In addition to receiving Amy Stewart’s book, The Earth Moved, I also received a Worm Factory 360 to review. Now you know why her book re-launch is to blame for the fact that I own so many Red Wiggler worms.
I have to say, it is incredibly fun to share worm facts (I have been using the hashtag #WormFact on Twitter), especially since they seem to really gross out my husband and mom. Beyond taking the opportunity to slip in some worm-related humor into my conversations, vermicomposting is incredibly good for the environment (you can feed your worms your junk mail!) and for your garden. And it is totally doable on the smallest balcony, or even without a balcony at all.
If you were reading my review of The Earth Moved closely, you noticed an interesting factoid about worm castings (“casting” is a nice way of saying “poop”). Amy spoke with professional growers who were able to get their plants ready for sale 1-2 weeks quicker by mixing worm castings into their potting mix. That’s pretty awesome, when you think about it. I would imagine that not many organic fertilizers could knock off 20-30% of the time it takes to grow out a plant. Even if you’re not planning a commercial growing operation on your balcony or patio, using worm castings as a fertilizer means bigger, healthier plants. Score!
What’s even more awesome for regular old container gardeners like you and me is that worm castings don’t smell, and you can “farm” worms in a very small amount of space. This means that you can make your own castings continually, without spending any money after you buy your compost bin and worms.
I don’t have a ton of experience with vermicomposting (read: I have all of 2 days of experience at the time of this post), but I would like to share a couple of the things I like about the Worm Factory 360. First, it has a nice flat top so I can put a potted plant on top to conceal it a bit. OK, that’s kind of a silly benefit, here are my real reasons for liking the Worm Factory 360:
- It is really easy to put together. You don’t need any tools and it comes with a guidebook that IKEA should study for ways to improve their instructions. There were step-by-step photos and drawings, which helped me assemble the composting bin in less than 10 minutes.
- The bin is made up of nesting trays so that the finished worm castings are in the bottom tray, and the worms are encouraged to wriggle up into the upper trays where there is better tasting (to them) stuff to eat. This means that you don’t have to pick out worms from your castings before using it in your container garden.
- The bin has a pretty small footprint, so you don’t need to use up a ton of your balcony space with your worm composting bin. And since there is no bad odor coming from the bin, you could even keep the worms inside you apartment in a closet or cabinet in your kitchen.
- If your family needs to compost lots of stuff, you can buy additional trays to make room for more material and worms. They just stack on top of what you already have, so you don’t need to dedicate additional floor space just to expand your composting operation.
- It comes with tools! In the box there was a thermometer (itlooks like the sort of thing you’d stick in a turkey to test if it is done roasting), a rake, perlite, coir, shredded newspaper, and a sprinkler tray (which is handy for mixing up some worm tea). Basically, the only thing that does not come with the Worm Factory 360 are the worms (for obvious reasons) and the material you want to compost.
One of the best parts of vermicomposting (so far, after only two days), is meeting the interesting people who grow worms for sale. You can use the website FindWorms.com to locate a worm farmer near you. I found a lady near my office that was raising them, but she didn’t answer the phone, and I called and chatted with a few other “characters” before deciding on a guy who splits his time between dog grooming, jewelry making, and worm farming. When I stopped into his little store front, he insisted on showing me his worm bin, and as he dug around in there, he found bits of his last few lunches and used them as a teaching tool to educate me on what can and cannot be fed to worms. I am kind of glad that you have to go and visit one of these establishments to get your worms, it’s an experience I never would have had if worms were included in the box.
I do have one tip that I can pass along at this early stage in my vermicomposting career. Don’t freak out if a few of your worms appear as though they are trying to escape the bin shortly after you put them in there. If you followed the instructions on preparing their bedding properly, and it is not too wet in your bin, they are probably just a little bit annoyed about being jostled around in your car and then being unceremoniously dumped into your bin. You can leave the top off and shine a light on the bin to convince them to get to work on composting and give up their dreams of escape. Since red wigglers don’t like being above ground in the sunshine, this will encourage them to burrow into the bedding and settle down. I didn’t want to leave the lid off because I was convinced that I would wake up to find a worm stampede leaving my composting bin, but after about 12 hours, all my worms had started digging in to the bedding material and I even saw some eating the broccoli I put in there for them.
Here is a video about the Worm Factory 360. You can zoom ahead to 1:19 since you already know about the benefits of composting in general.
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I received the Worm Factory 360 for free from the manufacturer. Here is more information about my book review policy.