In My Palm: Vermicompost

Last week, I watched a worm hatch in my hand. It wriggled its way out of the cocoon. Wriggle, wriggle. I watched it, fascinated.

Last weekend, Mark and his Lover came over to our house for a Korean dinner. Spicy pork, sesame leaves, red-leaf lettuce, kimchi, sesame leaf kimchi, mushrooms, three types of pajeon (green onions, mushrooms and green onions, and kimchi and mushrooms and green onions), dipping sauce, brown rice, and some raspberry wine.


After we ate, Mark and I separated my worms (more than a pound) into two parts and we got him started on worm composting. I also harvested my compost and restarted my bin.

I actually harvested this bin in two parts, two weeks apart. I used the light harvesting method with a bit of a twist. (The light harvesting method consists of shining a bright light on the worms in the bin. They burrow down, you scrape some compost off until they appear. Let them burrow again, scrape… Repeat.)

My compost wasn’t fully finished yet, so when I reached the point where I was tired of harvesting and I was having a hard time finding finished compost, I closed the bin. For two weeks, I didn’t feed the worms anything. I just let them finish what was in the bin.

Well, my idea worked very, very well. I was able to harvest the second batch of compost fairly quickly (although I’m not sure Mark thought it was quick).

My first batch of compost was rather wet, so I let it dry out for about a week. Then I ran it through a piece of 1/2″ hardware cloth to get some of the still-uncomposted stuff out. When I did that, I found a few worms I’d missed. Based on size, one was an adult when I missed it. The others were juveniles and hatchlings, and I’m pretty sure a few had hatched in the compost.

Freshly Harvested Vermicompost

Since that worked so well, I’ll be doing the same thing with this second batch of compost. Wait a week, run it through a screen, take out new worms.

The only thing I really got wrong? I didn’t think the first batch of compost looked like much, so I got a 10 liter bucket to store it. Well, letting it dry and then passing it through the hardware cloth really made it “fluff up” and now the first batch is nearly to the 6 liter mark on the bucket. Since I won’t be using this compost until the spring, I will probably need a bigger bucket.

Also, there is still some unfinished stuff in the bucket. When my hardware store gets 1/4″ hardware cloth back in stock, I’ll be sifting the compost through that as well.

Compost, Post 1/2″ Hardware Cloth

I’ve made a few changes to the way I worm compost. Last time I started off my bin with newspaper, but this time I started it off with a mixture of newspaper, junk mail and computer paper, cardboard and paperboard, and cotton. I usually keep my food scraps in the fridge for a week, but I read that freezing the scraps makes them decompose faster, so I’m going to try that.

Vermicomposting, Round 2

I think I did two things wrong my first time around with worm composting, so I’m going to change my methods this time.

First, I didn’t keep adding paper bedding as I was adding food. I thought they’d eat the bedding and then food and if I quit adding bedding, they’d finish all the food. Instead, it got too wet and then I couldn’t harvest it. (It was really wet.) Then I’d have to quit adding food and add more bedding and wait longer for the bedding to be eaten.

This time I’m going to add paper bedding about once a month. I’m figuring that they’ll basically eat the food and bedding in equal amounts.

Second, I started off feeding the four corners. By the time I got to the first corner, if that food wasn’t gone, I’d wait a week. This worked well. In fact, the worms mostly followed the food around the box, which made it easy to see how the worm population was growing. But then the box started getting too wet (not enough bedding!) and I’d only feed them in another corner when the first corner was entirely gone. This didn’t work as well.

I’m going back to the four corners method of feeding, and I’m going to add bedding to keep the bin’s moisture level right.

I did discover one great secret: if stuff grows in the bin, conditions are right. I had a onion end that grew a root a good two feet long. Most of my scallion ends sprouted as well. I had apple seeds sprouting left and right. If stuff grows in your pure compost, it’ll grow in your compost-enhanced soil!