We used worms from our back yard compost in our original experiment. That was a huge mistake, considering we wanted to use the resulting compost for indoor winter gardening. However, the boys did learn much about how composting works, what other sort of bugs help out with the composting process when done outdoors, and they had fun doing it. So it wasn’t a complete loss. It was educational.
For our second try, we decided to do it right… or so we thought.
We purchased our worms at the local farmers’ market. The woman selling them had a huge bin full of red worms. Red worms are smaller than the typical worms you’ll find in your compost heap in the back yard. Your compost heap will be a great place to find night crawlers for fishing (something I fully intended to do with the boys this summer, but haven’t done yet). Red worms are smaller, but work very hard in your compost bin.
Also, you’re less likely to get a bunch of fruit fly eggs or larvae in with the purchased worms.
We also purchased 3 small bins at the local Family Dollar store (it’s a good place to get them cheap). Two of the bins were smaller, one for each of the boys to have their own worm farms, and one slightly bigger for me to have compost to use on our indoor plants for the winter.
We started out by drilling holes in the sides of each of the bins, and holes in each of the lids to allow air circulation. Worms need to breathe.
We then placed a layer of bedding in each bin. We purchased some plantation soil from the woman we bought the worms from. It comes in a brick, which you have to soak in water before use. It’ expanded like crazy, and we ended up with double what we needed.
On top of the plantation soil, we added some fruit and veggie scraps, then some shredded paper egg cartons.
My boys were great helpers!
On top of that, we placed a scoop of regular dirt in each bin.
Then the worms went in…
On top of this, we placed a few layers of paper towels. We really should have used newspaper, as pretty much every source we read specifically said “cover with a layer of newspaper”. Our recycling had been picked up earlier that day, so we didn’t have any newspaper handy. Paper towels it was. Unfortunately, they don’t work all that well as a bug barrier. Especially if you don’t tuck in the corners to make sure that any bugs that can fly into the drilled holes can’t get underneath the barrier.
The next morning, I walked into my kitchen to a swarm of fruit flies so thick, I couldn’t inhale without getting a nose full. Out the back door all three bins immediately went. I set out fruit fly traps, which started to work immediately. I had to change them out three times in the first hour, and then three more times during the course of the rest of the day. Luckily that only left a few by the next morning.
The lesson we learned with this is that you have to use newspaper for your bins and wet it down so that the fruit flies have no way in. Don’t fill your bins so high that the stuff comes above the holes you drilled in the bins. If you give the fruit flies no way to get under the paper, they can’t lay their eggs in the food scraps. If, by some chance, they’ve laid their eggs on the food scraps before you got them into the bin, the paper will keep them from swarming your kitchen.
We do intend to try this again in the next week or so. When we do, I’ll post about how it goes.
~ Just a Mom