1,000 Worms: an under sink ecosystem

One thousand worms arrived in a box on my doorstep this morning.

That’s right. 1,000 w o r m s.

They are the newest addition to the Coyle-Carr family/ecosystem/suburban homestead. They are also a dream come true. I completely understand how weird that may seem to some folks. But ever since I read about their super powers in The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficiency in the Heart of the City I have been stoked to bring them on.

Worms are amazing creatures, squiggly though they may be. They will turn our kitchen scraps into rich compost for our garden plot and patio pots. Some call this system vermicomposting or composting with worms, and others call it vermiculture.

They were SO WIGGLY in the bag. I don't think I was quite prepared for that! Eeek!

I call it awesome because my little wiggly friends will keep my scraps from landfill.

Rotting food in landfills creates carbon dioxide and methane gasses that contribute significantly to climate change. You see, the world was not designed to create “waste.” In nature, every byproduct has a beneficial use for the flourishing of its neighbor. Waste does not exist in ecology. It is, rather, a byproduct of human greed and “convenience.”

The good news is that humans do not have to be greedy or convenience-driven! We have the resources and smarts to transform our “waste” into resource (with very little work on our part, to tell the truth). With the help of worms and microorganisms, kitchen scraps can be transformed from stinky garbage to luscious soil.

So there you have it. Scraps go in and composting gold comes out. And the whole operation takes place under the kitchen sink.

Incredible.

Whether you are an apartment dweller, renter, or homeowner, vermiculture could be for you! Of course my worms and I just started our relationship this morning, but it is off to a beautiful start. I will post updates about what I learn from and about our wormies as time goes by. 

In the meanwhile...

Here is one way to set up an indoor worm bin:

What you will need:

  • A drill
  • Two matching containers with lids (Most everyone has a couple of large plastic tubs around—use ‘em! Make sure they fit wherever you want your vermiculture bin to live. Worms thrive at room temperature, so under the sink or in the laundry room would be a great idea.)
  • 1 pound of worms (I ordered from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm)
  • A bit of soil from outside (Maybe 4 cups worth)
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Water

I highly recommend getting your own copy of The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen. I learned how to set up a worm bin--and much, much more!--from their book!

First things first: Set up your bins. Drill holes for airflow and drainage. Aaron drilled about two inches from both the base and the rim of the bin (1/16 inch drill bit). Then I made 15 or so holes in the bottom; make these a bit bigger (1/4 inch) because they will eventually serve as portals for your worms to squiggle through to fresher ground (more about this in a minute).

Drill air holes in one lid, but leave the other intact. Flip the latter upside down and settle one box into it. This will catch any random bits of dirt that may fall from your bin. The holey lid will cap the operation, protecting the worms while allowing them ample air supply. 

Ordering worms is quick and painless. Uncle Jim's Worm Farm ships every Monday and promises delivery within three days. Our parcel of crawlers cost about $25.

When your worms arrive, marvel at their squirminess! Gently pour them into one of the bins.

Help them feel at home in their new space. Settle them with a little bit of earth from your garden or the garden store, and then cover the surface area with wet shredded newsprint (run a couple of fistfuls under the faucet, wring out excess water, and spread evenly in bin).

Always cover the surface area of the bin with damp shredded newspaper! This keeps your worms happy and healthy while also keeping fruit flies and other nuisances away from your operation. There are other materials that you could use for this covering, but I find that newsprint is READILY available if I keep my eyes open.   

Immediately after setting the worms in their bin, Uncle Jim suggests leaving the whole thing near a light source for a few hours so that the worms will burrow into their new home. DO IT. And feed them ASAP. For the first few hours that they were home with me, my worms kept crawling out of the box. After I put them near a sunny window and fed them a handful of scraps, though, they seemed to feel more at home in the bin. 

On feeding:

  • What? Here is a helpful chart that says what worms can and cannot eat. 
  • How much? Keeping worms is not a science, but an artful relationship. Fittingly, I cannot find a hard and fast rule about how much food I should give my worms. Authorities say start small and see how things go. Therefore, I plan on feeding my worms a handful of scraps per day and see how they fare. If the box starts to stink, I will hold feedings for a bit so that the little wigglers can catch up (smells=uneaten food). Vice versa, if they seem to swallow their feedings whole, I will up their portion size.

Why do I need that second bin? As the worms eat scraps, their luscious castings will fill the bin. When the container gets about three-quarters of the way full, it is time to start enticing your lovely worms into the second bin. Gently nest the second bin directly into the active one. Add a scoop of earth and fresh kitchen scraps. Cover with damp, shredded newspaper. The Urban Homestead book promises that the worms will migrate into the new box in order to get to the food. The transfer may take a few days, but when all the worms are in the fresh box, you are left with a bin full of rich compost! I will let you know how it goes when my worms and I get to that point! ;)

Be on the lookout for updates on the worms and their waste-to-resource transforming power.

I am so excited about each and every one of our 1,000 new housemates! 


What do you think about having your own worm bin? Ew, YAY, or a little of both?

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, or advice below!