The thought process behind vermicomposting is such that we want to minimize waste and eliminate chemicals from our own personal gardens. That being said, there are very few items that I regularly purchase for my worms and composting. However, there are several items that I consider pretty darn important in helping me to work this hobby with ease. Do I think you need to purchase all of these yourself? No, not at all necessary but I wanted to share some of my “must-haves” with you so that you can consider what items are most useful to you. Maybe you have some items you would like to add to the list as well.
Most of these items are a one-time purchase and thus a small upfront cost when getting started. Invest a tiny bit early on and it is doubtful that you will have to put much if any other money towards the hobby again. These items make life much easier for me, so I decided to share them with you. Without further rambling, here are my top 10 “must-have” worm composting items… in no particular order.
A Sifter Basket
There are several sifting devices you can make for yourself or purchase cheaply at a home improvement store. I have experimented with several different sifters over the last two years and I think that this storage basket is perfect. I got the idea from a fellow vermicomposter, Lilia Kogan who has her own YouTube Channel as well. You can watch her sifting process HERE.
The basket method works so well because it is easy to grip, sifts from all angles and easily catches cocoons so that you can ensure the growth of your worm population. Even with relatively moist castings, I think this is by far the easiest and most inexpensive method out there. Similar baskets can be found in home good and storage stores that most of us have relatively local. Oh, and did I mention they are a breeze to clean out? Take it in the backyard and spray with a hose (over the garden to leech that good stuff right into the soil) and BOOM done. Back to sitting in my composting room with some supplies stored in it.
For me, gloves are not only about comfort and avoiding the slimy/squirmy madness, but also a health measure that cannot be ignored. The nurse in me is all about maintaining safe practices when it comes to cooking and handling items that can potentially be hazardous.
Are worm bins hazardous? Not exactly. In the decomposition process however, bacteria can be abundant until the worms consume those bacteria making them safe for our gardens. Why risk making yourself ill or getting icky, sticky castings under your fingernails? Disposable gloves may not be the best option sustainably speaking, but I reuse mine many times before recycling them. I find that these gloves are easier to grip with as compared to gardening gloves, but either one would work just fine.
I use mortar trays in multiple capacities in my indoor composting. For one, they are excellent catch tray for underneath my CFT (continuous flow through) and ensure that any liquid runoff does not get on my floor and warp the hardwood. Also, they are very helpful in harvesting. Whether you sift, use a light method, or even horizontally migrate your bins, the trays are excellent for sorting, holding worms in, or even migrating them.
The shallow but large trays have multiple uses and have become a staple for me in my sorting efforts. I am currently using one as a breeder bin as well. The large surface area allows my worms lots of space to grow and reproduce for the fisherman in the family. Hey, I might not love fishing as much as he does, but I definitely win some brownie points for getting bait ready so that we can eat fish year-round.
Most of us running homemade bins use storage boxes/bins of some sort. I have found that 10 gallon totes are the best. Larger totes work great as well, but for me, space is limited and I move my bins around regularly. I consider myself a pretty strong person, but these bins can get much heavier than you would imagine.
I drill holes in the sides and the lids of my Rubbermaids but the beauty is that if I am doing things right and maintain an appropriate moisture content, the holes in the lids aren’t completely necessary and I can stack the bins getting many more systems in a small space. Using only 1/2 of a spare bedroom can be challenging, especially with 12+ systems running. Being able to stack bins has made growth possible for me despite the tiny area.
I use spray bottles to mist the surfaces of my bins. In a few of my systems, I regularly leave the lids off for convenience and aeration. This is all good and fine, but keeping the surface of these bins from drying out can be a little tricky. Unless you have time to turn the bedding frequently or keep a cover of some sort over the top of the bin remaining moist, the top will dry out and feel like hard cement pieces.
For this reason, I keep a spray bottle next to my bins. I fill it with tap water and allow the chlorine to evaporate off (jury is out on whether I think the chlorine actually will do any harm, but better safe than sorry) before using it to mist the surfaces of the bins that I keep uncovered. This makes the process of wetting these bins down on a regular basis virtually fool-proof. When using other methods to water down a bin, it can be easy to overdo it. This is a simple 10-20 sprays across the surface of the bin and I can go about my business.
A Good Quality Micro-Shredder
This is an item that I would definitely say is entirely optional and will not by any means make or break your experience. That being said, most of us keep shredders in the house regardless. What else are we going to do with old bank statements and credit cards? I sure as hell am not putting them into the regular recycling bin. Too much identity fraud these days.
When I was just getting started worm composting (maybe 6 months in) my home shredder died on me. I took advantage of the situation and invested in a 12 sheet micro-shredder. This shredder can handle even double-thick (although I wouldn’t test this theory TOO much) cardboard with ease. I easily use it three times a week or more to shred Amazon boxes. The fine shredded goodness that comes out of this thing makes for super fluffy castings that retain moisture well and break down faster than hand-shredded pieces.
This stuff is amazing. Food Grade DE can be used in multiple organic uses. It is even contained in certain toothpastes. It has some trace minerals that are also great for the garden. I like it for bug control. If I haven’t mentioned it enough, I get completely wigged out by pests in the worm bin. I sprinkle DE around the feet of my Worm Factory, by my backdoor where ants seem to love to come into the house and I even use it in my bins.
The beauty of DE is that it does not harm the worms in any way whatsoever. It is said that it loses its ability to control pests when wet, but if sprinkled on the surface of your bin or on top of a piece of cardboard or newspaper on the top of the bin, it is very helpful in controlling the numbers of springtails, beetles, mites, and other creepy crawlers.
I use rock dust or garden lime in my bins every single week. Your bin can run completely fine without rock dust, but it does serve several purposes in the bin. As the name suggests, rock dust is simply pulverized rock and thus carries many minerals. We can never have enough minerals in our bins or garden, right? We want the healthiest, biggest and most nutrient-dense veggies on the block right?
In addition to the mineral content that the rock dust supplies, it is also a form of grit for the worm gizzard to help pulverize the bacteria and food that they ingest. The rock dust helps neutralize the pH and is in my mind an all-around benefit to the bin.
If you can get away with less, that is the ideal situation, right? I continue to play guinea pig as I enjoy being able to bring you guys the products that I feel are worthwhile but I started out with nothing but a Worm Factory 360 and some worms. The rest of the items were accumulated over time. I did just fine without them when starting out and that should be noted. As my worm population and my bin numbers continue to grow, some products that simplify the process and save me time are well worth the small investment for me because they save me lots of time!
I am a night-shift nurse and honestly I feel guilty saying that three days a week is full-time for me and yet I still feel short of time frequently. I can only imagine how many of you nine to fivers with families get it all done! Let me know what your essentials are. Do you think my list was missing anything that is a glaring DUH to you? I would love to hear your feedback. Keep at the worm composting and see what a huge difference it will play in your life. Happy Worming!
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