October 5, 2011

Worms!

Doesn't look like much now...
One of my projects that I didn't blog about with a teaser was my foray into Vermicomposting.  That's a big word for letting-worms-eat-some-my-organic-trash-so-I-can-collect-their-poop.  I'm not a huge gardener, but I am a huge trash thrower-outer and I figure there has to be a way to not throw out so much and be able to reap some tangible benefits to some good-old fashioned recycling.

I'm not an expert on using red worms for composting, but these guys are.  My feeble attempts in composting are basically two piles of leaves and grass on the other side of my back fence.  I haven't even seen those piles in a year and I highly doubt they are breaking down very well.

When I lived in Germany it seemed everything was recycled.  Across the street from my apartment building were the neighborhood's paper and plastic recycling bins (basically special-purpose dumpsters).  A couple of blocks away, conveniently located to the drink market and meat market were the neighborhood's glass and metal recycling bins.  My apartment had this funky little trash can on the counter and a tiny "regular" trash bin under the sink that was maybe 5 gallons in size.  Outside next to the front gate were two small rubbish bins for the whole apartment building (only three units) and only one had a lid.  Both were enclosed in a small roofed hutch of some type.  I had to have things explained to me.  The uncovered bin was for regular trash.  There had better be NO recyclable materials in that trash can or there would be a huge fine.  The covered bin was for organic/kitchen scraps.  You tossed them into the small bin on the kitchen counter and brought them down every Friday morning for collection.  The city picked up all the recyclables and the organics on Friday and the actual trash on some other day.

This system seemed odd to me at first, but it was convenient and it seemed to take forever for me to actually produce enough trash to fill my little bucket.  I realize that Germany is something close to the size of Montana so it is more efficient for them to have such an organized recycling program, but there has to be something I could do to make the local effort a bit better.  I can basically recycle paper and plastic at the curb and haul glass to a local recycling place.  Composting on the community level is right out, hence the need for a home set-up.

My eventual plan is to have this redworm bin and then a larger compost drum.

After reading around for a bit I settled on a simple design using an 18 gallon and a 10 gallon Rubbermaid tote.  The smaller tote is the actual redworm habitat and the larger tote holds the smaller one off the ground, helping with airflow, and catches any drippings (compost tea).  The totes nestle somewhat, so that had to be taken into account.

The smaller tote had 1/8" air holes drilled in the bottom for drainage and all along the top on the long sides for airflow.  I also put a bunch of holes in the lid.  The bottom tote had airholes placed as high as possible where they wouldn't be covered by the smaller tote.

Yummy moldy food!
Once everything was drilled out and the plastic cleaned up, I lined the smaller habitat tote with a bunch of shredded newspaper, some shredded cardboard, and several shovelfuls of bagged topsoil.  I hosed that down some and mixed it up before adding a large quantity of "trash" in the form of pulp from my juicer.  I was advised to let that "mold-up" for a week before introducing the worms.  Luckily for me one of my fellow Toastmasters does some redworm composting and has worms to spare.  Evidently these guys grow quite readily and tend to grow to capacity of the environment they are in.  By giving me some worms he really isn't harming his colony any and the worms I got, most likely with a bunch of worm eggs, will simply "go to town" and colonize by setup.
Go forth and multiply!

It'll be a work in progress for some time.....

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