My Vermiculture Set-Up
Thanks to Red Worm Composting for Part One on this extensive and helpful article.
I have been practicing Vermiculture for a number of years now with great success. I started with one bin and a pound of Red Wiggler Worms and was up to 6 bins at one time. The problem I had was not having enough food to feed the worms.
So I sold some off and got done to two systems now. One is home made as you can see here and the other was one I purchased for just under $100. Is there a difference in the success of one over the other, frankly, I can’t see it. It might be a little easier to separate the worms from the castings in the purchased unit, but not worth the extra cost.
The professionally made unit has trays with an open screen on the bottom so the worms can travel UP to get the food. The food is kept in the uppermost tray. As that tray starts to fill with castings you add another tray on top of that one and now that is the Feeding Tray.
Once you have added a number of trays you can then start to clean the lower trays which will be pure castings and may still have some worms, but that is easy to remove later.
Shredded Cardboard and Newspapers
As we have learned worms like the fiber they get from cardboard, newspapers and Peat Moss which I use to also lower the moisture content of my bins. When they get too wet, you will start to see the worms trying to escape the bins. They will come up the sides because the bins are either too wet, of the PH is off due to feeding them citrus fruit or in my case ground up pineapple waste. To adjust the PH when I use the pineapple skins, I use some pelletized lime to adjust the acid in the pineapple. Not too much and after I grind the skin, I mix some of the lime in before I feed it to my worms.
I use a heavy duty paper shredder in my office to shred up cardboard boxes, after I remove any packaging tape. I use a razor knife to carefully cut the carton down into strips that will fit the width of my shredder. Same with newspapers and other paper I might have. Do not shred anything with plastic, they will not eat it, but as you screen the castings from the worms, you will see that material show up as undigested and caught in the screen,
As I mentioned I like to use Peat Moss as well to bring the moisture level down in my bin and often put on a pair of rubber gloves and loosen up the castings and mix in shredded paper or peat moss to aerate the bins.
How I Prepare The Worm Food
I have two empty plastic containers I use (old Blue Bonnet ice cream containers). Each time we prepare a meal we put the veggie and fruit waste into the containers. We may have some old bread or other material too and it all goes into the container. For bigger loads of material us a one gallon plastic zip lock bag. I use that for larger material like watermelon rinds, which can weigh as much as 11 pounds.
I have a Cusinart that I use for grinding the material down to a nice mash like consistancy. The smaller the material the easier for the worms to consume them. Also takes up less space in my refrigerator where I store the containers.
For watermelon and other very liquid materials like the pinnapple rinds, I will put them in a large pot and actually cook it on my stove for as much as a couple of hours in some cases to remove a lot of the water. The photo you see here shows what it looks like when it thickens.
I use a spatula and my neoprene of rubber gloves now to add this to the worm bins. I dig a hole in the castings put some of this mix in and cover it. If not, you will begin to get fruit flies which is not a fun thing when you open the cover of the bin and they fly into your face.
They say a pound of worms can consumer a half pound of food each day. They are a composting machine so when you put in 60 pounds of food over a period of time, you will get almost the same amount of castings.
Small White Bugs
I should mention that some friends of the worms will appear in your bins, but don’t panic as they also eat the food and their poop is also full of beneficial bacteria. These small white bugs are almost microscopic and if you look at this photo you may see them. They love moist conditions, the dark and of course all the food the worms eat. To cut down on the amount, don’t allow your bins to get too moist.
Dry them out with the shredded cardboard, paper and peat moss and aerate the castings on a regular basis so they don’t become too compacted. If you want to try to remove some you can put some of the watermelon or other fruit rinds in face down into the bins and in a day or two they will be covered with these bugs and you can then throw them out. However they reproduce so fast, it won’t help much.
I have just accepted them as my friends now, they don’t get out of the bins, they don’t fly and they are clean.
Harvesting Your Castings
One of the most difficult questions to answer is how do you harvest the castings from the worms. On YouTube there are a number of videos that show all sorts of ways to do this including building your own sifters. I spent a few weekends building one that was supposed to shake the screens, the castings would drop through the screens into bins below and the worms would fall down the end into another bin. Unfortunately this didn’t work well and now I only use the screen I made for this machine.
I found the screens I made for this sifter work better if I first put down a plastic tarp on my driveway, form piles of the castings on the tarp and wait for the worms to form a clump in the bottom of each pile.
I carefully pull out that clump of worms and return them to a fresh bin and continue the process until I have most of the worms out of the castings.
Then I put a 1/4″ opening screen over the top of my wheelbarrow and begin to shake the castings and push it through the screen. I will pick out any remaining worms from this and return them to their bin.
I of course try to let the castings dry out in the sun so it will be easier to screen the material. I dump out the shredded paper or material from the peat moss that was left in the screen and then screen some more. After the initial screening and the castings are just a little moist by now, I go to a 1/8″ screen I also have and screen it a second time. I usually find some very small baby worms and return them to the bin.
This now gives me a very fine and beautiful rich black, organic fertilizer I put in every hole I dig before I plant anything in my garden. I especially love how my veggies and flowers grow from this rich, healthy fertilizer and I feel good that I was able to convert all of my organic waste into the best fertilizer for my plants.
Learn How To Make Worm Tea…No not to drink…Liquid Organic Fertilizer…Click Here
Photos Showing Results Using Worm Castings