In episode 162 Denny Krahe was telling me how easy and successful they were using worms for composting at his home in Florida so I had to try it in my classroom. It was actually a giant success except for these five things I would do differently if I was starting over.
1. I didn’t get the bin ready ahead of time.
After doing a great deal of research the night before the worms were to be delivered or perhaps even on my prep that day, I found out you are supposed to get your bin ready about 2 weeks before you add the actual worms. It gives the soil and newspaper some time to start decomposing and mixing together.
2. I bought the wrong color bin.
Worms like to be in the dark. I thought since it was going to be in my classroom it would be cool to have a clear plastic bin that the kids could see the activity going on. So we had to cover it with paper.
3. I kept a lid on it.
For it to be successful the worms need a lot of air and ventilation. I put the guinea pig cage on top of it and I think this led to food rotting instead of it decomposing. It also made it more difficult to add food having to constantly lift the lid. We also wrapped it in paper so it would stay dark, covering a lot of the ventilation holes, although it was a loose wrapping.
4. We didn’t give the worms enough greens and veggies.
Worms actually like to eat foods similar to me. They prefer roughage and greens like kale, lettuce, dandelion leaves etc to fruit which is what we had in my classroom the most because the kids ate breakfast in the classroom. They’re not as fond of grapes, orange peels (which some people say you shouldn’t add at all) banana peels etc.
5. I ordered the worms in the middle of winter.
My first year teaching 2nd grade I wanted to get them a class pet. I joked for a long time I was going to get them some worms, but in the end we got “HaPpY” a guinea pig. But I did get them a worm composting system. I ordered the worms at the end of January, and it was very cold in Montana. Although they did well, I felt like a lot of the worms were not alive when the package arrived on a crisp winter day. I think it would have been better to order them during the warmer months.
Overall, it was a great experience, the worms did great and we added them to my garden that summer. I was surprised how big the worms got and how many of them grew and survived even with all of my mistakes. And it was really easy to complete the process from set up to garden bed.
In episode 23 I talk with the funny and engaging Cathy Nesbitt from Cathy’s Crawly Composters. If you want to build your own bin follow the directions here to get started. The Compost Guy created the best vermiculture video I found on on YouTube.