Winter Composting Made Easy: My Basement Adventure with Vermiculture

Winter Composting Made Easy: My Basement Adventure with Vermiculture

Hey there, fellow garden enthusiasts!

I wanted to share my exciting adventure with vermicomposting. So, a couple of months ago, I decided to set up a vermicompost bin right in my basement. And let me tell you, it's been a fascinating journey!

Vermicompost bin at Prairie Road Organic Seed

First things first, I quickly learned that vermicomposting is all about finding the right balance. You gotta make sure you have enough worms to handle the amount of food you're giving them.

I like to freeze my compost before adding it to the bin.  So I just set the compost bowl outside the door during these cold winter months. Then I bring it indoors a few hours before I'm gonna feed the worms. The freeze-thaw cycle helps break down the plant cells in my kitchen scraps, making it much easier for the worms to do their work!

I feed my worms every 4 to 5 days. The frequency depends on how many worms are in the bin and how much you feed them at once. I just dig in there and check if they're running out of food or if I'm giving them too much. It's like a little all-you-can-eat worm buffet! 

To keep things cozy for my worm buddies, I also layer some dry leaves over the top of the bin every time I go in there. It helps regulate the moisture levels and creates a comfy environment for the worms. And you know what? No worms have made a daring escape out the bottom, so I must be doing something right! 

Finding worms in vermicomposting bin at Prairie Road Organic Seed

Had a hard time getting a picture cuz they're so quick to disappear!

The worms like the dark-- as soon as you uncover them they dive for cover. So they're very camera shy but I saw a LOT of tiny worms-- they're reproducing in there! That's very exciting!

One problem
I DID have an issue with fruit flies! I noticed just a few at first and I didn’t do anything about them—not good! All of a sudden I had MORE than a few!

So I took a bucket, added some red wine vinegar to attract them. Then I mixed in dish soap—it breaks the surface tension of the vinegar. As soon as they land on the surface, they fall in and drown. That completely solved the problem.  

It's a Win-Win
Now, let's talk about the awesomeness of vermicomposting. Not only does it help me recycle organic waste, like kitchen scraps and leaves, it’s reducing the need to slog through snow to get to the compost pit. AND BEST OF ALL, it’s creating nutrient-rich compost for my plants—even in the dead of winter. It's a win-win for me, my plants, and my garden!

Once you have a healthy supply of vermicompost, you can put it to good use in your garden. One option is to mix the vermicompost into your soil before planting. This will help enrich the soil with essential nutrients and improve its overall structure.

You can also use vermicompost as a top dressing. Simply spread a thin layer of vermicompost around the base of your plants. The nutrients from the vermicompost will slowly release into the soil right where it's needed, providing a steady supply of nourishment. 

Finally, you can make a batch of vermicompost tea by simply soaking 1/4 cup of vermicompost in a gallon of water overnight. Straining before using is optional!

Getting Started
If you're thinking about starting your own vermicompost bin, check out my YouTube video here.

  • Get yourself some red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) – they're the rockstars of vermicomposting.
  • Use a well-ventilated container with drainage holes. I nested 2 RoughTote containers. The bottom one is like a holding tray-- just left that one as is. The top tote-- I drilled holes in the bottom, around the top rim for aeration and in the lid for more aeration. Trust me, your worms will appreciate the fresh air.
  • Use shredded cardboard, leaves, newspaper or coconut coir as bedding material. It's like a cozy worm hotel!
  • Don't go overboard with the feeding. Start small and gradually increase the amount as your worm population grows. Just follow their lead—if the food you added last time is gone, add a little more this time. If it’s not getting eaten up quickly, add a little less!
  • Keep an eye on the moisture levels. Your bedding should be moist, like a wrung-out sponge. Adjust as needed by adding water or adding more dry bedding materials-- I use lots of leaves, cuz leaf mold is also beneficial to the worms and is chock full of beneficial microbes for healthy plant roots.
  • Patience is key. Vermicomposting takes time, so don't expect instant results. It takes time to compost.

Regularly incorporating vermicompost into your garden routine will promote healthy plant growth above and below ground, increase soil fertility, and contribute to a thriving ecosystem in your garden.

So, why not join me in this vermicomposting experiment? It's a fun learning journey and an impactful way to give back to the environment, capturing would be waste to nourish your garden-- recycling Mother Nature's way. Trust me, your garden will thank you!

Your garden coach,