Got Worms?

Worms are incredibly hard workers in a permaculture system. They help to break down kitchen and garden waste, facilitate composting, and create a magnificent nutrient-rich goo affectionately referred to as “worm juice”. When introduced into your garden soil, they directly fertilize your plants, though I don’t think they survive the winter here.

I decided to build a worm farm to help me digest my kitchen waste during the winter. My compost bin has so far been the repository of these goodies, however, in winter, food scraps just sit on top of the pile, freeze, get covered in snow, and repeat. Composting doesn’t really get going again until the whole pile thaws, which takes a while. It would be really nice to get a jumpstart on spring nutrients!

I used two Rubbermaid bins of the same size, in this case 10-gallon. To allow for air flow, I drilled holes in the top bin only – about 15 holes in the lid, about 20 holes around the side (nearer the top), and about 6 holes on the bottom with a 1/8″ drill bit. This size is good to keep worms and debris from leaving the bin, but will not clog easily.

The bottom bin stays intact so that it can catch the valuable worm juice and not leak all over your floor! I used scrap wood blocks to elevate the top bin from “sealing” onto the bottom bin, providing more airflow. You can use anything for this that stands tall enough. I’m guessing I’ll have to replace my blocks at some point because they’re not treated, but I didn’t want treated lumber anywhere near my plant fertilizer. If you have extra plastic or glass containers, this would probably work better.

 

Next – collect cardboard and newspaper for your brown waste component of the system. Shred it to make it more easily digestible for the worms. Prep plenty!

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Lay in a thick layer of cardboard and newspaper, then add some kitchen scraps. Worms prefer fruits and veggies – a good excuse for you to start eating more! Try to avoid putting in starchy foods, citrus, and onions, and never put in meat, dairy products, or oil. You can add a little soil to provide some “grit” for the worms – they use it to digest more readily. Create a mini lasagna garden in your bin – a layer of cardboard and newspaper followed by food scraps.

When you’ve done a few layers, mist the top with water, so that it is damp, but not wet. Add more food scraps, and another layer of cardboard/newspaper, then wet again.

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Now, let it rot! Allowing the mixture to sit around for 1-2 weeks preps it for the worms, and gives it a good kickstart. Of course, you can add worms right away, but unfortunately no one is carrying them in Fairbanks right now. I can’t even find them on Craigslist! I think my worm farm will be nice and ready by the time its residents move in…Have fun, and go get some worms!

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