Three Month Update – Worm Compost Edition

This post might come as a bit of a surprise. Three month update? That’s because it’s the first time I’m mentioning it here on the blog.

I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learnt as I started this process and I think this is the best spot for it. I was debating doing it on Instagram where I original posted my adventures. But I have more to talk about than Insta will let me write.

So worm composting?

Worm composting or more technically, vermicomposting, is using worms to break down organic matter into “casing”, or better known as worm poop.

The reasons I was interested in trying it out are the following:

  • It’s faster than traditional home composting. Based on what I was reading, it takes weeks instead of months for the waste to breakdown.
  • It seemed better suited for food waste than traditional composting, which is mostly recommended for yard waste.
  • It doesn’t involve buying stuff like bokashi composting to add in for it to work.
  • The few Youtubers and blogs that I looked at actually kept their bins inside of the home. Assuming a heathy bin, the environment should be odorless. If you look worm composters online, there are some cute options that are actually a bench with the trays for food built in.

But, like, why?

As mentioned a bit in the areas above, I was attracted to the idea of vermicomposting because of the turnaround time to have a usable product. Also I live in a apartment building, I don’t have the space for normal composting.

In general, food is the largest waste generator in my life. My apartment isn’t really well set up to encourage composting (we have a municipal composting collection bins but there’s room for improvement). But beyond my apartment, I also don’t trust the City of Toronto composting program. Full disclosure: I’ve done no research on it, I just can’t wrap my head around them wanting us to put our organics in plastic bags for it to be collected.

So it feels bad to be cooking and throwing so much organic to waste. I haven’t been able to divert all my food waste, but I’m happy that some is being moved from the municipal system and I get to be more control of the process.

How’s the bin been going?

I won’t lie… The start was a little shaky. I started with 15 worms back in March. Keeping them outside unless I knew the weather was going to drop to freezing temps. My bin started with paper, a few dead plants, and some of my roommates rabbit’s poop. Sorta hoped that the poop being added would maybe help boost the temperature. (Fun fact: fresh animal poop is pretty warm since it’s filled with microbial activity. Typically, it’s recommended to wait, like, a day before adding it to compost bins since it could overheat the system).

I probably should have kept them indoors that this point. Worms are most active at temperatures of 15C (Americans, you can do the conversion yourself, but like thick hoodie weather). March doesn’t really hit those temperatures as often as you’d hope. Especially with the wind chill. I’m pretty sure I did lose some of them to the cold, and in general they weren’t doing anything.

I ended up buying another 50 worms in late April/early May. Since it was becoming increasingly more apparent that my bin wasn’t active. Since the few worms that were still left couldn’t worm through the small amounts of food I was giving them at this point.

Things got a lot more exciting after that point and I also learn a few things which I will put in a numbered list. Eat your heart-out Buzzfeed and Jenny Nicholson.

1. Worms f*ck

I don’t believe a lot of people think about how worms procreate. I certainly didn’t before I was reading a book about worm composting (Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof and Jonne Olszewski, great book if you want to start vermicomposting). The book has a chapter that covers the topic in more detail. But the ideal that if you cut a worm in half, and due to them having five hearts will make two worms is completely wrong. That will just kill the worm.

Withtout being graphic, to reproduce, worms do it, secrete a mucus to lay eggs. From there little worms are born.

2. Watering your worms, isn’t dissimilar to watering your plants

I definitely messed up the humidity levels for my bin for most of the time I’ve had the bin. Worms like high humidity (like 80% if I remember correctly), or to have your contents are the wetness of a rung out sponge.

I was really worried about my bin drying out, since the leaves at the top would be dry, I would be spraying the top almost daily to with water to try to keep the moisture up. 

If you own a house plant, you know the dangers of overwatering your plant. You see the top later is dry, so you assume the whole thing is, and ends up drowning the plant. I was doing something similar. It wasn’t till I dug down to the bottom of my bin (which isn’t deep, I just don’t like disturbing the worms) that I noticed how wet the whole thing was.

This level of humidity also was a breeding grown for other bugs (safe for to the worms, but gross). I ended up with (and still have) a lot of mites in my bin. No cute, and I rather not have them completing for the food.

When I discovered that, I was glad the bin was outside since it had gotten flies and in general wasn’t great to open up.

To fix it, I did tip my bin to the drainage hole I put in to get rid of some water, but also added a lot more paper to try to suck up the extra liquid.

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3. Carbon emissions bad, carbon to the bin good

In a traditional, non-worm compost bin, you need a combination of nitrogen and carbon to make the environment for the organics to break down. (https://www.livescience.com/63559-composting.html) I don’t know why I thought that a worm bin would be different? Too much nitrogen from food waste can create ammonia, mold and just mess up the environment of your bin.

I’m still trying to get the right ratio but I’ve been adding a bunch of paper into it when I add food waste. I keep a small collection of brown paper bags and paper from packages that come in, cut them up and add them to the bin. I can only imagine what my roommate thinks when I’m sitting at the table cutting up strips of paper since we don’t own a shredder.

4. Don’t over feed them

This also should have been more obvious to me than it was. At the beginning I just really wanted to give them food and if they had more food they will want to reproduce and then I will have more worms to eat more food.

