Making Dirt – Part 2
This is part two of a two part post on compost. Read part one – DIY kitchen compost bucket – here
That’s what we’re gonna call it. “I Got Worms!” We’re gonna specialize in selling worm farms. You know, like ant farms. ~ Lloyd Christmas
This quote from the movie Dumb and Dumber was basically the same direct and hilarious approach I used when proposing our soon to be “Worm Farm” to my wife. As you can imagine, she reacted with a sobering degree of skepticism – as any other sane woman may do when presented with the notion of her husband running a “Worm Farm” out of their garage.
To bring her along, like with many of my ideas, I simply had to explain the plan in detail, assure her that I was not going to quit my job to run the worm farm, let it marinate for awhile… then begin construction.
A Vermicomposting Worm Farm
Why in the heck would anybody want to make their own vermicomposting worm farm? Well, I’m glad you asked…
Wikipedia defines “verimicomposting” as follows:
Vermicompost, is composting utilizing various species of worms, specifically red wigglers, white worms, and earthworms creating the heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and pure vermicast produced during the course of normal vermiculture operations. Vermicast, similarly known as worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by the species of earthworm.
Containing water-soluble nutrients and bacteria, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. The process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.
This article is also a follow up on a promise I gave to several Five Cent Nickel readers in my “Breaking Free From a Culture of Temptation” article a few months back. I promised I would write a post detailing how I constructed my very own vermicomposting worm farm for very little money. In the original article I mentioned how I was tempted to purchase a vermicomposting bin rather than make my own. Here is the snippet from the original article:
A store-bought vermicomposting bin ($130) Instead of buying one, I decided to make my own. I spent just a fraction of what I would’ve paid in the store ($22), and it works great. I hope to put together an article about this soon.
Making my own vermicomposting worm farm — in order to enjoy the benefits of the nutrient rich soil — was very easy, inexpensive, and fun. In my opinion, it is always an awesome thing to save a boat-load of money AND enjoy the feeling of building something yourself. As I mentioned in my DIY kitchen compost bucket article, not everyone is into building things themselves. If that sounds like you then I recommend purchasing one of these two prefabricated vermicompost systems:
Prefabricated vermicompost bins
- The $130 option – The famous “Can-O-Worms” has a multi-level design that’s easy to assemble, easy to use, and can be kept both indoors or outdoors.
- The $100 option – The Worm Factory employs a tray system that automatically separates food scraps from finished compost. This system can also be used indoors or outdoors.
If I were not on a staunch mission to destroy my debt as soon as possible I would have probably gone with one of the above systems, but instead I opted once again for the DIY route! Prices posted were taken at the time of writing.
My Frugal DIY Vermicompost Bin
The $21 option – Here are the actual costs and necessary parts for making a vermicomposting worm farm for just $21:
- 2 dark, plastic, non-transparent 10 gallon storage bins – cost = $7
- A drill with 1/4″ and 1/16″ bits
- Shredded paper – I use a mix of paper from my shredder and newspaper
- Red wriggler worms – I bought a pound from a local source I found on craigslist.org – cost = $15
- 4 equally sized blocks
1. Start with your parts and tools (my worms are in the coffee can)
2. Drill 20+ 1/4″ holes on the bottom of both bins – for drainage and worm travel
3. Drill 1/16″ holes along the side of both bins, near the top. Then drill 30+ 1/16″ holes in the top lid of ONE of the bins (not both)
4. Place bedding in ONE bin only (leave other bin empty) – mix shredded paper with a shovel full of black dirt and spray with enough water to lightly dampen
5. Add your pound of worms and stir it all up. Cover mixture with damp piece of cardboard then place the empty bin on top of the cardboard and cover with the ventilated lid. Place the non-ventilated lid upside-down, position your 4 blocks on top of it, then place the bins atop the blocks like so
Some Detailed Info on our Worm Farm
The Jabs Worm Farm Inn has been successfully operating in our garage for over two full months now! (UPDATE: This worm farm was in operation for three years, providing us with rich compost for our garden and flower beds! When we moved out of state this worm farm was quickly snatched up by a fortunate responder to our CraigsList ad.)
We keep our DIY kitchen compost bucket under our kitchen sink until it is full, at which time we feed the worms by emptying the contents into the worm farm. Be sure to bury your food scraps so you do not attract gnats and other flies.
We only put organic food scraps in so that our soil can remain free of chemical pesticide residue. We are also careful in maintaining the balance of proper moisture in the bins. You do this by adding more shredded paper when the mixture gets too wet. You will know things are too moist if you start to notice odor or gnats.
Once the bottom bin is full you can simply start a new mixture in the top bin. Don’t worry about adding more worms, once they have exhausted their food supply in the bottom bin, they will naturally migrate up into the top bin through the 1/4″ holes you provided them.
Any excess “worm tea” will drain through the 1/4″ holes in the bottom bin and will collect on the upside-down lid. Once a good amount of liquid accumulates on the lid I simply dump this tea into a container and dilute with water and use to water the plants in my garden. It is a very powerful natural fertilizer.
For more detailed information about red wriggler worms and vermicomposting systems in general visit this informative article on Composting with Redworms.