March 29, 2010

stayin' alive

It's spring and our worms are still alive! Last winter, we awoke each morning to find a few worms had escaped their bin and dried out on the kitchen floor, in search of A) warmth, B) food, or C) moisture. We attribute their success this winter to two changes we made after buying a new batch of worms last spring:
  1. Insulation - Our kitchen has floor to ceiling north-facing glass as seen in the photo above (blech!) . We covered up the bottom half of of this window with a scrap piece of 2" polyiso. insulation board (R-13) to prevent the cold window from sucking radiant heat away from the worms. This of course led to condensation and ice between the glass and the insulation, so I propped the insulation up 1" to allow airflow behind the board. This means we aren't reducing the convective heat loss of the window, but at least there is no ice formation (and melting)!
  2. Worm smoothies - We now blend most of the kitchen scraps that we feed to the worms. This makes the food more immediately available to the worms ("worms are like straws") as opposed to waiting for other organisms to break it down first (which would slow in the winter due to lower temperatures). We don't bother blending tea or coffee grounds. This might not work as well in more humid climates or with plastic bins.
Below is a diagram of our worm bin. We put kitchen scraps and shredded paper at the top, adding a tray to the top as they fill up and removing the bottom trays when we want to harvest the worm compost for our container garden. We bought the bin from a guy in Denver but you could easily staple a few pieces of wood together and attach some wire mesh.

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