How to Make a Worm Compost Bin at Home in 8 Easy Steps

I’ve mentioned before that I use my food scraps to feed squirmy little worms that live in a plastic bin in my backyard.

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I have a special little affinity for these guys. I talk to them, and I care about their diet. If I feel like I’m giving them too many onion-heavy feedings, I change up dinner for a few weeks to try out some new foods. (I do like onions, and although the worms don’t really have brains, I feel like they know it).

Anyways, you too can have little worm friends in your backyard! Or wherever you want to keep them. Here’s how you make a worm bin, or vermicycle compost bin for yourself!

Step 1: Get yourself some red worms. It’s SO important you don’t try to start a worm bin by using regular worms you might dig up while gardening. Red worms, or “red wigglers”, are earthworms that thrive in decomposing organic matter like the stuff you’ll be giving them.

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Step 2: Find a large Rubbermaid-type bin with a secure lid. This one’s from Wal-Mart. Drill four to six large holes on the underside of the bin, and additional holes around the top as shown below. This is to allow air flow and drainage because as the worms consume the food and create waste, liquid will also be created and need to drain out to keep the bin environment healthy.

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Step 3: Find a second, larger bin that can house the compost bin. You’ll need to fit the compost bin inside this larger bin, and elevate the compost bin so the liquid created and drain out and collect in the bottom of the larger bin. I used upside-down plastic flower pots to support my compost bin.

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Step 4: Now it’s time to start filling your compost bin to make a home for the worms! First, collect newspapers and tear them into strips. Be careful not to use any colored images – just use black and white prints because the color print can be toxic to the worms. Once you have strips of black and white newsprint, dampen them and line the bottom of the compost bin.

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Step 5: Sprinkle a layer of coffee grounds over the damp newsprint. Coffee grounds are an amazing addition to your compost bin because they are high in nitrogen and considered “green” material. In a compost bin, it’s critical to balance the amount of “green” nitrogen-rich material (food scraps) and “brown” carbon-rich material (paper).

I pickup up a bucket of used coffee grounds from my local coffee shop, which they filled to capacity in under an hour. It’s a great way to recycle and do some good for the environment! Plus, it lasts forEVER.

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Step 6: Add the food scraps. First of all, NEVER feed your worms citrus, dairy (although egg shells are OK), meat, candy, or alcoholic beverages (that one I feel is a given).

I like to grind everything up in a food processor first because that makes it so much easier for the worms to consume and digest. Since I cook a lot, it’s nice that they can go through the scraps so quickly so I avoid having food scraps pile up while I wait to be able to feed them again.

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Step 7: Finally, on top of the food scraps you want to add a layer of damp brown paper strips. I just use the brown paper from grocery store bags or from that wine I bought at the liquor store. Like the newsprint, make sure the brown paper doesn’t have any colored writing or anything on it.

In the image below, I just laid the brown paper strips out on the ground and sprayed them with a hose to dampen.

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The layer of brown paper gives the worms a “roof” for their home that they can nestle underneath to feel protected. These worms hate sunlight so they will burrow very quickly when exposed.

Step 8: Add the worms! Like I said, they’ll burrow right under the brown paper as soon as you put them in.

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Cover the worms, place on top of the flower pots and keep in a cool, shaded area. I keep mine in my backyard, but you can also keep it in your garage, or mudroom, or wherever makes you happy (with exceptions of course. They’re not bed mates).

