Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Vermicompost What? Composting with worms at home: What not to do.
I did not know what vermicompost was until last year when my son got the most amazing birthday present: a tin container full with a handful of red wiggler worms, some shredded newspaper and some food scraps!
Last summer, a colleague at work and I were talking at one of those boring functions and we discovered that we shared a common hobby: gardening. She told me all about how she keeps worms in a box and feeds them her food scraps and used paper. The worms go about eating the stuff and pooping, yes pooping the most wonderful natural fertilizer on earth! I was so interested I was hooked. A month later she gave me the tin for my son and we started our vermicompost farm.
I am going to tell you about the experiment that did not work, and what we did to make it work. You see our first year with worms was not successful, but we did not give up and now in our second year we got it working! I just finished spreading some worm castings on my vegetable garden.
What not to do? And why it went wrong?
I put the first set of worms in a big plastic container that had those attached interlocking lids.
We made some holes all over the walls and the lid for breathing and kept it in my basement during the winter and put it on my patio in full sun during the spring and summer. It all worked well during the winter and I managed to get some composting going on. However, as soon as I put the box outside the problems started until one sunny 85 degrees day, I went to feed my worms and I found them all dead! In fact cooked to death… oh dear.
Problem 1: During the spring, I would go to my box once a week with my food and will often found it full of water (the worms were quite good at swimming!!). The water will stink and surely half the worms probably drowned. I had to turn it on its side and drain the water. Soon I had algae growing in it. Mistakes: Not enough drainage holes, particularly at the bottom of the box in where I had none. The lid of the box had 2 overlapping flaps, so rain water and other things will easily get in.
Problem 2: One day I went to feed the worms, when I opened the lid, a handful of disgusting black huge flies came out and when I looked closer there were dozens of maggots lying around. It was gross!! I had to remove all the worms I could without touching the maggots that were luckily only in a corner. I threw the whole thing out and started again. Mistake: the not locking lid let some flies in, they put eggs… babies were born… maggots Yak…
Problem 3: Death by worm cooking. Mistakes: my plastic box was in full sun for a week that was very hot. The average outdoor temperature for the week was 85 degrees – I do not even want to know how hot was inside the box. Additionally, the box was clear - worms do not like light, so they were probably hiding in the middle - the hottest part!… My poor worms literally cooked inside. I had to throw the whole thing in my compost pile.
At this time I called my friend and beg for more worms (did not have the heart to tell my son). I did promise to upgrade their living quarters and take better care of them. My friend gave me the worms and I did my side of the bargain. I bought them a worm hotel!!
See my post: Vermicompost What? Composting with worms at home: What to do. To hear the rest of the story and how I managed to have a successful vermicompost farm with healthy red wigglers worms at home.