A wormery is an easy to use and clean way to recycle most kitchen waste. Did you know that about a third of all food bought is thrown out and put into landfills? The massive amount of food that is thrown out every year not only costs people money, but has an adverse impact on our environment. While in a landfill, degrading food produces methane gas which vents into the atmosphere. The large vehicles that transport the waste emit carbon gasses into the air. It is important to pay closer attention to the trash we throw out and use environmentally friendly methods to recycle and re-use these materials. Fortunately, there is an easy way to keep money in your pocket and make use out of food products destined for the garbage. Wormeries are basically a compost bin that contains worms that break down the foodstuffs into a highly effective fertilizer and garden compost. The worms work efficiently and quickly to turn ordinary garbage into something useful for your home. Of course, there are limitations to what you should put into the composter, so let’s take a look at some tips and tricks.
|A Typical Worm Bin|
Otherwise known as “vermicomposting”, using worms to break down degrading food products is actually quite simple. Worms are placed into a special container that you continually add material to. The worms will immediately get to work in converting the material. Not only is the solid material useful for plant feed, but the worms will also produce a special liquid plant food called compost tea. To get the most out of this system, look for a worm composter with an easy to use tap to extract the tea for use in your garden. Worm compost can be used on everything from flowers to green grass.
How It Works
Although harvesting worms from your backyard would work in these systems, most worms are deep burrowers and are not the best choice. For the highest effectiveness, consider using special composting worms. These worms eat the food just below the surface. Why is this important? Well, when you want to extract completed compost from your system, it is generally removed from the bottom. Since the special worms stay just below the surface, you won’t come into contact with the worms during extraction. This also prevents the critters from being accidentally removed from the system. Another benefit to the specialist variety is that when you add new food to the top, you still will not need to handle or come into contact with the worms.
Specifically, you want to look for two types of worms when setting up your system. The two species mostly used that are highly effective are the Red Tiger (or Brandling) worm and the Dendra. You can’t go wrong when using these species, and many composters come with them. Even when purchasing online, many of these systems come with the worms shipped in a special package which keeps them alive during the travel. As a general guideline, use 500g of worms for every cubic meter. (This is about 1000 worms).
You may be wondering what kind of upkeep is necessary to keep one of these units. It is a remarkably low-maintenance process, in fact. Feel free to go on a long trip with no worries. Simple add waste to the unit before leaving and the worms will have plenty of food to work with. The worms stay in the container for as long as you own it, there is no need to ever remove or re-stock the unit. They are experts at balancing their population and reproducing at the appropriate rate for your composter’s size. They will also adapt to the amount of waste you add. You may think of these systems as outdoor-exclusive, but they actually do quite well indoors. For best results, keep the unit in your kitchen, garage, or anywhere else at or close to room temperature (10-25 C). If you live in an area with extreme weather conditions, consider moving it inside during the winter or summer periods. If subjected to excessive temperatures, the worms will not perform properly or in the worst case, die.
Time Till Harvest
So, how long will it take to make a ready-to-use compost material? A wormery has the added advantage of a compost bin because it can produce faster results. The worm-less environment of a composter is less effective at breaking down material. Worms can have compost ready in a few weeks, depending on the size of your unit and the amount of material inside. Most manufactures will give this information on the package or product details. Most of the waste is converted into liquid. As discusses earlier, this “liquid feed” is a highly nutritious plant feed. In about three months you can tap the container for this liquid and use it in your garden.
Materials Used for Composting
|Large Composting Center|
Two varieties of waste can be added to the system. These are defined as "greens" and "browns", and each play a vital role in the balance of the system. Green material degrades quickly and infuses the system with nitrogen and moisture, which are essential. Brown materials rot much slower, but deliver carbon and fiber. As a rule, you want one third of your garbage to be made up of browns. This is the perfect level to prevent excessive runniness of the wormery compost and maintain a neutral acid level.
So what is considered "green"? Items like food scraps include peels, fruit, bread, and coffee grounds. Grass clippings and other garden debris are also green. Rotting manure and herbivore feces like those from rabbits are excellent greens. As you can see, many of these products, especially from your kitchen, can be recycled and put to good use.
The browns cover a wide range of materials too. These include cardboard, sawdust, paper, straw, twigs, bark and fallen leaves. If you have a backyard of any type, you are sure to be able to find at least some of these items.
There are a few additives that do not fall under either category that can be useful to add. Anti acid lime mix can be added every couple weeks to improve the worms performance and reduce excessive acidity. Egg shells add minerals to the mixture and reduce acidity too. Hair and natural fibers like wool and cotton work well too and can be recycled.
Certain things should not be put into the container, especially ones that too acidic or are prone to attracting flies. Fish meat and parts can produce an unpleasant smell. While the worms can digest the fish, use discretion when adding.
Wormeries are a great way to help the environment and your pocketbook as well. The cleanliness and ease of use make them ideal for homes of all sizes. These systems come in every size to match your needs. Common every-day products can be recycled into nutritious compost that can be used to grow new food. After setup, no more direct contact with the worms is needed, which is great for people that are apprehensive when dealing with critters.
Scared of worms? Try composting the conventional way with a back porch compost tumbler.
Visit Organic Garden Fertilizer and their article on composting for more information on organic gardening.