If you want to make worm compost, you will want to read this article.
This is the second article in a three part series on the lessons I’ve learned the hard way about how to make worm compost.
In the article “Worm Composting Not So Easy, Part I,” we discussed three lessons I learned from two years of worm composting. You should read it before reading this one.
In this article, we’ll look at three even more important lessons.
In “Worm Composting Not So Easy, Part III,” we’ll correct some of the errors I listed here. Part III includes a video showing my bin.
Let’s take a sec to get the legal words out of the way. This article may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy from my partners, I will make a tiny amount of money at no cost to you. This in no way affects my recommendations.
Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, here are the second batch of lessons I’ve learned:
Lesson 4: The most difficult pest problem when you make worm compost is fruit flies
I keep the bins in the basement where they are at a constant temperature of between 55 to 60 degrees.
One big problem when you make worm compost is the fruit flies. In the summer months, they will migrate up from the basement and set up shop in the sink drains.
There’s no easy way to eliminate them. I’ve tried using a glass with a mixture of water, cider vinegar and a touch of dishwashing detergent. That kills some of them because they land on the liquid and can’t escape. I think it’s the viscosity of the detergent solution that causes them to drown.
A better solution is to use a high-powered vacuum to suck them up. This proved to be more successful. But it wasn’t the final answer because I could never catch’em all. You might think that the flies would come out once the vacuum is off, but vacuuming seems to damage them.
Putting bedding on top of the pile also helps. This is because it insulates the flies from the food scraps. In the end, the saving grace is when the weather turns cold and the temperature inside the house drops consistently below 75. I almost never see a fruit fly in the winter.
Lesson 5: Make sure it’s done before you use it
I’ve also tried to use the compost too soon. Sometimes it’s wet and mucky, not like the castings you buy in the store. This makes it pretty difficult to mix into the soil.
In my tests, the plants don’t seem to immediately benefit if it isn’t well done. Although, after a while (probably after the compost has broken down more), the plants seem to do much better. This was the case one year with some of my tomatoes.
To resolve this problem, I tried a bin with bedding that I soaked in water and rung out. Some worm composters say this allows the worms to eat it more quickly. It didn’t help. The bin was just more wet.
Lesson 6: Get your worm compost tea for free
Probably the most pleasant surprise is the liquid that drains from the bin. This is sometimes called worm compost tea (although it’s really leachate).
It might have some of the same properties as compost tea. I used it first on some of my house plants as a test. It seemed to quickly have a noticeable, positive effect. Then I diluted it with rain barrel water and put it on the tomatoes, both the foliage and at the base of the plants. The results were positive there, too.
To get the system draining properly, I had to drill three 1/4 inch holes at the base of one side and angle the bin so that the liquid would seep down through the bigger holes. This had the double benefit of (1)drying out the bin and (2) giving me liquid fertilizer.
So the number one lesson from this article is make sure your bin has proper drainage. You should collect the resulting liquid and use it as you would other liquid fertilizer.
(Editor’s note: While it is important for your bin to have proper drainage, I’ve since learned that the liquid (leachate) is NOT a good fertilizer. See the link for Part III in this series to learn more.)
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