To keep these worms alive, you should check on them once each week. Here are some important bullet points to keep in mind:

  • Always make sure the balance in the bin is even between “greens” and “browns”. It’s fairly easy to do this – just don’t overfeed them. Feed the worms about once each week, especially if you’re grinding up the food as they will go through that faster. Don’t add more food if there is still a substantial amount left in the bin. As they create more organic matter (soil) you’ll need to add additional strips of paper to keep the balance equal.
  • If the bin appears dry, you’ll need to water the worms. Yes, like plants. You’ll have to poke around to judge the dryness or dampness of the bin, but the worms don’t bite and if you go so far as to have a worm bin in the first place, you probably don’t mind poking around inside one.
  • It’s normal, if you keep your bin outside, for other bugs to join your worms. Especially flies. After all, you’re basically putting trash outside. But it’s ok – the bugs help stimulate the environment and won’t bother the worms. If you see anything out of whack, though, feel free to message me. I’ve seen a lot of weird things since I started this worm bin a few years back, so I can help!
  • Sometimes plants will grow in your worm bin! Seeds from vegetables will thrive in this nutrient-rich environment, so don’t be surprised if you see some growth.
  • You can use the nutrient-rich liquid the worms create to water your garden or potted plants. It’s like a delicious meal for plants.
  • It’s worth it to invest in an odor-free compost bucket. I keep mine under the kitchen sink and add to it every night when I cook. No smell, and super easy to collect your scraps before it’s time to feed the worms again.

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Happy worm-binning!

How to Plant Garlic (And a Cute Doggie Photo Shoot!)

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This past weekend, I had the luxury of – for once – having very few plans. Aside from my usual exercise commitments in the mornings, and a late-afternoon coffee date with a friend, I was left to my own devices (Mike was working both days).

This can usually go one of two ways: I’m either uber-productive, or I basically do nothing. But the weather was perfect, and I was feeling motivated, so I decided to get my garlic bulbs in the ground while I still can. It’s a pretty good bet the earth will be frozen in no time – all I hear on the weather now is about the Arctic Chill sweeping through the country.

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There is no reason not to plant garlic – it takes hardly any time, they take care of themselves all winter and then, like magic, they start growing when spring arrives. You can plant them in the spring, but overwintering them means bigger and more flavorful bulbs.

The Internet advises planting your garlic before the first hard frost of the season, so for my little part of the world that means mid-October to early November. I waited this year because we’ve had unseasonably warm fall temps, and when I planted in October last year, some of the garlic sprouted and didn’t make it through the winter. Lesson learned!

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Simply get one or two full garlic bulbs from a local farm stand or order from a seed supplier. Don’t plant garlic from the grocery store because it might not be suitable for the climate where you live.

Separate each clove from each other and from the center stalk. Leave the papery skin casing on, but it’s OK if it tears off in places.

One end of the clove is pointed and smooth, and the other, fatter end is flat and has root tips. This is the end you want in the ground, because it will take root from the bottom and sprout out the other end.

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Plant each clove about 2 inches below the surface of the soil, and about 4 inches apart from each other. I mixed some fertilizer in with the soil before planting.

Because you’re overwintering the garlic, you want to insulate them well by placing a layer of straw, mulch, or seaweed on top. I’ve used seaweed the past couple of years and it has worked very well.

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Madison was a good sport for garlic planting day. I think she got into it. I planted 8 cloves in this garden spot (above) in rows of 2. (That green mound in the middle is a chive plant that’s on its last legs from the summer.)

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What’s going on?

Water the garlic once or twice per week, depending on rainfall, following the initial planting.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips, or want to share your garlic planting experiences!

Vegetable Saute with Kale and Corn Pesto

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Everyone likes to talk about how pretty fall is and how awesome the leaves are, yada yada yada. Can we chat for a second about how EVERYONE IS SICK?

I can count the number of days I’ve felt healthy since the end of summer on one hand at this point. I feel as though every time I turn around, someone is sneezing or coughing, and two days later, so am I. It obviously doesn’t help that one day it’ll be 85 degrees out and the next day it’ll be 40.

As someone who is first to brag about how infrequently I get sick, I’ve certainly had to check myself this time around. Is anyone else experiencing this? If you are, please do not come near me.

Potato and Pesto Pics (11)To cater to my tissue-cough-drop-Robitussin dependency, I embarked on this meal with full intentions of completely mailing it in. I should know better though, that the way to truly mail it in is to either do nothing so Mike ends up taking care of dinner, or to just make pasta.

