Friday, May 6, 2011

fun with vermiculture {or: makin' a worm house!}

Since we're going to have some gardens to tend this year (yay!), I thought it would be a fun (and useful!) project to start a little vermiculture with the kiddos.  My good friend Amanda has been culturing some worms (that sounds so funny!) for awhile and very kindly gave us a little container to get our own worm farm started, along with a lot of tips and instructions.  (Thank you, Amanda!!)

And now I'll pass it all on to you. :)   It's incredibly simple!

{the kiddos have been having lots of fun examining, holding, playing with the worms...but Little Monkey seems to be enjoying this little experiment the most.  Maybe it's the age - his little eyes are just opening to the wonders of nature, so this is perfect timing for him!}

These worms are redworms, which I've noticed are the kind typically recommended for worm composting.  Evidently, they are not exactly the same as what's in the ground outside.  They are smaller, hungrier, and multiply much faster.  If you don't have a friend who can give you some composting worms, you can easily order some online.

{Little Monkey says the "wormies are his fwiends" and he was VERY excited to "build them a little house" :) }

I originally found some very simple instructions for making a vermiculture in the book, The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne.  If you are looking for ideas on getting started with homesteading projects, but you don't want to make anything large-scale or permanent, this book has a lot of great projects.  HOWEVER, I have to say, her philosophy is very unChristian, and unkind toward society and government in general...I don't recommend reading the text at all...but the projects really are great!

That said, I also found a this very helpful website by googling "vermiculture".... I didn't read anything beyond project instructions so I'm not recommending any viewpoints, just the project info!

You just need two identical plastic bins (and the lids) to keep the worms in.  Preferably opaque, because the worms don't like light.  I'm going to be keeping them in a dark place (either a cabinet in the garage or under my kitchen sink, not sure yet), so I just used what I had on-hand, which is clear plastic.  My "bins" are also very small because I have a small amount of worms...we will upsize as the colony grows.

We punched some holes in the bottom to let any excess moisture drain out (don't want the worms to sit in water!).  These containers cracked quite a bit as we poked the holes, thus the tape.  Apparently the "juice" that drains out of the bottom makes a great fertilizer for any houseplants or potted plants you may have.  (More about that at the end).  So you'll also need to punch a few holes in one of the lids...(we forgot to do that when we were taking all the pics & had to fix it the next day!)  The lid with holes will cover the worms & allow for ventillation...the lid with no holes will sit underneath the box and catch any drainage "juice."

 {LOL - this is what happens when you ask a 10 year old boy to pose for a photo with a worm box!}

Next, we prepared some bedding for the worms.  They just need something to cover them, keep them moist, and give them something to crawl around in.  There are lots of things you can use (see the website I mentioned above) but the simplest thing we had on-hand was newspaper.

We shredded it up...

 {LM worked so hard on the shredding!}

Then we stirred in some water, & squeezed it out so that the paper was very damp but not really dripping.

The worms need something to eat, so we sprinkled oats on the bottom to get things started... the kids were very generous - hope the worms are hungry!  We'll start saving some fruit/veggie scraps, used coffee grounds, eggshells and other things (see website :) for future meals.  They don't need too much at first.

Then we added the worms on top...

...and sprinkled/spread the wet newspaper bedding on top of them...

...and then put on the (unpictured) hole-punched lid...

And now we are farmers...worm farmers, that is!

You can see that I have the second (not-hole-y) lid sitting underneath the bin...  We punched those drainage holes in the bottom of the box, so as any liquid drains out, the lid will catch it all.  Keeping my cabinets clean, and collecting it for me to feed my houseplants.  Simple!

And the second bin... will be used in several months or whenever the worms outgrow their current "house."  We will punch holes in the bottom of bin #2, just like the first one, making sure they are big enough for worms to crawl through.  Then we'll stack #2 right on top of #1, so that it is laying directly on top of the worms.  Add food & new bedding to #2....and over the course of several weeks/months, the worms will migrate up into the second bin.  Leaving behind all of their compost for my garden.  How nice of them!


  1. GREAT POST, Colette! I really appreciate your honest opinion of the book. I think it's at our library, and put in a request for it (we're not urbanites, but it looked like a good read!) but having something in the hosue with such a bad attitude is not cool here -- my 10yo daughter would get hold of it and.....
    The tutorial is officially bookmarked so that we can do this later! I have wanted to do it, but DH hasn't been totally on board...until now :) I was thinking that winter would be a great time to have a vermiculture bin, as the compost heap would not be really active. Have you read anything like that?
    Thanks for the post - I'd like to share it on FB!

  2. Sally, I'm glad it was helpful! Feel free to share away! (And thank you for the link! :)

    I am thinking the same thing, that a vermi will be great during the winter. Although it seems that, unless you have a BIG one, it won't use nearly as much kitchen scrap as a reg. compost will.

    BUT, it does take many months for the worms to make a bin-full of compost, so I think starting one in the fall/early winter would probably be about right for having one bin for the garden by the following spring. (My colony is smaller than most starters, so we're starting now to have it ready for next year :)

  3. If I were a worm, I would be in heaven at your house;)

    Y'all are doing a great job! This will be such a wonderful thing to add to your garden.

    The kids look so happy to be digging into dirt.

    GREAT shots too!

  4. LOL! Still deciding between keeping a worm hotel under your kitchen sink or in the garage??? My vote (not that it matters): in the garage :>) We've had a lot of creeping things take up living quarters at our house; however, those that slither were not allowed inside. Looks like your kids are loving the project, though! I'm sure the worms will enjoy their accommodations wherever you put them! (I'm just a little bug-shy. Don't mind me.)


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! Things are pretty busy around our house, so I can't always leave as many replies as I would like to. But please know that I look forward to reading every note you send my way - they brighten my day! Blessings,Collette

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