The season of melons is upon us and for me the perfect time of year to begin reviving the vermiculture or worm bin. I’ve removed the last batch of breeding worms for a friend and want to take out the rich compost made since the last refurbishment which was a year ago.
I’ve left enough worms to re-establish a breeding community and will have lots of vegetable matter this summer for them to feed on. Depending how active they digest the materials I toss them, I may do this again come late summer but I’m reluctant to do it late in the fall season since this is an outdoor bin. I want a healthy population to hunker together if the winter turns cold . If it were not plastic and a ground bin instead, I could probably do it one more time and insulate the bin well. One plastic bin could not utilize all the vegetable scraps we make in our household, so I find other people to utilize it in their composts but the bin does provide me with enough compost to enrich our container gardens.
To capture the most worms to set aside, I layer in juicy materials and let it rest for a few days. This draws the worms to the fresh matter which I then take out and set aside. The next step is to thoroughly mix the remaining composted soil and if possible, sift it in to another container through a mesh screen. For small amounts a small French fry shaker basket is ideal. (Oh, how I wish I still had mine!) For a larger amount, a screen made of hardware cloth over a wheelbarrow works great. The courser material left after the screening will get tossed back into the compost to go through the digestion process again.
This year it looks like they gave me seven gallons of unsifted compost, certainly enough to do the container gardens of herbs and lettuce greens I have growing.
The plastic bin rests on two overturned flower pots which suspends it below the bottom bin that traps any moisture flowing through. Some call is compost tea but I just consider it nutrient-filled water and use it on my plants as well, diluting it half and half with water first.
I’ll empty out the plastic bin, wash it, and poke out any holes that have become clogged. Then it’s a matter of layering in coarse materials in the bottom to provide ventilation above the plastic bottom. If I’ve recently done any weeding of good weeds with dirt still attached to the plant, I like to add that next followed by the coarse materials I’ve sifted, a layer of soil, and the worms that I’ve set aside. On top of them, I’ll place some juicy fresh scraps so they have something to work on right away such as melon rinds, spoiled lettuce, etc., cover all with a layer of dirt, my funky brown paper which is even more deteriorated. I’ll not pile on too much compostables at once until they can work on getting their population growing. I don’t let the pile get too anaerobic or hot. Feed them just enough so they can eat through the plant matter before adding more.
In no time, I’ll have a happy vermi-culture crawling through and digesting my compostables, alchemically turning them into black gold. A win, win situation on all counts!