I recently went through my gardening journal to see where I was spending money. Since this was my first year gardening a largest chunk of my money went into buying pots, soil and accessories. I also purchased several bags of organic compost and organic fertilizer. A bag of organic compost is $5 – $6 at the big name stores, and you really don’t have any idea what went into it or how it was produced.
I took my numbers and starting pondering ways to save money. One item I came across while researching cost cutting measures was making your own fertilizer using composters and worm bins. I decided to take a composting class at my local community garden, and after the class I realized that I didn’t have enough space to put in a compost bin. This left vermicomposting as my main option, so I decided to start researching worm bins.
If you haven’t heard of vermicomposting it’s a process where you feed your vegetable scraps and fiberous material (paper, cardboard, etc.) to worms and they process this into nutrient rich worm castings. The castings can be used in place of store bought compost, and the tea (liquid worm poop) that is a byproduct of vermicomposting can be diluted and used in place of fertilizers.
Various solutions exist for vermicomposting. You can build your own worm bin, or you can buy a Worm Factory and call it a day. I chose to buy a Worm Factory for a couple of reasons:
– I was planning to leave this in our hallway so it needed to blend in.
– The Worm Factory has a drain spout for collecting your worm tea.
– The tray system should make collecting compost easier.
– I wanted to find something that others were using with success.
Setting up the Worm Factory was a piece of cake. The directions clearly show how to connect the various pieces, so I had the base built in a matter of minutes. Next I added several layers of news paper to the bottom of tray one, and filled the rest of the bin with a mixture of damp coconut coir, food scraps and shredded news paper. The bin was all set for my worms, which I ordered from Uncle Jim’s worm farm. My bin is now 3 months old and as you can see my worms couldn’t be happier!:
Each week I get enough worm tea to feed the plants on my deck, and everything that gets a worm tea treat is thriving (my rosemary is going bonkers now that it gets liquid nutrients). The worms are also really cool pets, and if I could come up with 3000 names I would name each and every one of them. 🙂
This was a fun learning experience, and you would be amazed at the amount of food your worms can eat (this will cut down on the amount of trash you throw out since a lot of “garbage” can be fed to your worms). I feed them all of our table scrabs (no meat, dairy or citrus) as well as a healthy dose of junkmail, cardboard, coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells. We barely notice that we have worms in our house, since the worm factory just sits in the corner doing its thing:
I should note one thing. Shortly after I set up the worm factory I noticed a horrible smell eminating from it. The smell turned out to be the result of overfeeding, and was quickly fixed by burying the stinky food well below the top layer of worm castings. It took me a little while to figure out how much food I could safely feed them, and as a rule of thumb less is better (I started with more is better, and that’s the reason my worm factory had an odor for a day and a half).
I’m hoping to buy a second worm factory this winter, and I’m pretty sure two bins will allow us to convert all of our food scraps, cardboard and junkmail into compost for the vegetable garden. I’ll keep folks updated on my progress as I go along.