Growing Together: Open Forum

  • 1.  Vermicomposting?

    Posted 09-01-2021 12:29:00 PM
    Hi all!  Calling all vermicomposting experts in the group!
    I am considering starting vermicomposting with my campus and would love recommendations of systems you have used and liked.

    Any lessons learned would be appreciated!




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    Anne Santana
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  • 2.  RE: Vermicomposting?

    ADVISORY COMMITTEE
    Posted 09-07-2021 12:33:00 PM
    Hi Anne- At KidsGardening, we just worked with a company called Subpod on a new guide on vermicomposting/composting and you can download it by registering at: https://subpod.com/pages/kids-gardening-compost-guide-for-educators (give the page a minute to download and it will give you a place to request it).  The activity ideas in the guide can be used with any kind of composting system and focus on food waste and soil building.   As part of this work, I have also been using the Subpod system and I have really enjoyed it.  It is a little different than traditional worm bins, because it is designed to be placed outdoors and dug into soil and/or a raised bed.  I am not sure where you are located - it is not well suited for all areas (it will not do well in the cold temperatures in the far northern areas or in areas where there are concerns about worms being released into forest environments where they are not currently found), but being an outdoor system does provide some benefits and can help you overcome folks reluctant to have indoor bins because they are worried about smell and/or things like fruit flies/gnats that can also populate indoor worm bins (which is something I have run into many times in schools and at home).  On the page I linked above you can also find some video from educators who have used the Subpod system (it was started in Australia so many of the videos are from Australia - they just recently expanded to the US).

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    Sarah Pounders
    Senior Education Specialist
    KidsGardening
    The Woodlands TX
    8324186540
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  • 3.  RE: Vermicomposting?

    Posted 09-08-2021 03:31:00 PM
    Sarah, thank you so much for the resources and your experiences-need to think about fruit flies-check!

    I will check out that resource right now!


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    Anne Santana
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  • 4.  RE: Vermicomposting?

    Posted 09-10-2021 10:03:00 AM
    Hey Anne! 

    My advice for preventing fruit flies is to bury the food scraps! If you place the scraps in the same corner of the bin and place worm waste/damp newspaper/leaves/etc. on top, it creates a barrier. I always put the food scraps in the same corner and the worms would always congregate there. I managed an in-class worm bin for 3 years and NEVER had a single fruit fly! This was also a smaller worm bin used mainly for worm investigation lessons, so it might be a little harder to do depending on the scale of your project.

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    Erin Wenk
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  • 5.  RE: Vermicomposting?

    Posted 09-11-2021 04:16:00 PM
    Thank you for the great idea!

    Looking forward to trying this.

    Anne

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    Anne Santana
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  • 6.  RE: Vermicomposting?

    Posted 09-08-2021 03:37:00 PM
    Hi Sarah and Anne. Thanks for sharing the downloadable guide. I am planning a vermicomposting lesson for my club kids tomorrow so this will be a great addition. Before we had a real garden space, I made worm hotels with my students with a large clear container...soil, rock, newspaper and some food scraps. The kids enjoyed seeing how the worms made the tunnels along the outside edges...from one week to the next. I am hoping to expand our lessons to school wide and possibly incorporate a lunchroom audit. I think we do need our kids to understand where our trash is going and maybe help our school make better food options available and thus reduce our waste. We were recently given an Urban compost bag from a parent. I like it and it seems to be doing well...worms from my home compost pile seem to be thriving in it...but I do worry because we have it outside near the school building with just a bit of roof overhang but I think it needs to be in a shed or garage for the winter in CO.  The kids love seeing the worms move and I think it is important to allow them to gently touch if they desire. Then we return them to the bag or our raised beds.  I have had them draw worms as well and talk about worm anatomy. Worms are so cool!

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    Pamela Cooley
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  • 7.  RE: Vermicomposting?

    Posted 09-08-2021 04:54:00 PM

    Pamela, I love the idea of the worm hotel!  Stealing that right away!!!


    Best, 
    Anne



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    Anne Santana
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  • 8.  RE: Vermicomposting?

    ADVISORY COMMITTEE
    Posted 09-10-2021 04:27:00 PM
    Hi Anne,

    I have seen lot's of different systems from smaller plastic totes kept in classrooms to big wooden boxes out in gardens. Here are some resources and videos we share on the topic.
    www.lifelab.org/worms. which includes a video on how simple it is to set up a small tote bin as well as links to basics on setting up system.
    www.lifelab.org/worm-bingo.

    From what I have observed smaller bins that are used indoors can be managed well, keeping flies and smell down, by not over feeding and adding dry bedding. 
    Larger bins outdoors are best not placed in full sun so that moisture can be maintained. Bins that are deeper can be advantageous in sunny areas so that worms can self regulate temperature fluctuations by migrating up and down. A nice advantage of worm bins is that they can more easily be built to be rodent proof. It is more difficult to construct a large hot compost pile to be rodent proof.

    In outdoor systems I always like to advise that there is a way for worms to leave the worm bin and reach the soil below. This can be done with holes on the bottom of your bin. (add wire mesh over your holes if you are concerned about rodents entering your bin) This will allow your worms to escape if they are neglected (not watered/fed) which is a common issue in school settings.

    We use red wigglers to compost with and usually get them given to us from other worm composters that are overflowing with worms. (when happy redworms can double their population in two months)  I have also harvested them out of piles of composted horse manure. I have noticed that you can purchase them for much cheaper at fishing bait stores than buying them from compost supply vendors. 

    One of my favorite worm composting systems I have seen are ones that are directly in a raised garden bed, similar to what Sarah shared in a an earlier post in this thread. The systems I have seen are just worms in a raised garden bed and covered with tarp or compost cover. These systems can host many worms and eventually digest lots of materials. The wormbin / garden bed I managed would fill in a year or two and then all kids that visited the garden would partake in the big worm migration, hand picking out the worms and moving them to a new bed dedicated to worm composting. To start our we would chose a bed that was low on soil and then after a year or two of composting in the garden bed we'd either just mix the compost into the bed or distribute some of the black gold to other beds.

    a worm composting system that is directly in a garden bed.

    At Life Lab we have also documented examples of 
    School-wide Composting Projects,  District Wide Composting Efforts , and examples of curriculum that school's use

    There is so much out there on school composting - hopefully these resources will point you in the right direction.

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    John Fisher
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  • 9.  RE: Vermicomposting?

    Posted 09-12-2021 04:57:00 PM
    If you put food scraps in the freezer for a day or two, it kills the fruit flies that hatch from the produce.

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    Shelley Mitchell, PhD
    Associate Extension Specialist
    Youth Horticulture
    Dept of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
    Oklahoma State University
    358 Ag Hall
    Stillwater, OK 74078
    [405-744-5755]
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