The Geek's Guide to Vermiculture

I am an amateur Vermiculturist. I have a worm bin at home that I put my food scraps into. The little worms eat my leftovers and my junk mail, and then I make my own natural fertilizer which I use around the house.

This isn’t a common practice, but it’s pretty low maintenance, and since you’re probably a geek like me, you’d be interested. It piques your “Simcity” gene, the one that makes you wonder what a reticulating spline is. Having been doing this for 9 months now I am confident in sharing how to do this at home that’s quick and easy without having to spend hours reading up on this like I had to. So here’s the TL;DR:

Why have worms eat your trash?

There are numerous benefits to having a worm bin at home.

  • Reduces the amount of food waste that ends up in the garbage.
  • Turns your junk mail into something useful instead of filler in your recycle bin.
  • Appeals to your God complex and your scientific curiosity.
  • Provides you with the most kickass natural fertilizer you can get.

It’s pretty simple really, you have a worm bin with worms and bedding. Anything that is not meat or dairy goes into your worm bin. As the worms chomp on your waste they poop it out as castings, which we use as fertilizer. And the best part is, unlike traditional composting, there’s no smell or any odd business. In the winter I even keep it inside in the basement.

Set up

There’s lots of ways to do this. Some involve bins and all sorts of complex level-like things with drawers and all that. Skip all of it.

The Worm Inn

You want a Worm Inn. This bad boy is made up of Cordura, which is nice and breathable and really easy to set up. I didn’t spring for the stand, instead I got some of the recommended tubing from Lowe’s and hacked-sawed myself a stand. Then put it in a place where there’s no direct sunlight, preferably some place cool and moist. Food and bedding go in the top, and over time fertilizer comes out the bottom.

Under the bin put a small bowl or something, this will collect water that might drip out the bottom of the bin when you’re adding water to keep it moist.

Get some bedding

Too easy. The same thing that subsidizes our postal service can also be reused for our purposes. I shred all of my junk mail in a Fellowes W11C. This gives you nice shredded paper. You’ll stick a bunch of it in the worm inn, about 1/3 of the way full.

Red Wigglers

  • Order 1,000 worms from Amazon. You want Red Wigglers, they’re the worm equivalent of a honey badger. They don’t care about anything but eating and eating.
  • When they arrive stick them in the worm bin, right in the middle along with the dirt that came in the bag. Add a half a cup of water since they’re dehydrated from their journey to you.
  • Toss a half eaten apple or some other piece of fruit in there with them. If you’re a geek you probably have some sitting in your fridge about to go rotten anyway, along with those other weird things we hate, vegetables. You can add anything except meat or dairy.
  • Cover them up with more bedding; I just dump the rest of the shredder bin in there.
  • If you have a squirt bottle or watering can moisten the bedding as if it was paper mache.

And that’s it.

You won’t even ever interact or see the worms. From the outside it just looks like a bag with shredded paper in it.

Maintenance

  • When you eat stuff throw the scraps in the bin, and then add a bit of bedding to cover the food. This creates layers of composting stuff in different stages of completion.
  • The junk mail is never ending, so it’s easy to keep the bin full of bedding and scraps.
  • If they run out of food they will eat the bedding anyway.
  • Keep it moist. I just reuse our watering can to keep the bedding moist.
  • That’s about it. You’ll think you need to check up on them, but you don’t, they’ll keep doing their thing day and night.

Harvesting

6-9 months later your bin will start to get full, you’ll feel the bottom getting heavy like there’s a bunch of dirt in there. The wigglers will push their castings down while you keep adding fresh bedding and food to the top.

You’ll open the bottom of the bin and dump some of the worm castings into a plastic tub. Don’t worry they’ll be nice and fluffly and compact, they won’t fall out, you can just scrape out the bottom parts with your gloved hands. Your bin will be emptyish again and you just keep on adding.

How you use your compost is up to you. Use it or gift it to a neighborhood green thumb. I toss it in our newly planted plants, and extra water collected in the bowl under the bin can be mixed with water 50/50 as watering mix for your plants.

And that’s it.

I just had a 4th of July BBQ and we shoved a ton of scraps in there afterwards. Melon husks, corn cobs, eggshells, apple cores, banana peels, and potato skins. I’ve tossed entire loaves of bread that have gone bad into the thing. The fellas just keep eating, it’s like a nice little machine.

And the kids love it too, my wife was able to give all the visiting kids a little science lesson as they curiosly wondered why we kept worms in the house. And after you’re all set up the maintenance is trivial. I spend more time sorting my cans and bottles than I do managing my bin, it’s a quick and easy way to having a more sustainable household when most of the food and paper waste is reused. Enjoy!

References

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