Composting is a great way to dispose of kitchen waste and reduce your carbon footprint, but what if you don’t have room for a compost bin? Worm bins are often touted as the answer. This is as it sounds, a bin full of worms – worms that transform food scraps into compost. It can, so the adverts say, be kept in the kitchen. I always wanted to try worm composting so I sent off for a worm bin from the internet. It consisted of four stackable plastic boxes (the type found in stationers), a bag of worms and some food. It looked basic but it was considerably cheaper than the others.
I decided to keep mine in the garage. I stacked the boxes, tipped the worms in and left the lights on all night as per instructions. All went well till the night the lights were turned off. The stackable boxes did not form a sealed unit and there were numerous gaps through which the worms could escape. While it was bright outside the light sensitive worms stayed put, as soon as it got dark they left their bin and went exploring the garage. Next morning saw me picking up worms with the barbeque tongs while VB complained loudly about the desecration of his drill bits. He threatened to sacrifice the worms on the bird table if a solution wasn’t found.
So I fashioned a worm proof bin from the compost caddy. I installed a drainage tap to drain off the worm tea (a juice created as the food in the bin rots down). I covered the base with a layer of gravel so the worms didn’t drown in the tea and the compost didn’t block the tap outlet. It was rather like the one built here, the first bin, Then I carefully decanted the worms and wished them well in their new home.
Mindful of the bird table threats I moved the into the cellar.
I mollycoddled those worms. I cut the food scraps up into worm size pieces and gave them ripped up newspaper and cardboard – apparently they delight in it. Nothing. Instead of piles of compost all I had was a bin full of festering food. The arrival of the fruit flies was the last straw. Fed up with the ungrateful liggers I capped the bin with soil and cut off food supplies.
A couple of weeks later I went down to get a hammer and found the bin standing in a lake of worm tea. Yay!
This fluid (it is claimed on many site), is a superior plant feed and can be used to cure black spot on roses. There it was dribbling from my poorly fitted tap. It is a sign that the worm bin is working as it should. Indeed a quick rummage in the bin revealed healthy looking worms the size of anacondas. Worm tea was another reason I wanted a worm bin. Hundreds of sites on the internet claimed that this could be used as a fantastic liquid plant food. Plastic free plant food I thought. Turns out I was wrong.
So worm feeding resumed. By bin does not work fast enough to make a meaningful impact on our kitchen waste but it’s a start. Apparently it will increase with time. I don’t think I have the patience – but then I have a perfectly good compost bin in the garden.
And no wI find that worm tea might not be that good either.
“The watery drainage that seeps out of the bottom of a bin is not compost tea as many sites assert. Leaching through yet undigested food waste, this leachate (as it is known) could contain toxic anaerobic microbes that would be harmful to plants.
Not only will there be unmineralized organic compounds, but there is the potential for contamination of pathogen organisms and coliform bacteria that can come from some of the raw materials (another reason to always pre-compost fresh manure) put into worm bin systems.
The best place for this leachate to go is back in the bin. That way, it gets exposed to the worm’s gut to be innoculated with good microbes and is excreted fully sanitised.” Thanks Sierra Worm Compost!
Still fancy trying it? If you decide to buy a worm bin my advice is to spend the extra. The more expensive bins boast such conveniences as worm proof lids – a definite bonus. There are hundreds of internet companies selling bins. Here’s one chosen at random.
If you want to make a bin, there are good instructions here. I recommend the first option, the bin with the tap, rather than the second, the stackable boxes.
This is a good article on worm composting and how to get worms for free. N.B. the home made bin looks rather like the one I bought, the leaky one.
If you want to keep your bin outside you have to protect it from extreme heat and cold. There may be better outdoor options.
Don’t like worms but fancy composting? Read this intro