Saturday, April 18, 2009

We've got Worms!

Yes, I know how that sounds but I'm to excited to care that it sounds bad. We've got worms and I love it!

Today was the day that I decided that we were ready to start worm composting (Vermicomposting). I didn't give much thought to buying the worms because I knew that I could call our local feed store and they would have plenty of Redworms (like I said before, you only want to compost with Redworms).

So I called them up....nothing, no worms. Hrm... So next I called another good local feed shop....nothing. Three nursery's later and still no one had worms in stock. The nice folks at Moana Nursery did give me the name and number of a local Worm Farmer. Yep, he grows worms, who knew. So I called him (Dick) up and we agreed that Morgan and I could pick up the worms this afternoon. He needed some time to separate the worms out.

What is the name of this man's company you ask? "Wigglen Dicks" Red Worm Farm - 775.849.0773 and they are located in Washoe Valley Nevada

After I set things up with Dick the worm farmer, we meet up with some friends and a free local sustainable gardening class. It turns out that we knew a lot about sustainability already but we did learn a few new things...all of which I have forgotten with all the worm excitement!

Next it was off to Target where we picked up to small (13"x13"x13") totes with hinged-type lids. to make our Worm composter. I was really excited because the two totes only cost $16 dollars instead of the $130-200 dollars (plus shipping) for a pre-made composter.

We spent about an hour with Dick learning about worms and the worm business and we learned so much more. I had done quite a bit of research and reading about Vermicomposting but he taught us a lot! If you decide to buy worms and you live near us, please go with Wigglen Dicks - great name and lots of great information. If you live elsewhere, I suggest that you try to find a local worm farmer and buy from them. It is great to get the worms right from the farmer because of all the first hand knowledge that you get as well. We got to see everything from the manure to the beds to the finished worm castings. I totally meant to take pictures at the farm but I forgot.

The following pictures show us preparing the food and building the composter - we decided to take the time and blend the first batch of food to help the worms get going.

It took us less then an hour to build the composter and most of that was trying to find a good system to poke the ventilation holes (hammer and nail is NOT the best way btw). I will walk you through the very simple steps below but I cannot recommend the book The Urban Homestead (The link is to Amazon but please buy local if you can) enough. I love this book and you will too. They walk you through a very simple and straightforward way to start worm-composting.

First we bought:
  1. 1lb of worms (this is about 1000 worms) from Wigglen Dicks Red Worm Farm
  2. Two dark color (worms hate light) totes with lids.
Next we did the following:
  1. Drilled 20 evenly spaced 1/4" holes in the bottom of both totes. (These allow the worms to travel from box to box, and let any extra liquid leak out if necessary.)
  2. Drilled 20 evenly spaced 1/16" holes in the lid of ONE lid.
  3. Drilled a row of 1/16" holes about an inch up from the bottom of both totes all the way around the totes. We went about one every 3-4 inches.
  4. Drilled a row of 1/16" holes about an inch from the top of both totes all the way around the totes. We went about one every inch. These are the ventilation holes that will keep the totes from becoming to humid.
  5. Next we lined the bottom of one tote with 4" of damp shredded newspaper. To do this we took handfuls of shredded newspaper and submerged them in a bucket of water. You then take it out of the water wand squeeze all the water out until you just have a few drops - should be like a sponge. Then just unbunch and spread.
  6. Next you would want to add in a layer of worm castings (soil ill work if your worms do not come in a bunch of castings. If you add soil, then you will not have "pure" worm casting until you start your second batch. It's all going into the garden anyway so it not a big deal. Use worm casting if possible or just some good organic soil)
  7. Carefully add your 1lb of worms and be sure to cover any worms that get exposed. I was surprised at just how tiny and fast these little guys are.
  8. Cover with the lid with the holes and place in the kitchen. You want to your composter on top of the second lid (with no holes) to catch any drippings. Place two bricks or some wood to keep the composter off of the lid. Our lids have 1 inch plastic tabs that keep the composter from touching the lid. Any drippings can be poured directly onto your plants.
That's it! You now have a worm composter. Worms will double every 60 days or so. If you start with 1lb then in two months you will have about 2lbs of worms. They will also produce their weight in castings every week so after a month you the say you will have about 4lbs of fresh worm castings for your garden! Craziness!

The worms will eat slowly at first while they adjust to their new home so don't over feed them. Start with just one handful of food (kitchen scraps, not plate scraps) a week for the first week and then by the second week they should be eating about two handful a week. If you check on them and they still have food, then wait a bit longer. If you cover the food with damp newspaper, it will cut down on the smell and prevent flies.

You should really really check out The Urban Homestead for lots and lots of great worm caring tips. Plus they tell you how to make some really good fertilizer tea from the castings.

Dick the worm farmer suggested that we also check out for more information.

Good luck and don't forget to love your worms! I'll post worm updates so stay tuned!
P.s. Worms and composters make great gifts :)


QChan said...

Thanks for the great post about the worms I`ve been looking around to get into this with no avail. Then I saw the comment you left on crunchy chickens blog and got to your blog! Thanks!

Billie said...

That sounds like it is really easy! You mention that worms can travel from box to box but you don't mention what you did with the second box.

I too also came from Crunchy Chicken and have been thinking about vermicomposting in our condo.

Tony R. said...

For now, the second box will just be stored. Once the first bin is half to 3/4 full you place it on top of the works in the first bin. Then just start feeding the worms in the second bin and after a month or so all the worms should migrate up into the second bin. At that time you can remove the first bin, sort out the few remaining worms and use the compost.