I have mentioned vermicomposting, or worm composting, a couple of times now...and since I feel that every household should have at least a small set up I thought I had better get one going. The little system here in my condo has been running for about a month now so its time to show a bit.
I have been reading on this topic here and there for several months now. My favorite source of information so far is redwormcomposting.com (I got distracted reading a post there just by going to fetch the link for this post). Bentley is a passionate vermicomposter who operates 3 websites and a mail order business. I recommend his sites to anyone with even the slightest interest in this topic. My own first container follows his start up directions.
Since the whole condo is carpeted and I did not want to take the chance of moisture leakage, and I wanted to be able to allow good side and bottom aeration, I went with the slightly more expensive two container version. The wooden spacers in the bottom tub keep the working tub elevated so aeration holes are not blocked. As the pictures show, I have yet to have any moisture drip out of the working tub.
So far, what my system seems to be best at is growing sprouts. When I first started the bin I thought I would try using some dried out and lightly chopped up weed grass roots, that I had dug up earlier this spring, as part of the bedding. Well this kind of grass root develops new sprouts incredibly easily so when I checked my bin the first week after adding the worms, I discovered a field of probably 75 4-5 inch sprouts coming up out of the top layer of bedding. I had also added potato peelings as food, but since they had not begun to rot before they were added...they had sprouted as well and were actually over half of the growing sprout population. I yanked out all these sprouts, chopped them up and fed them to the 4 old hens in the tractor.
The sprouts in the above pictures are primarily more potato sprouts that have grown in over the last week. Its amazing how fast these buggers grow and it is also amazing just how filled with life is this compost tub....perhaps a bit too much so. I`ve got potato sprouts growing where there is barely any potato, and one that I found was even growing little leaves.
*side note: Potato sprouts are actually one type of sprout that people, and chickens, should not eat much of. Solanine, found especially in green potatoes, is often highly concentrated in the sprouts. I did not know this when I fed them to the hens. I wonder if that was the catalyst of their current, and off-season, molting phase that has them not laying. I doubt it since there really were not that many sprouts.
The rest of the bedding material that I have used consists of torn up recycled cardboard material from used fast food drink trays and egg cartons, as well as torn up toilet and paper towel tubes. Some paper can be used as well so I have added some ripped up paper bags that were being saved to recycle. I think the energy involved here is much better energy than that which would be required to turn those bags back into something else, perhaps more drink trays that really shouldn`t be so needed.
Then there is the star of the show. Because I initially wanted to get an idea of reproduction and food consumption rates, and for a couple of other reasons, I ended up buying the last 3 packets of live red worm bait from Canadian Tire to start things off. This meant I had about 75 worms for that big old tub. I knew they were not going to be able to process much waste by themselves and I`d be waiting quite some time for any significant population increase so I bought another 6 packets, or about 150 worms last Tuesday. I am very curious to see how this population will grow and consume (I guess process is really a better word) over the next 6 months.
Now that I know I can keep a compost worm population fairly stable, I am going to look at ordering 5-10 pounds and starting some intensive processing. We have a huge pile of winter barn bedding and manure to process and my hope is to start contracting to remove barn waste from local farms who are not interested in composting, and perhaps even to accepting kitchen wastes from city restaurants. If I can keep a large population active and reproducing over our Zone 2 winter, this could have some very nice potential. I will post on these experiments and developments as time passes.
Peace and comfort to all.
3 months ago