I’ve emptied out the bottom (third) tray of my vermicomposter in order to set up another round of food for my basement-dwelling buddies and to get ready for seed-starting next month.
This delectable tray of treats is full of good things like soft brown apples, egg cartons and small shredded brown paperboard boxes, crushed eggshells, kale stems, spent tea bags and coffee grounds/filters. There’s a few onion skins in there, too.
The bottom and (coming soon) top layer (as well as in-between filler) are moistened peat moss that forms the base of my homemade seed-starting mix. Since I’ve got worms working full time eating through my compost and making castings, I can now use the casting-rich peat moss as a sizable portion of that seed-starting mix.
This lets me cut back on or even eliminate the amount of liquid fertilizer (usually fish or fish/seaweed blends) that I use while seedlings are growing.
The worms have done a great job on the bottom tray, and for the first time, the upward-migration system seems to have worked the way it’s supposed to–I haven’t seen a single worm in the finished mix, and there’s only a few very small bits of uneaten compost (that are being transferred to the new tray).
One of the revelations I’ve made in my vermicompost work is that the average number of worms (and box size) that are recommended by catalogs (usually a smaller box/amount for meat eaters and a larger one for vegetarians) are misleading.
We aren’t vegetarians, but we eat a lot of homemade, unprocessed foods that produce a fairly large amount of compost almost every day. I think I could easily be running two worm boxes at the same time and not have them wanting for food.
If you’re considering starting a worm box at your house (and really, why aren’t you vermicomposting?) and you cook and eat at home a lot, you might consider going with a larger box or a larger amount of worms even if you’re not a vegetarian–though the worms, given time, will happily reproduce if there’s plenty of food for them.
What I like best about having a vermicomposter is that it allows me to continue active composting in the winter months, and it supplies my needs for finely-screened compost for seed-starting at a time of year when everything outside is frozen solid.
Not to mention worms are about the easiest “pets” you can imagine–you can leave them alone for long stretches of time without harming them in the least, they don’t need expensive care, and they eat what you might otherwise throw away.
Sure, they get into the “garbage,” but they make something really great out of it! And they don’t get fleas…