We’ve been kicking around the idea of vermicomposting lately but we really didn’t know anything about it so we asked our friend Jo at Homestead Chronicles to help us out with a Q & A session on the topic of making compost with worms!
For those who don’t know, as I didn’t not that long ago, people keep worms in order to harvest the castings (fancy word for poop) to use as compost for their gardens. There are a few different ways to keep worms but they’re not like conventional composting bins so there’s a different science to it all. Jo cleared it all up for me and gave me some great advice.
Vermicomposting Q & A
I asked Jo – Why do you compost with worms?
Jo says – Worm castings are more than just an incredibly potent fertilizer. It is an all natural, completely organic, and chemical-free fertilizer. But it is also a fantastic soil conditioner. The slimy stuff that the worms produce help the soil to retain heat and moisture, stay soft and workable, and facilitates good drainage without washing away important nutrients and trace minerals. If you want an organic garden, it is the most effective & efficient way to fertilize and condition your soil.
I asked Jo – What kind of vermicomposting have you done – homemade bins? Commercial bins? Tower in ground? If you’ve done more than one, which do you prefer and why?
Jo says – We started with homemade bins and it turned into a bit of a fiasco. Funny story actually (you can read it here in its entirety), but the short version is, “We had no idea what we were doing and did not research it well enough. We ended up being worm-murderers and decided that we could not be trusted with that method. So we switched to a worm tower.” That is the short version. Lesson: Research it before you do it.
We prefer the worm tower method because a) it is pretty much fool proof b) the worms won’t freeze because they know to go below the frost line when it gets too cold (so they don’t need to come in the house) and c) the worms spread the castings for you and aerate the soil at the same time.
To learn more about the difference between worm bins and worm towers, please visit Jo’s post on the comparison here. You can also visit this post where I chatted with Annie, from Montana Homesteader, about both homemade and commercial worm bins.
I asked Jo – How many worm towers did you place in your yard? What benefits did you see?
Jo says – We currently have only one tower. We have a small (18 x 20) square foot garden so one was enough at the time. However, we are doubling that this year so we are planning a second tower this spring before the expansion goes in.
I asked Jo – How much time per week do you spend maintaining your bin?
Jo says – With a tower, once it is set in place, you just top the pipe with a few handfuls of kitchen scraps once a week or so and that is it. It is pretty much self-maintaining.
I asked Jo – In your estimation, is this a project a child could help with, in any of it’s phases? If so, what jobs might a small child do? An elementary aged child? A teenager?
Jo says – Oh sure! In fact, a worm bin is a great, low-risk way to introduce young children to the responsibility of caring for animals. At any age, a child can feed them and an older child could also assist with cleaning out the bin, changing the bedding, and harvesting the castings. Teenagers could actually do all the work, and perhaps, even have a small business selling the castings – although, if you want the castings for your own garden that may not be a good plan for you. You will not want your teen selling off your precious black gold.
The tower method though … well, there is nothing to it once the pipe is in place. So sure, kids can feed the worms … just give them a few handfuls of scrapes and say, “Please go out the garden and feed the worms.” However, installation requires power tools and a very deep, narrow hole in the ground, so only a teenager is likely to be able to do that part. See my post here for complete installation instructions using the tower method.
A big thank you to Jo from Homestead Chronicles for teaching us so much about vermicomposting, especially using a garden tower.
Image from cover graphic from this Wikipedia Commons user. Thank you to Homestead Chronicles for use of these other photos.
To learn more about worm bins, making your own and using commercial, here’s the link again for our interview with Montana Homesteader over at Hobby Farms editorial blog for homestead kids, Farm Sprouts.
To aid you on your vermicomposting adventures, you may need these fine products: