Worm composting made easy

About a year ago a friend of mine asked if I would like to start a worm compost (vermicompost) in my basement. At first I was reluctant because… worms in my basement. But since I am an avid vegetable gardener who uses compost, the idea of making it myself was appealing. Worm composting is not nearly as difficult or time consuming as one may think – and the result… well, just wait until you see this year’s seedlings!

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What is vermicomposting?

In it’s simplest form, vermicomposting or worm composting, transforms food waste into nutrient-rich compost using worms (in particular, red wigglers).

How to get started with worm composting

First things first:

1)   No. Worm composting does not smell.
2)   No. You do not have to touch the worms if you do not want to.

Thanks to my friend, Doreen, who owns Smart As Poop, a business that focuses on bringing vermicomposting to classrooms, I started composting inside last winter. Here is what we used to kick start my indoor worm compost:

1. Container: Doreen started me off with a plastic container that was about eight inches high. She had drilled holes in the bottom for ventilation and raised the bin on bricks to let excess liquid run out. She then put a tray underneath to capture the liquid, which you can use for fertilizer (think of it as high octane fertilizer!). The container also had a tight lid to not only keep light out, but also keep the worms in.

top half of compost bin with screened breathing wholes

top half of compost bin with screened breathing wholes

2. Bedding: We then filled the bin three-quarters full with finely shredded newspaper, broken up eggshells and a bit of soil. We then moistened this with a bit of water and mixed it all up loosely to allow for good air flow.

3. Worms: Doreen then dumped in about a pound of red wriggler worms. Red wrigglers are low maintenance forgiving and like to eat! So, no, you do not use earthworms for composting purposes.

4. Where to keep your worm bin: I keep my bin in my unfinished basement, where it is cool, not cold and not too warm either. It is also not in direct sunlight (worms hate direct light).

My counter compost container (it has an air tight lid)

My counter compost container (it has an air tight lid)

5. Feeding and caring for your worms: I keep a compost container on my kitchen counter (as well as a larger one under my sink). When it is full, I “feed it to the worms,” which is about once a week. I simply go down, open the lid, pick a corner, dig a little hole, dump the food waste, cover it up and go. Admittedly, I also love looking around to see how the worms are doing. I look for eggs (they’re usually in avocado shells) and worm clusters (this way I can tell what they really like to eat). Note: I leave a little marker of some kind (a lid or something small) that I place on top of the corner that is next for me to put food in. This way the food is evenly distributed.

If the bin starts to give off an unpleasant odour or if your worms are trying to escape (you will see lots on the lid), the bedding may be too wet. Stop feeding them until the worms catch up and gently stir the contents to increase airflow.

Worms working hard to break down waste; you can still see some of the original paper in here

Worms working hard to break down waste; you can still see some of the original paper in here

Weeks later the compost is looking good!

Weeks later the compost is looking good!

6. When and how to use your compost: In a couple of months you will start to see all the paper and dirt turn into compost. It’s quite miraculous, really. You can then mix your worm compost with potting soil for potted plants, add it to your garden soil, and use it when transplanting seedling from indoors to outdoors for a little extra nutrients to ease the stress of the climate change.

I now have both an indoor and outdoor worm compost. I upgraded my indoor worm compost to a Worm Factory because my worms outgrew my starter bin, and my husband built our outside worm compost. I dump food in our outdoor worm compost all year long (of course, it doesn’t break down in the winter, but come spring – it breaks down really fast!). And no, our outdoor compost bin does not smell! The worms do a great job of breaking down the enzymes responsible for odours and if it does start to smell, I just go in with a pitch fork and mix up the compost to allow for more air to get in.

worm factory

worm factory

Can I move my outdoor worms inside and vice versa?

Yes, when it is time to bring your worms inside, you can spread out the compost on a tarp on a sunny day and move it around until you see the worms scramble to find darkness. Take those worms and put them in an inside worm compost (you can start your indoor compost again, starting with step one). We did this last fall when it was time for our indoor worms that we put outside for the summer to come back inside. This year I think we will continue to have an outdoor and indoor compost.

Worm composting is educational and fun

As I mentioned my friend, Doreen, owns Smart As Poop, a vermicomposting business that introduces the process to classrooms. She introduces the magical world of worms (red wigglers) in a creative, fun and educational way that not only teaches children how composting works, but also what happens to their food – from seed to soil!

