Thursday, December 20, 2012

Worm Bin for Christmas!

(A reprise of a past blog)

A story that I heard a while back told of a worm bin and pound of worms as the hot item at a Yankee swap Christmas party.I believe that a worm bin and pound of worms make a great gift at any time of year.  The more people we have vermicomposting the better.
Worm bins need not be expensive or complicated. I think a simple bin is really a lot easier to use (and certainly easier to build for the gift giver!). The solid bottom bin style will never leak, and if you do not rely on bottom drainage, you cannot drown your worms (which can happen on bottom draining styles if the drain hole becomes clogged).

If you're not ready to commit just yet, I offer gift certificates on my website (see

In my mind, the perfect gift would be a book on vermicomposting (like Mary Appelhof's book Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System), a pound of worms and a new bin (or a WormMainea gift certificate for these). If you are already vermicomposting, you can provide the worms and make the bin. If you're an experienced vermicomposter, you can provide vermiconsultation and skip the book.

WormMainea also has t-shirts for sale (variety of sizes for old and young). All are printed on organic cotton. Contact me if you are interested.
If you are looking for other gift ideas, I recently updated the Amazon lists of my recommended vermicomposting supplies, as well as favorite garden tools and books. Purchasing through my Amazon store costs you nothing and benefits maintenance of the WormMainea website.

You can view my Amazon store categories at:

WormMainea vermicomposting tools and supplies.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The many benefits of vermicomposting

Let's review many benefits of vermicomposting

Benefits in your Home

  • Reduce the amount of organic matter in your trash

    1. fewer bags
    2. less stinky!
  • Provides free soil amendment and fertilizer
  • Great fun for children
  • You are recycling nutrients into your yard

Economic Benefits (Micro and Macro)
  • Saves you money
    1. you don't have to buy fertilizer
    2. directly save money if you have pay-per-bag for trash
  • Saves your town money
    1. less trash= less diesel to haul trash
    2. less trash= lower tipping fees at landfill
  • If your town uses trash-to-steam, organic wastes is not an efficient source of energy
Benefits to Soil (when vermicompost is used outside)
  • Improves its physical structure or tilth
  • Establishes and supports soil micro-organisms
  • Improves water holding capacity
Benefits to Plants
  • Improves plant health
    1. Enhances germination & growth
  • Improves root growth and structure
    1. Enhances uptake of nutrients and micronutrients

Environmental Benefits
  • Most of the above are great for the environment
    1. less diesel to transport waste
    2. recycling waste on-site
    3. reducing the need to produce fertilizer
  • Improving soil structure leads to healthier plants
    1. need less water
    2. need fewer pesticides
  • Improving soil in your yard= less runoff
If you're not vermicomposting, why not start today. If you already have a worm bin, consider giving a bin and some of your worms as a gift. Just make a bin and give a half gallon worms and vermicompost (bed run) from an active area of your bin to a friend or family member. They will thank you!



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Time to Bring in Your Bee Boxes

If you're in southern Maine, it is time to bring in your bee box

We brought ours in today. A bit later than usual, but everything was late this year (or so it seemed).

Place your bee box in the garage or shed (don't bring indoors!) and store it until spring.

I put ours out again in late March as soon as the ground thaws enough for me to stand them up in the ground.



Saturday, December 8, 2012

N-P-K Value of Vermicompost

One question I often get concerns the N-P-K of worm castings.

The first thing I want to discuss is the difference between worm castings and vermicompost.

Worm castings are literally worm poop. The processed material that has been eaten by worms and been excreted. If you have worm castings then you have worm poop. This is nearly virtually impossible to achieve in a home vermicompost system since the worms will run out of food and die before you achieve this. 

Vermicompost is more accurate. Vermicompost is what I produce (and most other vermicomposters produce). Vermicompost is a mixture of worm castings, partially composted wastes, and any resistant materials that won’t readily break down. Really high quality vermicompost should have a high percentage of worm castings, but will also contain some other material (my vermicompost often has some egg shells, coffee grounds, and some small pieces of bedding). These are not contaminants, as they don't harm anything when used to make tea, start seeds, or as top dressing (things I commonly do with my vermicompost.
So, I will use the term vermicompost in this discussion to be accurate. 

When I've had my vermicompost tested the results have sometime come back high (once as 2-1-1), but more commonly much lower (1-0.5-0 or 0.5-0-0) typically with high calcium (these probably differ depending on what I've fed the worms).

Do these numbers seem low to you? They would if you were to compare them with commercial fertilizer. However, the value of vermicompost (or worm castings) is more significant than a standard N-P-K fertilizer scale would suggest.

The N-P-K fertilizer scale was developed to give consumers information about hat hey were purchasing in commercially bagged fertilizer-- it tells you what's in the bag so you know how to apply it.

Vermicompost is far more complex than chemical fertilizer, and it contains many other substances (biological and chemical that improve soil and support healthy plants. Some of these include humus, worm mucus, and plant growth promoters like cytokinins.  In addition, vermicompost commonly contains ten times as much microorganism activity as plain soil (microscopic bacteria and fungi). 

All of these support a healthy soil food web. The microorganisms in the soil are able to provide the plant with everything it needs to be healthy. Because the soil is a living system there is no excess fertilizer to run off. Healthy soil makes for healthy plants.

The humus and worm mucus in the vermicompost helps the soil hold more water, retain its structure (or tilth), and stay aerated, while also providing binding sites for micronutrients that would otherwise wash out of soil during heavy rains. 

So, as you tend to your worm bin this winter think about the great soil amendment that your worms are making and how wonderful your garden will be next year...