Friday, March 18, 2011

Another Way To Improve Your Soil

Composting with Worms

You can easily compost your kitchen scraps using red wiggler worms (Eisenia foetida).  To get started, obtain a wooden or plastic container with adequate ventilation, drainage, a lid (worms like it dark) and a tray to catch the excess moisture (liquid fertilizer) that is sometimes generated.  Next, fill the container with cellulose-based bedding material such as shredded newspaper, compressed coconut fibre, rotting leaves or a combination of these.  Moisten the bedding until it is slightly damp like a wrung-out sponge and add a handful of sand to aid in the worms' digestion.  Finally add the worms themselves. 

To find out how many worms you need, keep in mind that they eat about half their own body weight every day.  For example, if by the end of the week you have produced 3.5 lbs of food scraps, you need one lb of worms in your bin. 

When you add kitchen scraps to the bin, make sure to prevent fruit fly problems by burying them in the bedding and adding them to a different spot each time.  Red wigglers will eat anything we do (and a lot more), but to eliminate the possibility of attracting pests or creating unpleasant odours, avoid adding meats, dairy products, grains or oily cooked foods.  After 3 or 4 months of consuming the food and bedding, the worms will be living in an environment composed largely of their own waste.  It is now time to renew the process by separating the worms from the dark, crumbly compost they have created.  There are several ways of doing this but the easiest is as follows:  Push everything in the bin over to one side, creating an empty space of 1/3 the bin's volume.  Fill this space with fresh bedding and, for the next month, add scraps only to this side of the bin.  The worms will migrate over, leaving their "black gold" wormless and ready for you to harvest. 

Excerpts were taken from the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre's brochure, "Here's the Dirt!  A Guide to Home Composting," which was available last week from Powell River's own compost guru, Carol Engram, at Powell River's Seedy Saturday. 

To 'get the real dirt on worms', the Powell River Library has a great little book, "Worms Eat My Garbage" or you can check out a comprehensive Manual of On-Farm Vermicomposting and Vermiculture, by Glenn Munroe, of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada. 

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