Indoor Worm Composting

Red Wiggler Worms

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Indoor worm composting is something that can be done anywhere, even in your apartment. You do not even have to touch the worms if you don’t want to.

Worm composting is a great way to get rid of your kitchen scraps without sending them to a landfill. You’ll also get the benefit of fertile worm castings to use in gardens, or even in potted plants indoors.

If done properly, indoor worm composting won’t have any unpleasant oder, and the worms are quiet, so your house guests won’t know they are there unless you tell them.

Indoor worm composting can also be a great project for the school classroom. Students can learn about worms, composting, caring for the earth, and recycling, all in a fun, hands-on way.

Worms for indoor composting can be purchased from worm breeders. Often they can be bought online and shipped by mail. You will want to get ‘Red Wigglers’ or ‘Red Worms’. The worms you dig up outside will not thrive in captivity.

To begin, you’ll need a proper worm bin. Often, the ideal container is a 5-10 gallon plastic storage bin (with brand names such as Rubbermaid, Sterilite, etc) that is approximately 24″x18″8″. Red worms like to live in the top 6″ of soil, so aim for a container that is broad, not deep. Sometimes aquariums or wooden boxes can be used, but a storage container is usually the cheapest, and easiest to find option. Don’t choose a clear bin, because the worms like to live in darkness.

Rinse the container out very well to get rid of any residues that could be harmful to the worms. You’ll also need to cover it with some kind of loose fitting lid. The lid that came with the container will probably not work, because it will restrict air-flow too much, though drilling holes in it will help.

Fill the box with newspaper or cardboard strips, then moisten them with water. Ideally, leave the box empty for a few days before adding the worms to make sure the moisture is consistent. Worms need a moist, dark environment, good airflow, but not a draft, and proper food to thrive. Since they have no access to soil, you are going to be responsible for providing everything.

Once your box is set up, decide where in the home or classroom you want to place it. Since worms like to be warm, but not hot, you’ll need to keep your box out of direct sunlight, and away from any intense heat (i.e. space heaters).

Worms are best at composting raw fruits and vegetables, so it’s advised that beginners to worm composting only offer their worms these foods. Go easy on citrus because this will make the worm’s habitat acidic and can attract fruit flies. You also might want to avoid onions or broccoli because these tend to give off a strong smell.

After 3-5 months, your bin will be mostly filled with compost and you will need to “harvest” it. This means removing the compost and adding new bedding. There are two methods for doing this. Since red wigglers don’t make tunnels like native nightcrawlers, you can simply dump the bin out onto a sheet of plastic and scoop it into several small piles. If possible, do this in an area with plenty of bright light. Since worms don’t like bright light, they will burrow to the bottom of the piles.

Layer by layer, remove the compost from the top of the piles and put it into a pail, or other similar container. If you are planning to use this compost indoors, you will probably want to sift out any uncomposted food particles, or leftover bedding, and you’ll want to make sure there are no worms left in the compost. If the compost is going outdoors, you likely won’t need to do this, as nature will finish the process.

When you end up with a pail of compost and several piles of worms, return the worms to a bin of clean bedding and start the process all over. If you’re composting in a classroom setting, or just interested yourself, you will probably want to weigh all the worms and see if they’ve grown before you put them back in the bin.

If you don’t want to touch the worms, you can use the hands-off method of harvesting. Don’t feed the worms any new material for about two weeks. Next, scoop out any large pieces of uncomposted feed or bedding, and push the entire contents of the bin to one side. Fill the now empty section with fresh bedding. Only feed on the clean side for the next 2-3 weeks. The worms will move to the clean side on their own, and you’ll be free to scoop out the old compost.

Most of all, have fun and enjoy your little indoor recyclers.

photo credit: Earthworms! via photopin (license)

The Basics Of Building Your Own Greenhouse

Small home made greenhouse
Small home made greenhouse built from PVC pipe and plastic

It may be easier than you think to build a greenhouse. There are many different designs and sizes that you can build. A greenhouse provides the needed sunlight and humidity for plants. And it will give you comfort whenever you visit your plants, vegetables, flowers, or orchids. It will be a place where you can sit, and relax.

