Before we get to the worms, I’m going to start this post with a quick little back story. Have you ever really thought about landfills? I mean, we all know they exist and that’s where our trash goes. I never thought much about them until we moved into our townhouse 10 years ago.
I remember driving by a park that was about a half mile from our house and thinking, “Wow, look at those giant green grassy hills behind that park. They look so pretty.” Until I was told it was a finished landfill. That made me start thinking more about our garbage. Every time I threw something away I pictured it going into a landfill. It made an impression on me, I admit. The photo below is our landfill. It looks nice, right?
Food Waste and Landfills
I don’t know many great details about landfills. It seems like it’s a pretty sophisticated system, but the biggest thing I’ve learned is that food waste is a huge contributor to methane gas emissions from landfills. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is more powerful than carbon dioxide by 72%!
I always figured, food decays, so it will disappear. No worries, right? It’s not like plastic that never, ever, ever goes away. (But don’t get me started on that.) I was extremely naive thinking that way. I’ve heard they are experimenting with ways to collect the methane so it can be used, but I know nothing about that. I do know that a simple and very environmentally friendly thing to do with your food waste, that completely avoids landfills, is to compost.
So, you know we live in a 1600 square foot townhouse, and what little yard we have is maintained by our homeowner’s association. I never checked, but I felt like they might frown on a big compost bin hanging out on our front lawn. I also didn’t want to invest megabucks in a big fancy compost bin if they wouldn’t allow it.
We did drill holes in an old storage bin and hid it in our rock beds between two bushes. We filled it and turned it regularly to let the air circulate. (That’s why landfills have all that methane. There’s not enough oxygen in there while everything is breaking down) Once it was full, I was stuck waiting until it all broke down before I could do anything with it. Plus, now what would I do with all my banana peels and green bean ends? One word, worms.
Starting my worm factory
Two years ago, on my birthday, I received my worms. I don’t remember exactly, but I think there were 250 little worms that I bought online and were express mailed to me. I’d done some research and decided I was going to take this seriously. So, I also invested in a worm farm. Mine is called The Worm Factory. I bought it on Amazon and it has worked really well for us!
If you are serious about vermicomposting, I highly recommend this or something similar. If you don’t feel like investing that much right away, you can just add worms to your regular compost bin, but this system makes it much easier to use your worm castings without disrupting the little worms. That is the best part, you know! All that amazing fertilizer you get for your garden!
Let’s talk a bit about how those wigglers do their business in their new home. When you first start, There will be only one bin. The Worm Factory comes with initial bedding you will use in that first bin. When you start feeding them, they will keep eating (and pooping) and keep moving up towards the new food leaving the castings behind them. When you’re first bin is full of worm food, Add another bin. It’s meshed on the bottom, so the worms will keep migrating up towards the new food. Over time, that first bin will just be beautiful fertilizer for your garden!
Now, I’m going to share with you, my top ten tips that I have learned during the last two years with my worms. Some do’s and don’ts to help anyone else get started with their own worm composting!
Top 10 most helpful worm composting tips!
- Get the right worms. The best worms to get for your farm is Red Wigglers. I ordered mine from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm via Amazon. They are the smart choice because they can survive and thrive in your compost with no soil. Your basic earthworm can not do this.
- Feed your worms equal parts browns and greens. Greens are your basic food waste like banana peels and potato peels, tomato ends, celery leaves, apple cores, pear cores, green bean ends, those slimy carrots that accidentally stayed in the fridge too long and coffee grounds with the filter. Browns are things like shredded paper, egg shells, and dried leaves.
- Do NOT feed your worms any meat, dairy or oil, It will not go well. Stick to raw produce or it will get smelly fast!
- Be careful with some fruit. Melon rinds especially will attract fruit flies, so will anything that’s really sweet or juicy. I stick to banana peels, apple cores, pear cores, and the leftover fibers from our juicer.
- Cut up worm food small. Worms will break down their food faster this way. Sometimes I will use my food processor if I have a lot to feed them.
- Keep your worms in a cool, dark, quiet place. Minnesota weather is not ideal for outdoor worm farms. The temperatures are so extreme in either direction that I find it best to keep my worms inside. (It doesn’t smell! I swear!) A basement would be a really good place, but we don’t have one. We do have a storage closet a few feet from our kitchen that works really well for us, and it is convenient for feeding the worms.
- Watch out for plastic! If you use paper that you’ve shredded as food, make sure no plastic get’s in accidentally. I was shredding junk mail and never thought about the plastic window on the envelopes until I was pulling plastic shreds out of worm poop. Also, remove stickers from banana peels, They do not break down. Plastic again.
- Keep a container on your counter in your kitchen to collect your food waste. Then even if you just have a lonely banana peel, you’ll remember not to throw it away. When the container is full, it’s time to feed the worms. I cover mine with a flour sack towel so it can still breath and so no one has to look at it. I keep it in an inconspicuous corner of my kitchen. I have never had any odor issues either so don’t worry. If it smells, something is in there that shouldn’t be.
- ALWAYS have newspaper or cardboard under your worm factory. Just do it. It’s a good idea. (On rare occasions things can ooze out, especially if you haven’t checked on your worms in awhile. )
- Drain leachate regularly. So, leachate is the liquid run off from your compost. In the worm factory, there is a convenient collection area at the bottom with a drain spout. THIS IS NOT COMPOST TEA. It can have high concentrations of things bad for your plants. I flush mine down the toilet. This is the only time when things get a little stinky. Drain it every few days. If you’re getting more than a few ounces every few days, your worm-ville is too wet. Try adding more browns to balance things out.
Good luck to you with your vermicomposting adventure! I hope the info and tips in this post will help you along the way. Soon you’ll have happy worms and a happy garden. (Affiliate) Links for Uncle Jim’s Red Wigglers and The Worm Factory are below! Remember to leave any questions or comments, and if you like my blog please subscribe!
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