Well I didn’t. This is the result of more time in the kitchen than I intended.

What You Need for the Vegetable Dish:

  • 1 cup dry Jasmine or rice of choice, cooked according to package directions
  • 5 plum tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes.
  • 1/4 lb green beans, sliced in half
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 each: red bell pepper, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

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What You Need for the Pesto:

  • 2 cups kale leaves, roughly shredded
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • The corn from one cob (cooked and cut off) – or about 3/4 cup of cooked corn
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tsp)
  • A pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

What You Do: Potato and Pesto Pics (12)

Cook the rice according to package directions.

While the rice is cooking, pile your veggies EXCEPT the chives, into a large skillet, cover and slowly heat on low-medium until they are cooked through and the tomatoes have burst and appear pinched.

While the vegetables are cooking, pile your pesto ingredients EXCEPT the oil, into a food processor or blender. Slowly add the oil as the ingredients are mixing together until everything is combined and has formed a loose mixture similar to the consistency of dip.

Scoop out a desired amount of rice, and cover it with the cooked vegetables, adding some of the liquids for flavor.

Top with a dollop of pesto and sprinkle the chives over the pesto. Viola!

Pro Tip: Don’t make this dish if you’re too sick to stand up for more than 5 minutes.

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Garden-Destroying August Hail Storms

New England weather is notoriously unpredictable (If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute, as they say) because of days like last Thursday, August 7, when giant hail fell from the sky around 4pm over a 10-mile (ish) area of the Seacoast that included my garden.

When I pulled into my driveway after work, I had to pinch myself to make sure I hadn’t gone through a time warp.

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My dog Madison, a Husky, was psyched. Winter had arrived 4 months early and it was glorious. I, however, immediately ran to the backyard, remembering only one thing – years ago when a freak summer hail storm hit and ruined cars in sale lots all over the Seacoast. If hail could dent the hood of a car, what would it do to my garden?!?

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 THIS IS WHAT IT DOES.

It not only dents your tomatoes, zucchini, spaghetti squash and kale (which, let’s face it, is pretty indestructible) but it makes all those fresh green tomatoes drop to the ground in peril just days before they would realize their red, ripened potential.

Sad.

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So I’ve got a bunch of these green tomatoes now, which I’ve bagged and frozen. This post is basically to lament the loss of my tomato plant and get sympathy, as well as warn you that there are some green tomato recipes on the horizon! Fried green tomatoes anyone?!

Signs of Spring: The birth (literally) of my future vegetable garden

Like pretty much everyone who lives in the northeast, I’ve been whining and complaining about this never-ending winter, balking at the temperatures that have dropped hopelessly into the 30s and stubbornly remained there, and – on several occasions – wearing flats despite there being actual snow on the ground.

A girl can dream, even at the expense of freezing cold feet.

But today – a glimmer of hope! No matter how many springs come and pass, I will always be uplifted and captivated by a baby bud. It has to be one of the most hopeful things to witness in life. A teeny tiny seed, buried in dirt, GROWING into SOMETHING.

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I’m thrilled.

I grow vegetables every year, and since Mike and I now own a house and I have FREE REIGN over this great yard, I am rolling with it. I’m also trying something new – planting flowers! I was inspired by my best friend Kate, who is amazing at gardening and has turned her rental property into a really amazing landscape. Just to clarify – she rents the property, so she truly does this out of a love of gardening. It’s awesome. (I will have to share photos once her flowers bloom. She has a planting plan diagrammed out like the White House).

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I started with peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, beets, spaghetti squash, cucumber, and two kinds of peas. This week I’ll move on to hot peppers and some awesome looking flowers to really beautify the yard. It’s all so exciting!!

Even if it doesn’t FEEL like spring around here yet, I am enjoying my own personal spring beginnings in my home. I can’t wait to see how they all progress!

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