Building a small greenhouse may be more economical. If there is enough space for a larger greenhouse however, you may want to consider it if you think you may want to grow more plants and vegetables. Continue reading The Basics Of Building Your Own Greenhouse

Here’s the Dirt on Raising Worms

Red Wiggler Worm
Red Wiggler Worm
Red Wiggler Worm

Most of us probably remember a time when we were children, and we discovered the earthworm. Most likely, the wiggly thing was crawling on the surface of the soil after a rain, or maybe it had crawled onto the driveway. Or, perhaps, a robin was flying off with a big worm in her mouth. Regardless of the situation, an adult was probably quick to tell you that earthworms are good for the soil. Most likely, you have just believed this for your entire life. Well, it is entirely true.

Worms help process organic matter. They will turn your kitchen scraps into compost much more quickly than the other organisms naturally in the ground. This is called vermicomposting. A worm can be expected to eat ¼- ½ of its weight in organic material every day. They don’t actually eat the food scraps, they eat the protozoans and microbes that result as the food rots. Continue reading Here’s the Dirt on Raising Worms

Raised Bed Gardens – What to Grow

Tomato Plant in a Raised Bed Garden

Tomatoes

Tomato Plant in a Raised Bed Garden
Tomato Plant in a Raised Bed Garden

Tomatoes are easy to grow in any sunny setting with good quality soil. A raised bed is ideal for them because they are susceptible to fungus. Since the raised bed drains better than a regular garden, the plants stay drier, which reduces the chance for fungal growth. The other benefit is that if you set your raised bed up close to your home, you can run out and grab a tomato whenever you want. The downside is that if you put your tomatoes in cages, there may not be enough dirt to hold the cages, especially if the plants grow really tall, which they tend to do in excellent soil. You may need to stake the plants by hammering the stake into the ground below the raised bed. When you transplant your tomato seedlings, be as gentle on the roots as possible so you don’t shock them. Continue reading Raised Bed Gardens – What to Grow

Introduction to Raised Bed Gardens

Raised Bed Garden

There are many advantages to growing plants in raised beds. These include better drainage, and earlier planting due to the soil drying out quicker, and becoming warm earlier. Plants will have an easier time working their way down into the soil because a raised bed is usually less compacted than regular garden soil. A raised bed also eliminates a lot of bending and kneeling. Some raised beds are so tall, that people in wheelchairs can enjoy working with plants and soil.

The Raised Bed in its simplest form, is to simply rake up a large pile of dirt, pack it down slightly, and plant your seeds. Continue reading Introduction to Raised Bed Gardens

Fall Garden Tasks

Autumn Compost Pile

October is rapidly approaching and it won’t be long before the garden needs to be buttoned up

Fall Spinich
Fall Spinich

for the winter. While most of the harvesting is done, there is still plenty to do in the weeks ahead.

In many areas of the country, particularly in the east, late blight is becoming an annual problem for tomato and potato growers.  It is a plant disease that can survive from one season to the next and can be both air and soil borne with devastating effect.  Now is the time to start defending against next year’s possible late blight infestation.  Make sure you clean out all parts of this season’s infected plants, including brown and rotting leaves that have fallen to the ground.  Dig out all unharvested potatoes and rotted tomatoes that are lingering in the garden.  Continue reading Fall Garden Tasks

Fall Tree Planting

young tree ready for planting

As we get into the fall and our garden chores are winding down, it is a good time to plant small young trees. Not only do we have more time to begin a tree project, but this is also a great time to purchase the trees. Garden centers don’t really want to keep their young tree inventory through the winter so prices should be very attractive at this time of year.

Planted Tree
Planted Tree

September is a good month to get started. While most people think of spring as the prime growth season, warm soil temperatures in the fall along with adequate rain can make for ideal transplant conditions. The soil should be above 50 degrees and in most parts of the country, this will last well into October.

No matter when you plant trees, consistent watering is required, usually about one inch per week. This should continue right up until the ground freezes. Young trees should also be protected from the harsh realities of winter by placing a four inch thick layer of mulch around the base. Most any material will do like straw, wood chips, compost, shredded bark, etc. This will help to maintain a consistent soil temperature. Make sure your application of mulch takes place late in the season or even into early winter after the trees have gone dormant.

Continue reading Fall Tree Planting