Vermicomposting is HOT! And I don’t mean temperature-wise: in fact, my most recent harvesting experience (which I’m about to share with you, step by step) was a rather chilly one, considering the fact that I was doing the job in the garage during recent snowy weather…
In any case, using red wriggler worms to turn food scraps into a high-quality garden amendment (“black gold”) is increasingly popular—for many very good reasons—and I’m excited to be doing just that at home. Here, in a series of captioned photos, is the harvesting process that I went through over this past weekend.
1 - The first step in my process was making a container for the goods. In order to store the harvested castings, I made bags out of old repurposed Independence Gardens uniform tees. They’re organic cotton and will breathe well to let the castings air out (which they needed to do after a year of hanging out...there was a little bit of anaerobic decomp goin' on).
2 - The second step of my t-shirt-to-harvesting-bag conversion was to tie the arms up tightly and then tie another length of string between them to make a handle/hanger. I used a heavy-duty string, and strong square knots, then hung it on handy utility chest knobs.
3 - This is what the shirt looked like in use. I stuffed the hard-won handfuls in the neck opening of the shirt-bag. The castings were fairly moist, but not WET, so the bag soaked through...but no puddle formed below!
4 - I covered a comfy-height table with old grocery/garbage bags and then piled castings from the mature worm bin in a mountain. The worms don’t like the light, so they dove to the bottom of the pile and I scraped off the top layer...waited a bit longer...scraped off another layer...and kept on doing the same till I reached the pile of squirmy-wormies down at the bottom. Along the way, I found pieces of bedding that didn't break down and non-decomposed food scraps, and put them in a backup bucket. I put the woody plant pieces, avocado peels and stones, fruit labels, and other debris that weren't going to be eaten aside in a separate bucket to put in the yard debris and garbage.
5 - These are some of my worm friends. There are many more: in our 10 gallon tote, I estimate that there were about 15-20 handfuls of worms—maybe more. I tried very hard to be gentle with them.
6 - You’ve gotta watch these little guys, or else they might escape your harvesting setup!
7 - Worms like small pieces of easy-to-eat food, so I saved some chopped up apples and pears for their first post-harvest meal.
8 - I lined the now-empty worm bin with shredded paper, then added fresh food scraps.
9 - I laid down the rescued non-decomposed bedding material and food scraps on top of the fresh food scraps.
10 - On top of the bin, I placed fresh torn-up paper bags as new bedding.
11 - This is the worm bin, all closed up and ready to rock 'n' roll again!
Thank you for posting the worm-bin harvesting process. One question though, at what point did you need the t-shirt bag, and what were you putting in there?
Hi!! And thanks for the great question. The t-shirt bag was where I put the harvested castings–all of the nice crumbly brown stuff that had been digested and wasn’t going to be of any further use to the worms. After I cleaned the bin out, I put back in all of the worms, the old bedding and uneaten scraps, and the new scraps and bedding. The harvested castings are hangin’ out in the t-shirt bags until we use them in the garden…which won’t be too long, now!