25 lbs of worm castings!
Worm castings or vermicompost as it is called is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner you can get at the garden nurseries. Last year while planting tomatoes I added some worm castings that I bought to put in each hole with the plants to make the soil richer. I vowed that I would not buy them again as they are expensive. I thought with all stuff here on the property that I could feed the worms, I should get some red wiggler worms and become a worm farmer. So I did.
Screening the worm castings
Wednesday I ‘harvested’ my first worm castings. My worm bin is outside and consists of some straw bales formed in a ‘U’ shape that I have across from the chicken coop. I built it last fall and have fed the red wigglers a variety of food including giant pumpkins, coffee grounds, eggshells, straw, newspaper, fruit (no citrus-it will kill them) and vegetable kitchen scraps. Just like a regular compost bin but no work is involved-no turning the pile over and over to get it to decompose. The worms do the work. They eat everything and leave their castings behind. I built a screen to sift out the worms and debris from the castings. I sifted it twice to make sure I got the worms and stuff separated from the castings. I got a full 5 gallon bucket of castings! Unbelievable and wonderful! I took it up to the house to see how much the bucket weighed and it weighed 25 lbs!
So now that you have some compost bins, you are ready to make compost! You’ll need to add brown (carbon) material and green (nitrogen) material for heat. For brown I use straw, old hay and leaves. For green I use chicken poo, goatie poo, horse manure but no dog or cat poo, (they eat meat), fresh grass and plant clippings (still green-not dry). Also considered green are eggshells, coffee grounds, fruits and vegetables too old to eat. You can add bloodmeal or cottonseed meal if you don’t have enough heat (nitrogen). The best ratio is 25-30 carbon (brown) to 1 nitrogen (green) commonly listed as CN: 25 or 30/1. What does this translate to in the garden bin? Use 1 part brown to 2 parts green. So add like 2 inches of brown and 4 inches of green. Do this so the pile gets hot enough to decompose into compost. It you don’t add enough green (nitrogen) then the pile will cook much slower. Add enough brown/green layers till pile is about 3 feet high. Water well between layers so pile is moist but not soggy. In about a week, if the pile is hot enough, it will reduce it’s size by about half. Sometime after that, turn it into the middle bin and water again. That way what was on the top will now be on the bottom and be able to break down faster. When the middle pile get’s half as big again, turn it into the the last bin and water again. I use the compost anywhere from the second stage to when it is totally composted. You can also make compost tea which will add lots of nutrients and soil microorganisms back into the ground to help the plants you will grow this next season.
Here’s is a a great site that explains it all in a lot more detail and in simple terms- Home Composting Made Easy
Now one last word-it’s winter here so you may want to wait till the hose is defrosted in spring to start making compost but it can be done in winter if the green stuff is hot enough and the hose isn’t frozen. And if you make it in early spring it will be ready by planting time.
I do both vermicomposting (worm farming) and traditional composting. These bins are for traditional composting. Making compost bins is easy. Yesterday I made 3 new compost bins in 2 hours. It’s easy using pallets as they are free (I got my from ‘The New Mexican’ building- turn onto the frontage road of the interstate at the outlet mall road) and it’s great to recycle them. In fact the only thing you’ll need besides the pallets is some baling wire (the kind for coyote fencing), pliers and some wire cutters. Get pallets that are all the same size and not broken so they have a clean look.
The first thing you need to do is get 7 pallets. Three for the backs, 2 on each end and 2 for the inside to make 3 interior spaces. That way you can put your rawest materials in the first bin and then when needed you turn it into the next bin when it has somewhat decomposed and then turn again into the last one for finished compost. Find a place to your compost bins and rake the area clean but you don’t have make the ground spotless because you are going to bury it anyways.
Drag them into position and start with 2 pallets to make a corner. Standing them up, put one pallet onto the first back piece and wire them together on the top and bottom. Use the pliers to really tighten the wire so they are not floppy. Now the 2 pallets should stand upright without you holding them up. Now it’s easy to wire the rest.
Next wire another pallet to the one on the back on both the top and bottom and then the last one on the backside. Then connect another one to make another corner.
Next put chicken wire across the expanse of the inside. This is to help keep the rough materials from falling into the walls of the pallets. After I put in the center dividers, I’ll put more chicken wire in each section.
Here’s a look from the inside so far. Notice the two pallets left to make the dividers for 3 sections.
Next wire the two other pallets dividing the expanse into thirds which is easy. I wire them where each pallet connects on the backside. Now you are ready to make compost which I will address in another post.