Monday, 31 March 2014

Harvesting Worm Castings

Four months after starting our worm composting bin, I went to a workshop at the Victoria Composting Education Centre. Claire gave an overview of composting for small spaces and the participants asked questions and troubleshooted their vermicompost endeavors. It turns out that I was close to drowning my worms! I knew something was amiss when at each feed there were worms that were happy to attempt escaping, despite the sunlight. Another problem that Claire diagnosed was that I wasn't supposed to keep adding newspaper and dryer lint at every feed.

Inspired by her tips, I went home and promptly started harvesting my worm casting. I should have checked the weather forecast, or even just the skies, because a torrential rain was a comin'! But I was eager to start a new bin with fewer worms and the proper balance of browns and greens. Of course, my technique wasn't the best. I chose to have three 5-gallon bins, one to dump worms, one for garry oak leaves that hadn't been shredded, and the third for compost. The kids were happy to dig and search for the little wrigglers, but as they did this, they spread the contents of my worm bin further and further from the original three piles. Then it started to rain - and that quickly turned to pouring rain.

Fancy garden gloves

Hurriedly, I covered up the mess and moved it to my neighbour's patio. I visited with her and she pointed out that this endeavour was taking a very long time. I agreed with her whole-heartedly! The next day, durring a sunny break, I went back to the worm bin. This time, I decided to cut up the leaves as I went along, and dedicated my efforts to harvesting worm casting - that is, to take the new compost aside, leaving behind the worms. In theory, I should have been able to do this in 60 to 90 minutes. Since I had kept adding browns in the bin, my compost wasn't as rich as the black gold I had been promised. I decided to cut my losses and use the brown-ey compost (that the worms had dutifully tried to worked through) for my container garden.

Playing "deadzy wormzy" with a live earthworm
 Round two of my vermicompost is going to yield black gold in October. I have learned from my mistakes and will be sure to stick to the letter of the worm composting law! Additionally, I won't wait for another workshop to be offered to troubleshoot. The Composting Ed Centre is happy to answer any questions via email or even by phone! It's a great resource for beginners and I intend to become a green thumb sooner than later.

Need some?

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