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The Great Worm Bin Experiment

By: Sei, Produce Manager | 2018-02-16

Hello readers!

Produce Manager Sei here. Some new friends came in the mail today – red worms!

Red worms live under leaf litter. They eat plant waste and turn it into worm castings, which are a nutritious addition to our soil. We’re using these little guys to turn our veggie scraps into compost for our garden.

The worms live in a “worm bin,” which is a simple container that acts as a miniature compost pile. A properly maintained worm bin doesn’t smell or take up much room, so it’s a great way for people with small yards or apartments to get into composting.

Our first step was finding the right container. Luckily, I found these orange totes in the basement. They already have holes in the bottom for drainage, and a lid to keep the worms dark (they don’t like light). We stacked two totes together, and lined the bottom tote with a plastic bag to catch the “compost tea” which will drain out of the bin. Compost tea can be diluted and used as a liquid fertilizer.

Next we filled the bin with bedding. We used strips from the paper shredder, but you can use fallen leaves, hay, grass clippings, or any similar compostable material. The bedding needs to be moist but not wet, like a well-wrung sponge. Worms breathe through their skin, so it’s important that their bedding is fluffy, not soggy.

Finally, we tipped the red worms into their new home. We ordered our worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm in Spring Grove, PA. We gave them some old chopped kale and cabbage from our department. Red worms will eat most anything, but avoid meat, dairy and stinky vegetables like onions.

We put the bin in the basement, and we’ll check on them daily to add more food or bedding. It’s important to keep the bin clean and aerated for healthy, happy worms. They should double in size every 90 days, so we’ll have enough worms for a second bin soon!

We’re always looking for ways to reduce waste at the Co-op. We try to keep spoilage to a minimum through careful ordering; we consider packaging waste when we choose products; and we give our veggie scraps to Gretchen for her pigs at Cherry Hill Ecological Farm. A worm bin is another great way to use food waste! If you’d like to start your own, Cornell University has a great guide here. And of course, stay tuned for future classes on composting in the Community Room!