We’ve Got Worms!

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There are many things happening at the farm right now:

  • Ryan is building larger raised beds to be filled and ready for transplants within a couple of weeks
  • The greenhouse is finally starting to retain some heat (and the remote thermometer is finally working so I can officially track the min and max temps without frequent trips outside)
  • Polythene plastic for row covers has been ordered and is on its way
  • Our broccoli and cabbage seedlings are thriving
  • Spinach, Kale and Garlic are also on their way
  • We’re part way through the process of a home energy audit and the resulting home improvements

All of these things are exciting and will certainly evolve into their own blog posts. Meanwhile, I thought I’d make an equally important announcement: We’ve got worms.  Well, our compost bin has worms. Specifically, Arcadia Farms is now home to about 1,000 eisenia fetida “Red Wiggler” worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. How did we come to increase our pet count so substantially? Well I’m so glad you asked!

reg wriggler worms

I was eagerly hoping that if composted our fall leaves inside our greenhouse that there would be a symbiotic relationship where the heat from the compost would help to warm the greenhouse and the greenhouse atmosphere would lend heat to the ongoing compost process. We don’t have time to talk about all the reasons why my hope was in vain, but the end result was that by mid December I knew I was out of luck. At the end of December my composting interest was again stirred when my loving husband bought me what every girl wants for Christmas: A tumbling composter!

Suncast Tcb6800 6.5 cubic foot tumbling composter

Suncast Tcb6800 6.5 cubic foot tumbling composter

Nevermind that once assembled the composter didn’t fit through the door of our tiny greenhouse. And nevermind that it was so stinkin cold out that I was tumbling frozen chunks of leaves. My plans had certainly failed but it wasn’t time to give up yet…

I knew there had to be a way to compost in the winter so I popped over to Compost Guy’s website to learn more about winter composting. After gathering ideas and surveying our resources, we decided to convert an unused, large, well-insulated dog house into a compost bin. Our worms lived comfortably in a 30-gallon drum full of compost fodder and dirt in our utility room while we got everything together.

The dog house is three (3) feet wide by three-and-half (3.5) feet tall by four (4) feet deep. The walls are made of two pieces of plywood filled with about 2 inches of insulation between. We covered the open doggy door with the lid to a large plastic tote. It’s not air tight, which is good, because worms need oxygen too! To prep the pile for our worms we added some (slightly) decaying leaves, damp newspaper, peat moss and some partially composted material from the garden. On a warmer day (40’s in February!) we transplanted the contents of the 30-gallon drum to the bin and then covered everything with a layer of leaves for extra insulation. The whole bin is sitting inside our garage so it has additional protection from snow and wind. And finally we topped the bin off with a large cardboard box laid flat, being sure to leave some space for air to get it. (Red Wigglers hate light so we’re trying to keep them from being exposed when the garage light goes on).

Doghouse converted to compost bin

Top view of doghouse converted to insulated compost bin

After we gave the worms some time to adjust to their new home we started bringing them takeout: Worm smoothies. We keep our table scraps in a bucket in the house and then at the end of the week we grind them up in the blender to make a worm smoothie. This makes the food easier for the worms to digest, which ultimately means faster compost. And letting the scraps sit for a week or so provides the opportunity for more decomposition and an increase in the microbes that the worms feed on. Odor hasn’t been an issue, but I’d still like to get one of these.

So far so good! Our worms are making it through the winter and I can’t wait to see how they work once warmer weather is here.  I’m considering buying more worms in the spring and adding them directly to the garden. We also found a local worm supplier (Flowerfield Enterprises, LLC; 269-327-0108) and so now I’m excited to be able to keep our composting business even closer to home.

If you have experience with worm composting, I’d love to hear your tips!

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