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Topic: Make Your Own Worm Hotel - Home Composting Tutorial!  (Read 21882 times)
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lolo
« on: August 29, 2005 07:57:59 PM »

My fiance and I have been looking for more ways to reduce/reuse/recycle.  We realized that throwing away our food scraps was not only wasteful, but made our (garbage disposal-less) apartment kind of smelly if we forgot to take it out.

Home composting to the rescue!  Here is complete tutorial for making your own vermicompost bin.

Materials (makes a bin big enough for the scraps of 1-2 people):

16 Gallon Plastic/wooden/whatever container:  $9.99 @ linens 'n things
Fiberglass Screen:  $5 @ Home Depot
1,000 Red Worms (1 lb):  $26 from http://www.capecodwormfarm.com/
16 quart Organic Potting Mix - I forget!  Cheap!
Leaf Mold - Free from worm lady
Hot Glue Gun
1 Gallon Water

Total Project Cost - about $45

Step One - Get a bin


http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/1.jpg
Our bin is plastic because it's cheap, but I hear wood is much better/easier to maintain in terms of moisture content.  Get wood if you can!

Step Two - Drill holes

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/2.jpg
Drill small holes all the way around the top for ventilation

Step Three - Cut Slits

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/4.jpg
Worms need oxygen, too.  Use a knife to cut narrow slats

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/5.jpg
Pop out the pieces you cut

**Some people recommend to cut drainage holes in the bottom - if you don't, be extra careful when monitoring the moisture content of your bin.  You don't want worm soup.

Step Four - Screen over the holes

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/6.jpg
Make sure to sand the plastic to make sure your glue will stick!

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/7.jpg
Glue around the edges, allowing the glue to seep through the screen

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/8.jpg
We weren't sure the screen was fine enough, so I added a second layer at a 45 degree angle to decrease the hole size

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/9.jpg
Here's what it looks like from the outside

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/10.jpg
And the inside, all trimmed up

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/12.jpg
Don't forget to put some screen over the small holes, too

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/13.jpg
Here is the "finished" bin

Step Five - Decorate!

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/14.jpg
Who wants a boring bin in their apartment?

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/15.jpg
People might not believe there are actually worms in there, despite the art

Step Six - Prepare Bedding

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/16.jpg
This is the leaf mold we got for free from the woman who sold us the worms.  Websites SAY that you can use newspaper and a little soil, but Maggie Pipkins of Cape Cod Worm Farm told us that after 30+ years of experience, she would NEVER use newspaper.  Yes, the worms eat the newspaper, but there aren't any nutrients in it!  She suggests:

1/3 Leaf Mold
1/3 Peat Moss
1/3 Manure

If you find an organic, no nonsense potting soil you shouldn't need the peat and the manure because it's already in the mix!  Therefore, we used with Maggie's Approval

1/2 Leaf Mold (decomposed leaves)
1/2 Potting Mix

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/17.jpg
Fill your bin about 1/2 way full.  You should have at between 8" to 14" of bedding.  NO DEEPER otherwise you'll crush your worms.

Before you add your worms, you need to moisten your bedding.  We used about a gallon of water, but you should see how much your own mix needs.  How do you tell how much?  The soil should be about as wet as a rung-out sponge.  If you squeeze it, you should see the water but it shouldn't drip

Step Seven - Add worms

http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/18.jpg
http://stewartspeak.com/lauren/wormhotel/19.jpg
Don't just add any worm!  You need Red Worms, otherwise known as Red Wigglers or Compost Worms.  One pound of worms will eat the food scraps of 1-2 people.

Don't mix the worms into the soil - put them on top and the light will cause them to burrow.  If you're ordering worms online, they should come with care instructions.  If you want to find worms locally, check your nearby garden and bait stores, though we didn't have any luck with that here in Boston - we had to visit a worm farm!

Step Eight - Feed your friends

There seems to be a lot of conflicting information on the web about what to feed (and what not to feed) composting worms.  The problem is this:  people assume that because worms DO eat some things, that means that they should.  Cardboard, newspaper, coffee grinds, tea bags, orange peels, lettuce, potatoes -- these are all things that your worms will eat but shouldn't.  You'll have malnourished worms and poor potting compost when their done.

Here is some advice on feeding your worms -  http://www.capecodwormfarm.com/te_food.asp

After about 6 months, you'll have beautiful compost and a lot more worms... remove the compost, get more bedding, and start again.

Happy Composting!
« Last Edit: December 18, 2012 09:13:18 AM by jungrrl - Reason: changed non-working image(s) to link(s) » THIS ROCKS   Logged

littleone1098
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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2005 08:10:10 PM »

Wow. that's intense, thanks for sharing.
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"Every morning when I wake up I experince an exquisite joythe joy of being Salvador Daland I ask myself in rapture, What wonderful things this Salvador Dal is going to accomplish today?" -The one and only
honorhappy
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2005 10:56:35 PM »

  I've seriously thought about doing this, but I live on the second floor in an apartment building and have a black thumb.  However, I am going to be studying up on gardening this fall, and I suggest this to everyone with lawn space or anyone who plants.  Now I have a tute to show people.  Thanks!

