by Grace Dunklee Cohen
As promised in the December 2014 issue, worm composting expert Joan O’Connor offers a simple recipe for setting up your own worm composting system at home. Composting bins for worms can be set up at any time of year. When done right, they are odor-free, easy to maintain, and turn your kitchen scraps into rich compost. To be productive, Joan cautions that your worms should be kept at 60° to 80° year round. To get started, just follow Joan’s simple steps:
- Assemble your ingredients:
Plastic storage bin eight to eighteen inches deep
Shredded newspaper – enough to fill the bin four to six inches deep, to be applied in two layers
Moistened (but not drippy wet) peat moss – enough to fill the bin, one to three inches
Fine, flexible screening for bottom of bin
Landscape cloth for top of bin
Elastic or large bungee cords to secure screening around top of bin
One pound red wiggler worms
A half gallon of kitchen scraps such as fruits & veggies, tea bags & coffee grounds, egg shells, beans, pasta, rice, bread, cereal, paper towels, paper plates – no meat, fats, citrus, vinegar or pet waste (see Dec 2014 article)
- Cut two or three one-inch drain holes in the bottom corner of the bin. Set flexible fine screening over the holes. Add one to three inches of shredded newspaper to the bottom of bin. Cover the newspaper layer with one to three inches of moistened peat moss. Cover this with a layer of another one to three inches of shredded newspaper.
- Dig a hole in one corner of the newsprint and peat moss. Add one pound of red wiggler worms. Cover with peat and shredded newsprint (to prevent odors).
4. To feed the worms, pull back the newsprint and peat, and add kitchen scraps. Put the kitchen scraps on top of the worms the first time, then alternate placing scraps into each bin corner. Since worms only eat after food begins to break down, you can optionally speed up the process by blending scraps into a worm ‘smoothie’. Always re-cover scraps or ‘smoothie’ with a layer of peat and paper to prevent odors.
- Cover the bin with flexible screening or breathable landscape cloth. Tightly fasten with bungee cords or elastic to prevent worm escapes.
- Place the bin on a tray to catch the nutrient-rich drips (‘tea’) – if your bin came with a lid, the overturned lid will probably work well.
To maintain happy, productive worms, regularly check that your bin isn’t too moist or too dry. When worm castings (poop) build up in your bin, use them as a top dressing on plants, mix with potting/garden soil, or steep them in water for extra-rich “compost tea” to spot-water house plants and jump-start seedlings.
For more information, visit: https://joansworms.wordpress.com/
Joan O’Connor is founder/director of both the Tilton (NH) Winter and Summer Farmers’ Markets, and is a board member of Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire. Since 1992, O’Connor (aka Joan’s Famous Composting Worms) has been practicing and preaching vermicomposting – using earthworms to convert organic waste into fertilizer.