I’ve been doing this for years, and it still amazes me. Maybe I’m just easily amused, or maybe it’s really as fascinating as I think it is. Less than a month ago, we soaked the Sunday Times, ripped it up and threw it in a bin with a bunch of lowly worms. Every couple days, I added some worthless kitchen scraps to feed the worms. Now, just a few weeks later, it’s completely broken down and nearly totally converted to nutrient-rich compost, in the form of worm castings (waste, refuse, poop). Several pounds of soil, sand and worm castings, ready and waiting to enrich the earth in an organic conversion that happened right before our eyes.
In a vermicomposting system, waste materials such as paper, cardboard, leaves, sticks, vegetable scraps, string, organic matter and even dryer lint are upcycled into a new material of better quality and higher environmental value than the original material. The environmental benefits are numerous: (1) Waste material is reduced in bulk up to 75%, (2) Every pound of waste thrown into the bin and converted to compost is garbage that never entered our sewers via the garbage disposal or into our landfill, (3) Use these no-cost, supercharged, organic worm castings instead of expensive commercially available fertilizers in and around your home’s garden spaces.
LIFE CYCLE OF A WORM BIN
EACH WEEK, WE’LL JOURNAL THE PROGRESS OF A WORM BIN, FROM DAY 1 UNTIL THE DAY WE HARVEST THE NUTRIENT-RICH WORM CASTINGS. (Disclaimer: No worms were harmed in the making of this story)
Added 3 pounds of kitchen waste to the bin:
4 egg shells
2 coffee grind dumps
3 discarded corn cobs
1/2 lb. artichoke leaves and chokes
1 handful of onion peels, lettuce and some tomato scraps
Odor and Appearance
The scraps were added at the beginning of the week. The picture was taken at the end of the week. Notice the distinct absence of recognizable food scraps. Last week, the food scraps were in the picture, but buried; this week there are no scraps left whatsoever. As for the odor, it smells like damp earth. No coffee aroma, newspaper or anything unpleasant.
I saw signs of red wiggler cocoons (eggs) in the bin and for the first time, there were immature worms in the mix. For some reason, both cocoons and baby worms are often found in and near broken egg shells. These are good signs that the worm bin’s micro-climate is functioning as it should.
As usual, there are a few gnats and fruit flies hovering beneath the lid and under the cardboard. Nothing to worry about.
Now that the bacterial activity and chemistry is active inside the worm bin, things happen fast. Don’t let it fool you though. It is easy to think you can load the bin with more-and-more kitchen scraps each week, but the truth is, you can’t. Not just yet.
Next week, in the last of our series, we will look at how to harvest the rich bounty of worm castings and re-establish a new bed for the growing universe of worms.
INVESTMENT in TIME
Week 3: Care and maintenance – 10 minutes
COST of MATERIALS
Week 3: $0
Editor's note: Photo, courtesy C. Douros