Worms eat about half they weight a day, so once you have a lot of worms you can get a lot of food waste taken care of. But I didn’t have a lot of worms, and just giving them more and more food that wasn’t doing anything.

Especially since I was messing up the carbon levels to, so all I had was a bunch of food just sitting in there being extra gross. Like the carbon issue mentioned above, I’m still figuring out the right amount and frequency to feed them. This is mostly just me going into the bin every few days and see if stuff looks broken down. For a while I was tracking what and when I was added to the bin. But I quickly gave up because I kept forgetting to fill it out. It’s probably not a bad idea and most of the resources I read before starting recommended it. So that’s a do as I say, not as a do type of situation.

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That’s pretty much it. Let me know if you have any questions. When I’ve talked about the worm bin to my friends and family, they’ve been polite, but visibly confused about the process and the motivation. But it’s been a fun thing to work on and I’m just starting to reach the point where I can start getting the castings, and putting it on my garden. Which is really exciting!

Inbound vs Outbound #9 – May 2021

The point of this article is to see what I’ve purchased versus what I’ve decluttered in the month. The ultimate goal is to see, if over time, I’m bringing more into my life than taking out. Also if the things I do bring in are adding more value into my life in the long run since I’m documenting when it’s arriving.

plane landing
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Inbound: 

  • Two hot pepper plants;
  • One rosemary plant; and
  • One tomato plant.
plane taking off
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Outbound:

  • One dead orchid (RIP); and
  • One pillow case sold on Depop.

Another month that keeps like it was just flying by. June will definitely have more movement.

Inbound vs Outbound #8 – April 2021

The point of this article is to see what I’ve purchased versus what I’ve decluttered in the month. The ultimate goal is to see, if over time, I’m bringing more into my life than taking out. Also if the things I do bring in are adding more value into my life in the long run since I’m documenting when it’s arriving. So I can think a bit more critically about the whole thing.

plane landing
Photo by Shoval Zonnis on Pexels.com

Inbound: 

  • Various Seeds (herbs, greens and wild flowers);
  • A piece of rebar for staking plants;
  • Moonlight snake plant;
  • Fertilizer for hydroponics; and
  • Three pack of deodorant, so I shouldn’t smell for a bit.

plane taking off
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Outbound:

  • Two books about Construction Project Management given to my friend that is working on getting his PMP.

Definitely more items coming in this month and out. April flew by, so I didn’t really have a chance to get started on my spring cleaning. We’re also currently in a stay at home order, so meet ups for trades are discouraged and donation centers are closed. That just makes the process to get things out of the house even more difficult.

Inbound vs Outbound #7 – March 2021

The point of this article is to see what I’ve purchased versus what I’ve decluttered in the month. The ultimate goal is to see, if over time, I’m bringing more into my life than taking out. Also if the things I do bring in are adding more value into my life in the long run since I’m documenting when it’s arriving. So I can think a bit more critically about the whole thing.

plane landing
Photo by Shoval Zonnis on Pexels.com

Inbound: 

  • One vertical planter for my balcony;
  • Various seeds (spinach, boy choy, parsley, and more);
  • One plastic pan to put under planters;
  • One plastic pan to put under planters, but this one has wheels!;
  • Two sets of gardening gloves;
  • One screw driver (for work so I’m not sure if this counts);
  • One flashlight (for work);
  • Two buckets;
  • One box of personal items from my parents house, as they are moving;
  • Four egg cartons for seedings;
  • One small Monstera Deliciosa; and
  • One ziplock worth of worms for vermicomposting.
plane taking off
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Outbound:

  • A pair of ripped gardening gloves;
  • One canvas set with the paint and brush included;
  • One drawing pad;
  • One pencil case;
These three were given away on my local Buy Nothing group

  • Four books; and
  • The key to my old house since my parents have moved.

Definitely more items coming in this month because of the change of the season and wanting to do more gardening.

Inbound vs Outbound #2 – October 2020

Changing the format a bit from the previous month, let me know what you think.

The point of this article is to see what I’ve purchased versus what I’ve decluttered in the month. The ultimate goal is to see if over time I’m bringing more into my life than taking out. Also if the things I do bring in are adding more value into my life in the long term since I’m documenting when it’s arriving and can think a bit more critically about the whole thing.

Photo by Shoval Zonnis on Pexels.com

Inbound: 

  • One Canna Lily that my friend found on the side of the road and dropped off at my door;  
  • Seven Orchids that I got from my parents house;
  • One Dutch Oven;
  • One Slow Cooker;  
  • One 6 pack of reusable lids for mason jars;
  • One 12 pack of seals for mason jars;
  • One silicon bread loaf tin; 
  • Two aluminum bread load tins; 
  • One pair of black leggings; 
  • One Patagonia sweater;  
  • 2 Fjallbo Ikea shelves from Kijiji; 
  • One 12 pack of Thank You cards;  
  • One 57L bag of potting soil; 
  • One 5L bag of orchid soil;
  • One bottle of orchid fertilizer; 
  • One bag of Leca potting medium; and  
  • One set of 4 wooden double pointed knitting needles.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Outbound: 

  • One Pac Man belt buckle sold on Depop;
  • One coffee table;
  • Two shopping bags of knit goods, donated to be distributed to local homeless shelters; and
  • One fanny pack sold on Depop.