How's it been so far?
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ilovepaper
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2005 04:27:28 AM »

I've tried outdoor composting twice and it never worked, this looks like a fool-proof way to do it. Your tutorial is fantastic, I may have to give this a try.
(I love how you made it crafty by decorating the tub  Grin )
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homestar
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2005 08:25:09 AM »

Where I live, we have to buy trash tag stickers to put on our trash bags, otherwise the city won't pick it up.  It's good incentive to waste less, because you see your money being stuck right on the outside of the bag (in the form of a hot pink sticker, of course :-P)

Anyway, here's my question:  we don't have room in our apartment.  Could we keep the bin outside on the porch?  I live in Upstate NY and it gets nasty cold in the winter.  Would this make the wormies unhappy?
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archer*of*loaf
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2005 09:45:09 AM »

Like Homestar, I live in upstate NY also, and I'm wondering what to do with them in the winter/summer.  I'm assuming it's okay to have them outside in the summer if they're kept in a cool, shady place, but do you move them inside in the winter?

Also, when you harvest your compost, do you just, like, skim it off the top of the bin? Or just scoop it out, worms and all, and add it to your garden?

Just wondering.  Thanks for the tutorial!  Now I can show my hubby and ask him to help me out!
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And hoping for an early death you swam so far you lost your breath, and struggling in the ebb and flow I took your hand, but you let go...
And now the ocean fills your lungs, and now you've got what you had come for, resting peaceful as you sink to drown under a sea of strangers.

-E. Bachmann
homestar
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2005 10:52:23 AM »

archer*of*loaf, where ya from?

So I googled "vermicompost winter"...  and it looks like the little suckers (chompers?) won't be happy outside in the winter.  I kept reading "warm and moist" and that definitely doesn't describe upstate winters!!!

What to do?!?!?
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archer*of*loaf
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2005 11:04:31 AM »

I live about ten minutes outside of Albany.  How about you?

Yeah, I thought worms wouldn't be happy about being in one of those bins outside in the winter, but then again, what do they do in the winter while in the ground?  I'm not sure if this is one of those "Duhhh..., stupid question" questions, but I had to ask.

Thanks!
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And hoping for an early death you swam so far you lost your breath, and struggling in the ebb and flow I took your hand, but you let go...
And now the ocean fills your lungs, and now you've got what you had come for, resting peaceful as you sink to drown under a sea of strangers.

-E. Bachmann
homestar
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2005 11:12:50 AM »

I'm in Ithaca...  I think that the worms aren't the typical "earth worm" species, so they might not do as well in earth-like conditions.

I might consider doing a bin inside...  but I don't know where I'd put it, I don't know how I'd keep it from smelling funny, and I don't know how I'd get the resulting compost/castings separated from the worms if I don't have some space to work.

Cornell Cooperative Extension must have info on vermicomposting, I know they do a lot with composting, so I might check with them and get back to you.
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lolo
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2005 01:00:05 PM »

what do they do in the winter while in the ground?

I asked the worm lady, "What do your worms do in the winter?"  and she said, "Eat."  Then she said she discovered that putting down a decent amount of manure helps her worms survive the winter... when manure decomposes it creates heat, so I guess that make sense!

She said before she realized this she heated her pits with "wires" and I'm not sure what that means, but if you can figure out how to keep them above 40 they should be fine.  Maybe a heating pad, or even building a cold frame?

I'm keeping mine in my kitchen year-round (I'm on the third floor of an apartment complex) and technically there shouldn't be any smell problems so long as you cover the food you put in with bedding and aren't over feeding your worms.  We'll see if that's true!

Also, when you harvest your compost, do you just, like, skim it off the top of the bin? Or just scoop it out, worms and all, and add it to your garden?

There are a few ways to harvest your compost when the time comes, here are 5 different ways you can try:

1) Manual sort.  This might be a fun project if you have kids, but I'm definitely not going to do it this way
2) Start feeding your worms in just one side of the bin for week or so.  Then remove the castings from the other side and hopefully most of the worms will have moved out.
3) Push all your compost to one side, and then place fresh bedding/food on the other.  Wait about a month and harvest the hopefully worm-free castings on the one side of your bin
4) Take your bin outside and dump it all out on a sheet.  Make small piles of compost.  The worms, being light sensitive, will burrow under the piles.  Scoop off the top of each pile (exposing the worms and letting them burrow again) until all you have left are the worms.
5) You can scoop it out, worms and all, but then you won't have any worms left when you want to start again!
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