Monday, January 06, 2020

Worm Bin Design

One of the best ways to dramatically slim down your home trash production, and reduce odors, is to collect food scraps in a container on the kitchen counter and then compost them in the yard. We've been doing this for years, and find it easy and satisfying to turn food scraps into fertilizer for the garden.

This past fall, Hilary Persky asked me to co-lead a neighborhood workshop on composting food scraps and leaves. After I showed neighbors how to build a "Wishing (the earth) Well", which combines a leaf corral with no-work, critter-proof composting of food scraps, host Tineke Thio showed us the worm bin that quickly turns her food scraps into rich compost and a liquid fertilizer called "tea" that's beneficial for houseplants.

I was impressed by the health of the worms and how they can cause us to rebrand our "foodwaste" as food for what could be considered a very wriggly pet. Though she made it look easy, I suspect there's a baseline of attention needed to keep the worms happy. She also said it's important NOT to give the worms onions, garlic, or citrus, which will cause them to flee. Thanks to Thio for her directions (below) for constructing a worm bin. From Tineke:
I learned everything I know about worms from this The Worm Book: (available at the local bookstore).

"You can build worm bins in various styles. The sketch below is a good cross section of the one I made. "Borrowed" it from this here blog.

You will need:

A pound of Red Wrigglers. I got mine from Uncle Jim.

Two tupperware bins, dark colour.

Scraps of window screen or tulle fabric

Some duct tape.

Some bricks for inside

Good whole-bottom support like 2 cinderblocks

Bottom bin:

Drill one 3/8 inch hole in the wall very close to the bottom.

Find a rubber stopper that will fit it (or install a tap if you want to get fancy).

Top bin:

Drill 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of the bin, in a Creative Pattern.

Cover bottom with window screen.


Drill / cut holes in the cover,

Cover inside with window screen, keep in place with duct tape.

(This part is different from the picture)


Put bottom bin on a raised platform like a stool, a cinderblock, or a mandarin orange box

Put 2-3 bricks in the bottom. These hold up the weight of the top bin.

Put the top bin on the bricks

Put a 2-inch layer of moistened peat moss in,

Add your worms

Add vegetable scraps

Add a 1-inch layer of peat moss

Put cover in place and wait a few days

If you have the second cover, you can put that on top, loosely, to keep the light out.

Feed weekly on alternate sides:

Dig a hole, tip in your veg scraps, cover them well with more peat moss if necessary. Coffee grounds and their shredded filters work well too. Do NOT feed citrus, onions or garlic, your worms will try to move out.

After a few weeks you can start harvesting the worm "tea"

Your houseplants or garden plants will be very happy.

Once a year, I harvest most of the worms for a new batch, and put the compost out in selected places in the yard. Also great for starting seedlings.

That's it, I think.

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