Vermicomposting is composting with worms! This Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative friend Scott Culbert and house member Andrew Adamski teamed up to hold a workshop demonstrating how to build your own vermicomposting bin. If you missed the workshop or want a refresher on the benefits and steps as you build your bin, keep reading!
Benefits of Vermicomposting:
-Nearly a third of most households’ waste is biodegradable materials. Most households don’t compost these biodegradable materials go to the landfill. Composting turns this would-be trash into nutrient rich soil. Really it’s a win-win.
-People have a lot of reasons for why they don’t compost: they’re afraid it’ll smell, they live in rental space so they feel composting is out of the question, or they give up on composting because it’s easier to toss food scraps in the trash than bring them to the compost bin on the far side of the yard when there is four feet of snow outside.
-With vermicomposting, you no longer have excuses, sorry! If done properly, your vermicomposting bin won’t smell- which means it is no big deal to keep your bin indoors all year round. (No more dashes through the back corner of the yard in the winter!) Plus, because vermicomposting is done in bins, when you move your worms can moved with you! No need to worry about if your landlord will allow you to build a bin out of crates in the yard or even worry that you might not have a yard at all. Best yet, you can get started for less than ten dollars!
Vermicomposting bin building:
There are a lot of ways you can build vermicomposting bins. If you want to dedicate more time and energy, making a nice composting bin out of cedar is always an option. You can find tutorials/resources online to do this. In this post, we are going to cover the most basic, affordable and therefore accessible way to build a bin.
Step 1: Gather your materials!
Materials You Need:
-Two equal-sized dark-colored plastic totes, bins, or buckets with lids.
-Drill with 1/16” & 1/4” bits
(If you don’t have a drill, you can borrow one from the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative.)
- Red worms!
-One piece of cardboard
-Four of the same object that can be used as spacers for the bin to sit on top (ex. Bricks, blocks.)
-A little bit of soil
Step 3: Preparing the Bedding
-Shred newspaper into thin strips.
-Dampen newspaper enough so it is moist but not dripping wet.
-Fluff up the newspaper and fill one bin so that it has anywhere from 3 inches to ¾ of the bin full of newspaper.
-Sprinkle a few cups of nutrient rich soil on top of the newspaper. This will help the worms digest their food and acclimate to their new environment.
-Cut a piece of cardboard so it will fit inside of your bin, covering the bedding.
Step 4: Situate the bin
-Place the lid without holes on the floor of where you want the bin to be.
-Place something to be used as spacers lifting the bin a few inches above the lid in the four corners of the lid (we used beer cans because we’re classy… A lot people use bricks or other blocks).
-Put the bin with the bedding on top of the spacers.
-Put the lid with the holes on top of the bin.
-Set aside the other bin to be used in a few weeks.
Step 4: Welcome Your Worms to Their New Home!
-Add your worms!
-Worms will eat about ½ of their bodyweight in food per day and need a vegetarian diet. Do not feed them any meat, dairy, oils, or bones. Feed your worms as needed.
-“Worm tea” (basically really nutrient dense liquid) will drip from the bin and collect in the lid. You can use this liquid to water plants as it is extremely good for them.
-After a while when there are no food scraps or newspaper strips left and all you can recognize is healthy composted soil, place the second bin with freshly prepared bedding on top of the soil. The worms will climb their way into the top bin where food is, leaving the bottom bin’s soil ready to be used!
-When you first make your bin, avoid the temptation of continuously lifting the lid and checking on the worms. It’s a good idea to give the worms time to adjust to their new home without disturbance. In general, only lift the lid when necessary.
-Only use red worms. You can’t just dig up any worms you find. If you need help finding worms and you are in the Marquette area, contact Scott Culbert, firstname.lastname@example.org or the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative, email@example.com
-Your bin needs to be moist, but not wet. Worms breathe out of their skin, but if your bin is too wet, it will start to smell. When you put newspaper bedding in, wring it out so it is only slightly damp. Balance how much wet food scraps you put in at a time so that the bin does not become too wet.
-When you put food in, put it in pockets throughout the bin. If you mix it all together like a tossed salad, it will likely become too hot and your worms will try to crawl out of the bin or die.
-The optimal temperature for your bin is 55-75 degrees. If it drops below 4o degrees for too long, your worms will begin to die.
-Don’t worry if you make a mistake, it’s all a learning process. If you do find something wrong, look at this link: http://www.vermicompost.net/common-vermicomposting-mistakes/
-If you are still not sure or have questions there is a plethora of information about vermicomposting online. Spend some time reading them.
Written by Melissa Orzechowski and Scott Culbert
It seems the best ideas are often the simplest. Our grey water system first began because flushing the toilet with buckets- rather than traditional toilet-tank flushes- was the only option as the plumbing restoration project was not yet fully complete. It was the simple connection between the water generated from doing dishes and water needed for the buckets to generate the formal system laid out today. For years, the greywater system stood as both a symbol to visitors demonstrating our vision, and an active, functional, and interactive part of our home; something that everyone could get behind.
Next, it was the obvious question of how much water was being saved that propelled the project further. By keeping track of the number of toilet uses without flushing, grey water flushes, traditional flushes, and shower flushes (collecting water from the shower rather than using the toilet’s tank) we could answer this question knowing the volume of our toilet tank and the buckets. Furthermore, by comparing the weekly ratios of greywater to traditional flushes we were able to analyze just how well we the system worked in practice. The average across the weeks that were recorded (the data tracking system was still improving) was about 3. Meaning for every traditional flush there were 3 grey water flushes. For the system we initially had, this was a very good average.
However, this is the now! This week’s ratio is a staggering 48 grey water to only 3 traditional, a ratio of 16. In the past, the collection system consisted of a container inside one sink to collect greywater, that would then be dumped into the buckets. In a fine show of increasing simplicity, coop member Heather Toman (with the support of the rest of the crew) made a direct connection between the sink and the buckets, eliminating the need for a separate container inside of the sink. In this way, we are saving almost all of the water used from the kitchen sink, meaning there is almost always enough grey water on hand for flushes in the bathroom, and hardly any need for traditional flushing!
Contributed by Ivan Swart