Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday Market and Vermi-Composting

The market was pretty busy yesterday. We went a little later than usual, and two stands were sold out of their produce by the time we got there! We'll have to move faster next week. This week we bought:
Kale (going in soup tonight), spinach, strawberries (from Vernon BC) and Italian Romaine (grown in Kamloops). We still have some rapini from last week and some beautiful asparagus from Armstrong BC left over too.

Then we drove out to the garden center on the highway. They were teaming up with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to sell Worm Composters. I've wanted to try composting for a while. I was pretty much ready to try it in Calgary, but then we decided to move, so there was no point. And where we live now there are bears. Not roaming all over the city constantly, but sightings in the area we live in are not uncommon. Perhaps it's silly and unfounded, but I was worried that a composter in the back yard might attract a hungry bear. I had read about worm composting, but had no idea where to start. So I was pretty excited to see the notice in the paper last week.
We were a little late getting to the garden centre and missed the seminar on worm composting, but the store staff and worm suppliers were happy to go over it with us. They even sold us the demo unit which was already put together. After paying and meeting up with the worm supplier in the parking lot to exchange money for worms we headed home, about 60 bucks lighter to get set up.
Here's the composter sitting in the kitchen.
The bottom layer is the base, the next layer is the collection tray (this is where any excess liquid will come out) and the top tray is our first stacking tray. The stacking tray has holes in the bottom. We put down a couple of layers of dry newspaper.
We rehydrated the coir (coconut fiber) and then squeezed out the excess moisture. The coir is mixed with compost (provided to us by the worm people) and shredded paper. Spread it in the tray.
Then add 2 cups of food in one corner. This was where the fun began - pulling all the yucky and old food out of the fridge and finely chopping it. The worms got apple, strawberries, cucumber and some spinach from that days market. It was mixed with coffee grounds, and for good measure we threw in the filter.
Then the worms were introduced to their new home. That's one pound of Red Wiggler worms, about 500. We tried to spread them around, but it didn't work so well (I was afraid to smoosh them or stress them out anymore), so we left them alone.
And covered them with a couple more layers of damp newspaper.
And put on the lid.
The manual suggests leaving them in a well lit place for the first week to force the worms down into their house. So the composter will sit on our kitchen table for a week or so. In 3 days we have to check on them to see how much food they have eaten. If they are crawling around in the food, we add more.
Because I was already on a roll, I chopped up the rest of the questionable food in the fridge in my food processor. The worms eat fruits, vegetables (except potato peels), starch, egg shells, coffee grounds, paper and cardboard. Don't give them meat, dairy, citrus peels, oil and salty food.
I chopped everything up and portioned it into small handfuls. Then I froze them on a baking sheet to store until needed. There's cabbage, raspberries, lettuce, green onion, pita bread, and red peppers in there. And I've put a bowl on the counter to remind us to save the organic waste and not throw it away.

So in a couple of months we'll have a tray full of compost, ready for the plants!
I'm pretty nervous about this, I'd feel terrible if I screwed up and killed my 500 little worms. I'm going to sit down with Google later today and try to answer the questions that the book has raised for me.
If anyone out there can recommend any websites, or has any advice for me, please let me know!


kickpleat said...

good luck with your worm composting! there's a good book called "worms eat my garbage" that you can check out from the library.

Katerina said...

Good for you! I have been meaning to look into this for awhile now. I will be interested to see how you like it and if it smells at all.

sher said...

Wow! I'm very impressed! I keep meaning to start a compost pile each year, but never do. You're so organized!

Sara said...

KP - thanks very much for the suggestion. I'll be going to the library this week to look for it.

Katerina - thanks, i will be posting from time to time, assuming I don't kill them all this week. :) The manual says it won't smell, but only time will tell I guess...

Sher - thank you! :)

Lien said...

What an interesting factory. Are you sure those worms don't crawl out at night?? Very rewarding to recycle like that, good job.
We have a large 'bin'-thing outside, we throw everything in, also all the things you mentioned we probably shouldn't. Packed with worms, never heard them complaining! (our chickens would want to live there gladly!)

Sara said...

lien - i'm pretty sure they won't come out.....if they do, you'll probably hear me yelling!

Astrid said...

I have had the same system as the one you have, for about a month now. It's true, it doesn't smell, at least if you don;t put too much food in there. But it looks like I only have about a dozen worms left. Yikes! I can't imagine what has happened. I followed the instructions to the letter.
And no.. they don't crawl out :-) If they come up to the surface it may mean that you have too much wet mater and it's getting too hot in there for them, so take the lid off , until it cools off, and add some dry matter (shredded paper)
Now I have to go and find who sells the worms for the last amount of $. I am finding them online for $75 a pound... again... Yikes! Any ideas here?



Sara said...

Astrid, the worm composting is a little more difficult than I'd thought. I am finding it hard to figure out how much to feed them - they don't seem to eat as much as I've read in my booklet or online. I think most of ours are still alive.....I'll have to do an investigation.

Where do you live? I know that here you can get a pound of worms for about $30.