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Worm composting at home is just as fun and educational. A part of my daughter’s chores involves feeding the worms and giving me a status check, which is usually a “they’re fine” or “one was on the lid, but I just put it back in.”  She has also learned the ins and outs of composting – a skill I hope she will come to appreciate as an adult.

If you’re not convinced that vermiculture is for you, just remember that worm composting reduces your garbage and your reliance on city composting. There is also something gratifying about managing your own organic waste, making your own compost and watching your worms grow and multiply. Honestly though – it’s fun!

If you would like more information on vermicomposting, check out Smart As Poop. You will find valuable information as well as all the equipment you need to get started with your very own vermicompost - for yourself or a school classroom!

Quick and Easy Guide to a Veggie Garden

Gardening can sometimes seem daunting, and just a teeny bit terrifying.

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way! We make it more complicated than it has to be. If you have a little patch of dirt that you've been eyeing, then now is the time to sow your seeds (or plants!) and get started!

I'd like to share some answers to commonly asked questions we get about our vegetable gardens. Yes, our gardens are quite large, and we grow a lot of stuff. But you don't HAVE to start out big, and in fact, a small garden may be just what your family needs. And if you happen to catch the veggie gardening bug, well then I've done something good in this world after all.

Is it too late to start?

We live in Ottawa, land of the cold, so early June is definitely not too late! It's true that some plants do well in colder temperatures (fragile greens tend to wilt in the heat,) but many plants are happy to bask in the sunshine. We're still planting seeds now, and will be putting in our seedlings (baby plants) this weekend.

Where do I begin?

Start by thinking about the three things your plants need - soil, water and sunshine. First, assess the location of your patch. Is it in full sun all day, or partial shade? That will help determine which vegetables you should choose. If you are REALLY starting from the beginning (i.e. you want to dig up some grass to actually get to the dirt,) I would suggest this really cool method to save yourself back-breaking work of grass removal. This is also a great way to kill weeds if you don't feel like pulling them.

This next step isn't necessary, but you may want to consider getting a bit of compost to mix in with your soil. And remember to use your grass clippings, leaves and food scraps (no meat or fat) to feed your garden.

Finally, you'll need a source of water nearby (duh) Hopefully you have a hose, or are willing to lug some buckets when needed!

What should I buy?

You really don't need much. A nice pair of gardening gloves will save your hands, a good shovel and trowel. 

As for whether you should start from seed or buy the baby plants, that's totally up to you. If you're reading this now and have decided to start right away, you will probably want to head to a garden centre and get some seedlings. That said, I'm still throwing seeds around like nobody's business! 

We have sadly failed at growing seeds in our home...it's a tricky business, but I'm hoping some day we will get the hang of it!

What do I plant?

This is entirely up to you and your patch location! Most veggies do well in full sun. Start with some simple things - herbs, radishes, and kale are three that I find grow easily and seem pretty pest resistant. Cherry tomatoes are great for kids! A note that squash and zucchini will take over your garden because they are GIANT plants. Think about the vegetables your family likes to consume on a regular basis, and choose from that list. Remember, though, that some of the vegetables we buy are trucked in from much warmer climates and may not grow well here.

What if I kill my plants?

I promise, if you water and maybe do a little bit of weeding, most plants will be fine (but if you have rabbits, I do feel your pain - you may need to consider some chicken wire fencing.)

Gardening is fun and exciting, and part of that comes from never knowing what you're going to get! Will something fail miserably this year? Will you run into a pesky beetle that kills all your cucumbers? Will the one veggie you thought would not work suddenly win the race? Year after year we make notes of what worked and what didn't. A "green thumb" is something that you develop over time, but even experienced gardeners can't control the environment. So don't worry about killing anything, and just have fun with it! 

Finally, make sure to involve the kiddos. Probably too obvious to say, but kids LOVE gardening. Who doesn't like getting dirty, spraying hoses and pulling stuff out of the dirt? Also, veggie gardens are a sneaky way to get your kids to eat their vegetables. Ever since they could eat solids, my babies have been pulling stuff out of our gardens as snacks. They are now quite adventurous when it comes to trying new vegetables!

Do you have a veggie garden? What made you want to start growing your own food?

