Looking for an unusual green project for your kids? What about a worm bin?
Hold on, hold on. Before you completely throw that idea to the wind because you don’t want stinky, wriggling, slimy “pets” in your kids’ bedroom, hear me out. Worm bins, or vermicomposting, are a cool way to decrease the amount of solid waste heading into the landfill by recycling your food wastes into amazingly rich compost for your plants. Here’s the non-scientific explanation, suitable for explaining to your four-year-old: the worms eat our food scraps, and their poop can feed our flowers. Done correctly, a worm bin will produce less odor than collecting your food wastes for an outside compost pile, and the maintenance is simple enough that a child can do it. What a great way to teach science, stewardship, and responsibility all at the same time.
There’s two ways to procure a bin: buy one or build one. Jeff has instructions for a great DIY bin from the early days of Green Options that couldn’t be easier, or you can check out different models for purchase here.
Once you get your bin, you’ve got to stock it with some bedding for the worms. Shredded paper is an easy option, but you can also use sawdust, dead leaves, or shredded burlap sacks. The bedding should be moist–about the texture of a wrung-out sponge. The bin will work best if you keep it between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and worms don’t really like light, so keep the bin in a dark place.
Worm type is important. Red wrigglers (eisenia foetida) or red earthworms (lumbricus rubellus) are what you are looking for, and you should start with a pound of worms. They’ll be able to process 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of food scraps per week. You can find worms in several places. Your local garden store may have them, or try a state university’s extension office for master gardeners. You can also order worms online from Topline or The Worm Farm.
Okay, you’ve got a bin, bedding, and your worms. Time to start feeding! There’s certain things worms like to eat, including any fruit or veggie scraps, coffee grounds, teabags (watch the staples on the tag!), eggshells, and/or bread scraps. Don’t feed the worms any meat or fish, grease or oily stuff, tobacco, or pet waste. If you want to make your compost harvest simpler, rotate where you put the scraps: keep all the food on one side of the bin. That way, the worms will work that side, and when you’re ready to steal some of their casings for harvest, you can start putting food on the other side. Use the rotation every few months to keep your stream of nutrient-rich compost constant. Keep the bin moist, and if it starts to smell, add more bedding or ease off the scraps for a few days.
I really think this is a perfect project for kids. It’s simple enough to have kids maintain the bins: they can be responsible for collecting scraps and feeding the worms. There’s plenty of books for kids that can get them excited about your worm bin by exploring the vermicomposting process along with the worm life cycle. Check out:
* Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser
* Compost, By Gosh! by Michelle Eva Portman
* Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin
* Wriggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer
[This post was written by Kelli Best-Oliver]