Making your own compost is not only an environmentally friendly way of waste disposal but can also produce nutrient rich, natural fertilizer for gardening. One form of such composting is worm composting or vermiculture. Instead of biological decomposers, the decomposing is done by worms. Worms breakdown large organic waste like tea grounds, vegetable and fruits peels and wastes into rich dense and dark soil. This is one form of composting at home, the other being traditional compost piles and heaps. Worm composting can be carried out indoors or outdoors and generates less odor while decomposing. All one needs is worms and a bin to keep them in. Below is a detailed explanation on how to make a worm composting bin at home.
How to Make a Homemade Worm Compost Bin
Decide on the material of the bin first. Wood or plastic are the most popularly used materials. Plastic is easier to clean and to drill holes in but it can get very moist very fast, so you need to be careful with the moisture levels in the bin. Drilling a lot of ventilation holes is necessary here, to let the excess water seep out.
Plastic bins are light and easy to move as compared to heavy wooden bins. Opt for the gardening variety of plastic storage compartments or buckets and make sure they are dark in color and not see through! Worms like it dark, so avoid light entering the bin at all costs. How about using a nice storage tub or tray as your worm bin? Clean such bins well with soap and water, before putting in soil or bedding.
With wood, the excess moisture is absorbed, just the right amount of air remains and the bin stays nice and dark for the worms to stay happy. But wooden bins can get eaten with time. Opt for natural pressed wood as chemically processed or treated woods can leak chemicals into the compost, which in turn can kill your worms. You can use an old dressing table, cabinet, small cupboard, tires or trunk any storage piece of furniture, provided it's in usable condition (not too weak or moth eaten) as a bin.
Just because the worms won't complain, that doesn't mean you should pack them in a sandwiched sized bin! Dimensions are important and are based on the amount of soil, you hope to obtain from the bin and the amount of food you will "feed" into the bin. A recommended practice is to assess or weigh the amount of food rubbish and garbage that you dispose off on a daily basis, to realize the correct bin dimensions.
Assume that every one pound of food, means one square foot of bin area needed. Ideal depth measurements are between 8-12 inches deep. Don't go beyond 24 inch depth, as the worms will not penetrate soil at such a depth. Use galvanized nails when making wooden worm bins.
Worms need air to breathe, so a well-ventilated bin with plenty of small holes is needed for breathing room and for reducing moisture levels. The worm bin should be damp and moist, not wet or full of water. Holes should be made at the bottom of the bin and the sides. The bottom should have at least 10 - 25 holes depending on the area of the bin. At the sides, at least 4 - 6 holes should be made.
With plastic bins, more holes might be necessary. Make sure the holes are at least 1/4-1/6 in width, they should be spaced evenly apart. Suspend or elevate the bin using bricks or planks of wood, such that the water can seep out onto a tray beneath. Holes help in maintaining the correct moisture levels. If you make large holes, don't throw the bin out, use a filtering material or cloth to keep worms and soil in, water out.
Worm bins need a cover or lid, so that it remains nice, dark and cool inside. For plastic bins, you need to drill holes in the cover as well. If you are placing the bins outside, the cover needs to be solid and thick, so the bin remains undisturbed. If indoors, cover the bin with a sheet of non-transparent, thick plastic or a burlap sack.
The bin needs to be prepared for the worms to live in and this is through adequate and efficient bedding. Shredded or torn up newspaper, cardboard, fallen leaves, grass, dead plants and flowers and straw make ideal bedding materials. Moisten them, then wring out the excess moisture, so that the bedding is damp but not soaking wet.
You can add some lightly dampened soil or grit to the mix, make sure you don't pack in the beddings, let there be air spaces and pockets. Different materials means different nutrients, so use as varied bedding as possible to ensure your worms get a lot of nutrition. A cardboard sheet or piece can be laid on top of the bedding, dampen it slightly, it makes a yummy treat for the worms!
Where to place homemade worm composting bins? Indoors or outdoors is your choice but there should be no direct sunlight, rainfall or snowfall. The temperature should be cool or humid, not hot. In colder climates, keep the bin in a heated or warm area, if it gets too cold, the worms will freeze. Under the kitchen counter, basements, shed, garages, shaded corner of the backyard or balcony are good locations for a worm bin.
Compost will attract rodents or cockroaches if meat or dairy products, oily or fatty foods are disposed in your bin. The food waste should be organic and glass, plastic or foil waste are a complete no-no. Do not just place the waste on the top of the bin. You need to shuffle or move bedding aside, place the waste and then cover it up again. With the right waste ingredients, loving and conscientious worm care practices and the correct bin management techniques, your composting bin should keep you rich in rich fertilized soil!