 

More Eco-friendly ideas from Pinterest!

by Gwen My love of Pinterest continues! It is such a great spot to see the many things others are sharing and pinning that I would not have otherwise seen. If you haven't joined yet, try it out! It may quickly become the way you choose to spend most of your spare time :)

Here are 3 of my faves from the past week: 

How to deodorize your home naturally - Any time you have an unpleasant scent in your home—fish from last night's dinner, burned food odour...you want to get rid of the smell fast. This is a natural way to freshen up and make your place smell amazing. Image credit: One More Moore

Avocado-Chocolate Pudding Recipe - I have personally made this dessert and it is delicious! So delicious that you won't believe it is actually good for you. Avocados are super healthy and super delicious and serve as the base ingredient in this delicious treat. Image credit: Forgiving Martha

Walnut Boat Craft - Spring is in the air which means plenty of rainy days and plenty of puddles to play in. The kids will love this simple craft made out of empty walnut shells, toothpicks and a few other items you most likely have around your home. Play with the boats in puddles or indoors. Image credit: hiphiphoorayblog.com

Check out my last set of eco-friendly Pinterest picks where you will learn How To Make Reusable Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets and More

Do you have a favourite eco-friendly pin? If so, please share it in the comments! 

Gwen is a mom of 2 and owns/operates Nayla Natural Care, an online store that specializes in carrying the best organic, natural and eco-friendly products.

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Kids Create! March Craft Carnival {GREEN}

by Alicia March 2011 Theme – GREEN

Spring in the air! I think. Let's celebrate March by crafting with our children not only using the colour green (I'm thinking luscious green grass, new green leaves on the trees and St. Patrick' day shamrocks!), but also "going green" by choosing eco-friendly crafts.  I personally like to choose our crafts using recyclables around the house (toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, cardboard boxes) and I always love finding a way to use nature (sticks, leaves, vegetables) in our crafts. How will you craft with the colour green? What does a green theme mean to you?

What is the Kids Create! Craft Carnival? A carnival is a blog article that contains links to other articles covering a specific topic. Think of it as a craft party, where everyone has to show up with a craft based on the same topic. Use this carnival to encourage your family to create crafts and memories together!

Who can participate? All KITC readers! Whether you have a blog or not, we have a way you can participate!

When? Throughout the month you are encouraged to make a craft with your children based on the monthly theme and post your finished project to share with others. Make and share as many crafts as you want according to the theme before the end of the month deadline. Crafts you have made in the past are also welcome, but new crafts are encouraged. Once the deadline has passed we will showcase the crafts and announce the following month’s theme.

Where and how do we post our crafts? There is a link-up widget at the bottom of this post. If you are blogger, post about your craft on your blog and link below to your post. If you do not have a blog, use the KITC Flickr group to upload a picture of your craft (make sure to include your name and a written description of your craft). Read more information here on how to use Flickr and how to join the KITC Flickr Group.

Deadline to submit: Saturday, March 31st

What will your family create?

Thank you to those who participated in last month’s craft carnival! February’s theme was LOVE and KINDESS and we had a few really creative submissions. Check them out!

Alicia is mother to E (2 ¾) and blogs at I Found My Feet.

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Back to school : litter-free lunches

by Lara My son is back to school on Monday (the French board starts early) so I'm in full back to school mode.  I put the question out to the Facebook Page asking what kind of back to school posts people would like to see and Litter-Free lunches was suggested.  I'm only learning how to do litter-free lunches so I'm going to post a few of the things that I'm going to be doing and have done and want to know what everyone else does!

Reusable snack bags

I bought one of these last year and then copied the design and made a bunch of my own.  They were pretty easy to replicate and I used diaper liner material that I bought at fabricland for the inside and velcro which I thought would be easy for my son to open and close.

I used them all year long for sandwiches and snacks and they worked really well.

If you aren't much of a sewer I know that Nayla Natural Care and Spoiled Sugar both sell them.

Lunch boxes

I just ordered a Goodbyn from Nayla Natural Care.  We haven't used it yet but I really like that I can put all of my son's lunch and snacks in one container without having to worry about finding different smaller containers every day when I'm making lunch.  My only thought is that I'll have to wash it every day and wonder if in time it would be easier to have two to rotate.

goodbyn lunch box

I've still been mostly using juice boxes but hope to ease out of that this year, not only because of the litter but to be able to water down his juice or send milk.

What have you done or are you trying this year to make your kids' lunches litter-free?

Lara Wellman is mom to 4 year old Kiernan and 2 year old twins Quinn and Juliette. You can read her personal blog at Gliding Through Motherhood, about her weight loss journey at Losing it in Ottawa, and her social media blog at Larawellman.com

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