A very interesting question from Libbie:
I live in Washington DC in a condo without adequate space outdoors to keep a worm composter. I would like to have one indoors but I need it to look like furniture rather than a composter. Do you know anyone that makes small worm composters that look like indoor furniture? A rubbermaid bin would stand out too much and probably creep out my roommate/dinner guests. Ideally, it would have a can-o-worm type system that allows me to switch trays but that may be asking too much.
Unlike all my other “Reader Questions” responses, I actually don’t have an answer for this one – so I am hoping to get as much feedback from the RWC community as possible. I think this could end up being a really interesting topic for discussion – and of course, hopefully we can come up with some helpful info for Libbie as well!
So here are MY questions:
1) Do any of you know of, or perhaps even sell vermicomposting bins that look like a piece of furniture?
2) Have any of you made your own furniture-style custom worm bins?
I think it would be a lot of fun to share some pictures and descriptions of these on the blog, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line with some images of your bin as well if you’ve made one and you’d like to show it off.
This topic made me think of Mary Appelhof (renowned vermicomposting educator and author of “Worms Eat My Garbage”, who sadly passed away in 2005). She had at least one beautiful piece of vermicomposting furniture – pretty sure it was a bin that doubled as a coffee table. You can see her sitting on it here: http://www.wormwoman.com/acatalog/wormwoman.html
Thanks again for the e-mail, Libbie! Hopefully we can track down some answers for you!
I’m definitely overdue for a Worm Factory 360 update! In my last post, I wrote about the “time out” I gave the bin (on my deck) in an effort to kill off the resident fruit fly population (see “Worm Factory 360 | 12-09-11“). Unfortunately, the fruit flies moved right back in a short time after bringing the bin inside, so I decided to stop feeding the system altogether.
In other words, this bin has not been fed for a month or more! A lot of people (particularly those new to vermicomposting) might assume that this would be be “bad” for the worms – they might “starve” after all. Right?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – it is FAR easier to kill your worms via over-feeding than it is to starve them to death. This is especially true in a system containing a lot of bedding materials (something I always recommend) since they will happily munch on these materials long after the last morsel of “food” has been consumed. This has definitely been the case in my WF-360 system.
While there is still plenty of shredded cardboard (and other intact bedding materials) visible in the bin, it’s clear the worms have converted a fair amount of it into castings. Digging around a bit, I found plenty of worms (and cocoons), so they certainly don’t seem to be suffering!
That being said, I DO want to get back to a fairly regular feeding routine sometime soon! The good news is that the fruit fly population in the house has dropped off substantially, so I’m hopeful that I won’t have to worry about ending up with another crazy infestation.
In other news…
I found my first worm down in the reservoir! I guess this means that the newsprint floor has at least one hole in it by now. There still isn’t any liquid down in the reservoir, but that’s not too surprising given the lack of food waste (and/or water) that’s been added to the bin this past month.
Not much else to report at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll have another update fairly soon!
Don’t forget – this month’s Worm Factory 360 contest has started! Be sure to fill out the short survey on the contest page to get yourself entered!
Initially I was worried that my coffee grounds pick-up commitment was going to end up being a real hassle this winter. As it turns out, though, it’s been more of a blessing than anything – and I have a sneaking suspicion that this could end up being my most successful winter vermicomposting season yet. One of my challenges in past seasons has been the lack of a decent supply of composting “fuel” materials to add to my bed – especially by the time late January and February rolled around (when I needed them the most). With a steady supply of grounds that certainly won’t be the case this year.
I don’t know what it is about coffee grounds – well ok, it’s likely the small particle size (thus large total surface area) and nitrogen content – but they seem to be the “ultimate” material for getting a heap to warm up. That being said, they definitely are not an ideal material (for vermicomposting anyway) when used alone. In my experience, they tend to overheat and/or dry out, so it usually takes some time, even in outdoor beds exposed to the elements, for them to become a good quality worm habitat. One of my goals with with this winter system has been to see if I can make the grounds “worm-friendly” more quickly by mixing them with other materials.
On a whim, I decided to try something quite different right off the bat. Rather than burying the grounds down below where the worms are, I’ve simply been dumping them on top and gradually mixing them in with the thick layer of straw (originally added for insulation) using a garden fork. I’ve been making a bit more of an effort to bury the food wastes, but they are still being added up in the straw zone (above where most of the worms are).
So far, this seems to be working even better than expected. Rather than ending up with overheating down in the worm zone, it’s like I’ve created a thick, heated blanket over top of them. Over time, the lower zones of the “blanket” will undoubtedly cool off and become food/habitat for the worms as well, so I suspect that conditions in the bed will actually improve as winter progresses (not decline as they often have in the past).
Anyway – if you want to see the bed a bit more “up close and personal”, you can check out the video I made:
Will likely provide another update in a couple of weeks.