other side to fill the hole.
I know, worms in your kitchen…. So hop to it and get some of that amazing fertilizer for your garden this year!
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- 7 Ways to Improve Your Garden Soil
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- How to Start an Organic Vegetable Garden