Vermicomposting Success: Worms, wonderful worms
Once I developed a rhythm with feeding, any issues with moisture and fruit flies disappeared quickly. For success, the key is not to think big, but to think LITTLE. It’s worth reiterating that it is best to introduce new food to the bin in smaller amounts and to cut scraps into smaller pieces, if possible, allowing the worms to process the food even faster. Eventually my bin no longer held whole banana peels and apple cores, but everything was diced into small pieces before being added. This was not as labor-intensive as it may sound; I kept a knife next to the bowl to chop up any scraps before putting them in. And wow, the turnaround time got noticeably faster.
Eventually, you will notice an increase in the proportion of worm castings in the working tray; it will look like a rich, black dirt. This means it’s working! As the food gets converted to castings, the tray will slowly fill and you will no longer have room to introduce more food. When this happens, simply lift off the covering layer of damp newspaper, and add a second processing tray on top, with another layer of bedding. Start this new tray with a handful of food, and cover with the damp newspaper and lid.
Once the bottom processing tray is mostly a uniform black material, your compost is done and ready to be harvested. If you notice egg shells still in your bin, that’s fine – the worms don’t actually eat the egg shells, but do absorb nutrients from them, and they are a great addition to help keep your bin healthy. You can add the egg shells to your garden along with the compost, but if they are bothersome, you can just fish them out or grind them up before adding them to the bin.
Because it took me time to work out kinks, my first tray was ready around four months into the process. When it was ready, I took the tray out from the bottom and moved it on top of my other tray, shifting everything downward. Putting the finished tray on top (and even keeping the lid off, if you prefer) helps any straggling worms migrate down from the finished bin to the other trays. Poking around with the rake might also bother them and get them moving down. And after the worms have cleared out, voila! Compost for your garden in a fraction of the time than you would get it from a traditional compost bin.
This Review of the Worm Factory and the photos are by Green Mama contributor Renee Bosman. The Worm Factory gets the Green Mama’s Two Green Thumbs Up approval.