Simple and Easy Vermicomposting Part II

Worm composting vermicomposting kit

You read Part I, you have your bin, now what?

Time to assemble!

What you need to get started that was not in the box with your bin.

  • Newspaper for shredding and lining the bin.
  • Eggshells
  • A cup of finished compost or worm castings.
  • Water
  • A big tub or bucket to mix things in.
  • Two cups of kitchen scraps.
  • Worms

Lining the Base of the Tray

You’ll need to line the base of each tray with 3 or 4 sheets of dry newspaper. This keeps the contents of the tray in the bin while allowing excess moisture to drain. Since you’re likely starting out, you’ll only be working with one tray for now. Consider the amounts outlined in this post would be for that one tray.

Lining the Base of the Tray
Line the bottom with newspaper

Melting the Coir

Soak the coconut coir in about 3 quarts of water until it breaks apart and is moist. Wring out any excess water. You want it to be thoroughly wet but not leaking water when you squeeze a handful.

Melting the Coir
The coir brick dissolves in water

Mixing

Mix the wet coir with 1 cup of finished compost or decayed leaf litter from beneath shrubs. You could also use worm castings from a working bin. Special note: No pine straw, what is visible in the photo are actually the stem component of the compound leaf structure on honey locust trees.

Mixing the Coir
Mixing the damp coir and leaves

Adding the Eggshells

Add crushed eggshells. This is super important. It keeps the ph balance correct and provides fine bits of grit for the worms to use as teeth in their gizzard. Smaller bits are better but you are not powdering it. Just crush up dry eggshells with your hands and add to the mix.

Adding the Eggshells
Adding eggshells

Adding Prepackaged Paper

Mix in the prepackaged shredded newspaper mix. Note that the mix had more than just newsprint but also cardboard and office paper. I will talk about this more in the next post where I give you an alternate method of creating the bedding mix, but for now, take note that the variety is beneficial. When this is thoroughly mixed it is time to check the moisture content. The bedding should be moist but you should not be able to squeeze excess water from a handful. It should feel like a wrung-out sponge. Too wet and the worms will drown. Too dry and the worms will be unhappy or even dehydrate.

Adding Prepackaged Paper
Add prepackaged paper mix

Add Bedding to the Tray

Add your bedding mix to the tray.

Add Bedding to the Tray
Adding the bedding mixture

All the Bedding is in Place

The bedding should be several inches deep and cover the bottom of the tray.

All the Bedding is in Place
Bedding material

Adding Food to the Tray

Place 2 handfuls (about 2 cups) of food scraps in one corner. The more squishy and yucky the food, the more the worms will like it. Freezing and thawing the scraps will help break them down.

To avoid problems with pests and smells feed the worms a vegetarian diet: Avoid meat, oil, or dairy. To keep the worms happy: Avoid the onion family, citrus, or hot peppers.

Adding Food to the Tray
Adding the first greens

Cover the Food

Cover the food with some of the bedding.

Cover the Food
Covering the greens

How to Shred Newspaper the Easy Way Step One

Remove any glossy inserts from the newspaper, coloured inks on newsprint is fine, it is the ink used on the slick feeling pages that is a problem.

Holding the newspaper by the spine fold, tear strips about two fingers (an inch and a half) wide. If you tear in any other direction you will not get strips.

How to Shred Newspaper the Easy Way Step One
Ripping newspaper the easy way

Easy Way Step Two

When you have several strips you can tear into squares by now tearing across the strips. If you have a chance to plan ahead, you can do this a bit at a time as it will tire your fingers if you are not used to it.

How to Shred Newspaper the Easy Way Step Two
Now rip down the length of strips

Completed Squares

Completed Squares
Newspaper squares

Covering the Bedding With Shredded Newspaper

Add 2-3 inches of dry shredded newspaper to almost fill the bin. This will insulate, wick up excess moisture, and help prevent fruit flies and other pests.

Covering the Bedding With Shredded Newspaper
Newspaper squares

Covering With Wet Newspaper Sheets

Cover everything with 3 or 4 sheets of wet newspaper. Place the lid on your tray. You are now ready for worms.

Covering With Wet Newspaper Sheets
Covering with wet newspaper

Buying Worms

Worms! You can find them online, your local garden shop, or bait shop. Your best bet is via craigslist or a friend who has an operating bin. Ideally, you want worms and castings from a mature bin.

If you are purchasing worms you want worms at all stages of the lifecycle: adults, juveniles as well as worm castings which contain the eggs. The best source is an active worm bin which is at the far end of the cycle and is almost completely castings and worms. Buying adults only from a bait shop will work, but will put you weeks or even months behind while waiting for the next generation to come along. You also have no idea what the bait shop worms have been exposed to in the way of pesticides and chemicals and in most cases, the owner of the shop doesn’t know either.

The worm supplier you buy from should offer a worm starter kit that includes bedding and castings. Buying from suppliers who are selling adults only by the pound will result in a slower start to your bin. Adults only may also result in dead or nearly dead worms if they are shipped when it is too cold or too hot. Bedding and castings will help ensure their survival by adding a certain amount of insulation.

Time to Add Worms

Add the worms to the bin by lifting the lid and peeling back the moist newspaper, pull aside the dry shredded newspaper layer and add the worms to the center of the tray along with any bedding that came with them. Recover with the dry shredded newspaper and the wet sheets. Replace the lid.

Buying Worms
Adding in the Worms

Now, what do I do?

Leave them alone for at least a week. When the worms have consumed most of the food you added to the corner of the tray you can add another 2 cups to another corner.

Feeding

Be patient. The most common mistake with new worm bins is overfeeding. It will end in tears and a hell of a lot of fruit flies. Make sure the worms have consumed the majority of the previous feeding before adding more. This may take more than a week between feedings. As the worm population stabilizes you will be able to shorten this time. Freezing and fully thawing what you plan to feed them will help break it down and make it easier for the worms to process quickly. Food added to the bin should be room temperature.

You can add coffee grounds and crushed eggshells along with the food. Both help stabilize the environment in the bin. You should not need to add water to the bin. The food should bring in more than enough moisture.

There is lots of great stuff in the instruction booklet that comes with the bin. Take the time to read it before setting up the bin.

You will learn about alternate bedding mix, and more tips, and in Part III.

 

2 Comments on “Simple and Easy Vermicomposting Part II

  1. I’m fascinated by your site! I’ve been looking into possibly vermicomposting at our apartment so the information you have given, along with the pictures, is so helpful! Now I see at the end of this article you mentioned there will be a Part III? I’ve been looking but I cannot find it. Has it been written yet? (I also clicked on the “Shop” tab but it is blank.) I’m not sure how long these articles have been here because I don’t see a date, but I’m really interested in reading Part III! Thanks!

    • There isn’t, but there should be. It is on my very long to do list. We took the shop down because of poor response, looking into putting it back up in a different format.

Leave a Reply

Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That's how we're gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch and Tim Ferris for the inspiration regarding user-friendly comment rules)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *