Worms are awesome helpmates in the garden. They move through the soil creating tunnels that bring air to the roots of plants. They eat vegetable waste and in return leave behind valuable, nutrient rich castings that fertilize your plants.
Earthworm castings increase plant uptake of nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, and iron; increase the water retention of the soil; increase beneficial bacteria populations; increase germination rates and plant growth; suppress plant diseases and repel fungus and insects.
Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to break down organic material into a nutrient rich, slow release fertilizer for your plants. Vermicomposting is a way to actively compost kitchen waste, even in winter, when the outside temperature slows the breakdown of the compost pile. Because earthworms are so beneficial to plants I have wanted an earthworm bin for years.
So I finally did it and here’s how:
Get a plastic storage tote that is broad on the bottom rather than tall. I happened to have this one in the house so that’s what I’m using. Its base is 21”x15” and it is 18” tall. I have an extra lid that I put under the bin.
Using a ½” drill bit, drill some holes in the bottom of the tub and some more in the side near the top for ventilation. Kitty help is always a bonus.
Cut cardboard to fit the bottom of the tote and place inside. This will keep small particles of soil from coming out of the holes you drilled in the bottom.
Add several inches of shredded newspaper. Moisten with a spray bottle of water. It should be damp like a wrung out sponge. This shredded newspaper will be your worm’s habitat creating air pockets for them to congregate in.
I added about a dozen red wrigglers that I found in the compost pile at River & Roots Community Garden. The worms you use must be a type like the medium-sized red wriggler that will survive in a bin. The large earthworms will not.
If you are interested in starting a bin and have a compost pile you can dig around in that and you’ll find the very red, small (maybe 5”) earthworm to use in the bin. If you do not have a compost pile you can order them online or email me at email@example.com and we can arrange a field trip to the community garden to harvest some free worms from our compost.
Top it off with a layer of soil. I used some unfinished compost from the home pile.
I added a few cabbage leaves on top that very day; each day after that I would throw in some vegetable matter. Until eight days later, on the 4th of July, the vermicompost bin looked like this:
Okay. I’ll admit that I went a little overboard feeding all this food to only a dozen worms. Heaven forbid anyone should go hungry in my house – including worms. While there was no odor the bin was quite warm and there was this fuzzy stuff growing in the corner. I was very worried that I had killed my worms by putting in too much food and encouraging the growth of some unknown fungus.
So I started digging into that pile and stirring it around on the hunt for worms.
To my delight the worms survived! Now I’m hoping for reproduction so that there are enough worms to keep up with the amount of vegetable scraps my family produces. I’ll keep you posted on the adventures of worm herding.
In the garden this week:
• Water, water, water
• Mulch so you don’t have to water so much.
• Harvest and remove peas, spinach, lettuce – any spring crop that is finished.
• Now you have room to sow: Beans, Beets, Carrots, Swiss Chard, Collards, Cucumber, Endive, Fennel, Kale, Leek, Parsnip, Radishes, Rutabaga, Scallions, Turnip.
• You can sow indoors: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi
• You can transplant seedlings: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumber
• Deadhead roses and remove any dead wood. Deadheading roses now will encourage flowers in the late summer and early fall.
• Harvest raspberries & blackberries. Remove spent canes when done fruiting. (I remove last year’s canes but leave the new canes.)