Saturday, May 26, 2012

Vermiculture: Preperations

I bought my vermiculture container the other night. It was $5.99 at the Arc for a two drawer plastic container on wheels. I made sure the drawers were the same size so that I can fit them both in either the top or bottom slot without a problem. I specifically wanted something with 2 drawers to make it easy for me to migrate the worms from the first bin to the second when I am ready. I also think I can get into a routine where one drawer is in process while the other is finished and ready for my use.

From one of my favorite blogs: Electric Tree House
To prepare the composter I started by washing it with a mild cleaner (like Windex). I did this to make sure the drawers didn't have any mystery particles from the former owner. After the drawers dried I placed them in my bathtub and filled them with water for several hours to remove the traces of cleaner and anything else from the plastic. I will pour this water out and repeat the step again at least once more just to be safe. This way I'm not worried about what used to be in the drawers or could've gotten onto them before they came to me.

Once I was sure my worm drawers were clean I started making holes for ventilation. Airflow is key to keeping the worms alive and the food from rotting (which causes odors). I prepared the bins in a manner that will encourage downward migration. For this I used a small rotary tool (though a larger drill would have been nice) and cut 2 long 1/2 inch wide slots and 4 small 1/4" holes in the bottom of the drawers. I can put a piece of cardboard over the slots to keep the worms in the bin until they are ready to migrate to the next bin. The clear front and back of the drawers will be lined with cardboard as well to keep light out. If it works like I envision then the worms will slowly eat the cardboard until it is gone and then they will be able to move down into the new drawer with fresh bedding and food.

I have a small tray to put under the drawers to catch the worm juice that comes out the bottom and I will be able to use that as a fertilizer. When I have things in full production the top drawer will have finished compost that I can just reach in and use while the lower drawer is in progress. This combination of worm tea fertilizer and vermiculture compost should have a very positive effect on my plants and allow me to send less waste to the landfill.

Friendly Worm Guy
As for a source of worms... Most places I have looked want $20 for half a pound of worms. Worms reproduce quickly (red wrigglers do so within 45-60 days according to other sites) so I don't feel I need the full amount to start. As a frugal grower I determined I would find someone with worms that would trade with me for something I have. To my astonished luck my in-laws came to visit yesterday and said they have plenty of worms they will give me in trade for some of my art. I am thrilled! Hand painted cards for worms sounds like a great trade to me!

The running total spent is still around $10 and with my soil coupon I believe I can start my first round of vegetables for under $20. I think my first round of indoor veges will take more time and effort but a comparable amount of expense to those I would buy in the store. The subsequent rounds will start to cost me less as I get everything set up.

More good sites I found to read on composting with worms:
Pure Green Living
Sierra Worm Compost

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