Ready, Set, Compost with Worms

Are you ready to vermicompost?
Beginners may want to start small. You can use many types of ventilated containers to learn the elements of composting with worms, before investing money in a worm factory. Check out the free build-your-own models listed below: a water bottle is for someone who wants to see what is happening, and the laundry detergent container is for someone who wants to compost for one person.
Multi level composting with worms is great fun and provides huge benefits. Thousand Oaks Residents can purchase a Worm Factory for less than half of its original cost at City Hall, so call the environmental hotline before buying a worm unit online. Environmental Hotline (805) 449-
1st decide what size of worm house you would like: Small or Medium?
2nd Create Bedding from high carbon material (a.k.a. brown waste) like shredded newspaper, cardboard pieces, dead leaves, hair, even dryer lint. Mix a small amount of dirt/coffee grounds, sand, or crushed egg shells, so worms can digest bedding. Worm Bedding is best used at the bottom and top of your unit.
Before adding the worms, you will want to be prepared with a bit of know-how on using kitchen scraps.
Hassel-Free Keys to Composting with Fruit and Vegetable scraps.
  1. Wash your fruit and vegetables as you bring them into your home from the market, place them in the refrigerator or a protective container. Even wash peels that are not eaten, like bananas, cantaloupe, etc. because the peels will breed fruit flies in your house and in your composter. Wash all produce thoroughly to prevent fruit flies from hatching. By the way, worms will avoid citrus and onions.
  2. Cut pieces of vegetables and fruit into small pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster the worms can eat and create compost. Chop and mix your kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable waste combine with tea leaves and coffee grounds.) Chop, and then Microwave all food scraps for at least one minute. The heat from the microwave will kill remaining fruit fly eggs, and create more digestible food for worms.
  3. Soak yard scraps (brown leaves, shredded newspaper, cardboard/paper, dried grass, hair, even dryer lint.) to create a base layer of browns. Balance moisture in the green waste/brown waste combination by soaking brown waste. Bury kitchen scraps under pre-soaked yard scraps. Take an extra pre-caution to prevent flies and gnats by adding a dry bedding layer and moist sheet of newspaper to the top.
3rd Begin composting, and give worms a few days between feedings to enjoy their home in peace. Remember, worms hear through vibrations, so your adjustments to their food and bedding may feel like an earthquake. Sprinkle water and bury new food every week or every few days. Keep the bedding moist under the dry blanket of browns.
Under a moist newspaper, and a dry blanket of brown leaves and newspapers, a moist bedding layer sandwiches a layer of food and worms between another layer of moist bedding. Moist bedding on top and bottom of the food and worm layer creates a happy home. Top dry bedding coverage minimizes flies and gnats.
If you find your worming composter out of balance, or your dry layer of browns to be depleted, you may see fruit flies or fungus gnats on or in your unit. Take immediate action. Stir the mixture to spread any spots that have become too moist, and create a thicker layer of dry brown waste. Educate yourself on the nature of fruit flies and fungus gnats.
Easy and Quick Fixes for Fruit Flies and Fungus Gnats
Fruit Flies Be Gone
If fruit flies become a nuisance in an outdoor compost bin, the ratio of food scraps (green material) is higher than high carbon (brown) material. Add enough brown leaves, shredded paper or cardboard. Try to keep about 12 inches of high carbon material on the surface of your pile. Bury the food scraps under this high carbon (brown) material.
Fungus Gnats Be Gone
Fungus gnats are members of the fly family, usually about 1 millimeter in size. They can be recognized by their all-black, rather "skinny" bodies, compared to that of fruit flies. Gnat-like flying patterns are not slow and lingering like the fruit fly. Fungus gnats are not born on the fruit, they breed in the moisture rich plant material and soil that grows fungus.
Since moisture and fungus are important elements of the composting process, they must not be eliminated entirely. One effective option is to keep the indoor compost bin uncovered and let the top layer of bedding dry out, while the layers beneath stay at the 50 percent moisture necessary for active composting. This way, the fungus gnats stay below the surface of the worm bin, where it is damp, and don't venture up to the surface.

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