Compost

The compost bins are a great way to recycle our healthy garden waste into rich soil for our vegetables. But they can also spread weeds to other garden beds. Please place any invasive weeds (false onions) and weeds that have gone to seed in the county green waste bin for disposal instead of the compost bin. If the bin is full, take it down to the teacher’s parking lot and bring a new empty bin up.

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Composting in the BUGS Garden (3 min. video)

This video was made specifically for the BUGS garden and shows how to layer browns and greens with water to achieve healthy compost. 3rd grade Volunteers MUST watch.

Do the Rot Thing (22 min. video, complete info on composting generally)

A thorough explanation of compost and different methods for composting. Watch if you want to expand your knowledge or research home composting options and have a deeper understanding when you work with the students.

Worm Bins

vermicompost

Feeding, Care, Maintenance

Printable version


Teaching benefits:
  • Soil creation:  Compost/organic matter is the critical life-giving component of soil.  “Dirt made my lunch”…  Worm bin shows how compost is created by macro decomposers – red worms
  • Diverting garbage from land fill
  • Studying enclosed habitat – there’s not just worms in there!
  • Individual responsibility: caring for live animals
  • Understanding light sensitive organisms
Your worm bin
Security: 

Please check that lids are on tight.  Worms seeking their fortune may be tempted to wander if the lid is cracked open.
Raccoons – please keep the strap on the lid to keep those pesky raccoons from eating your worms.

What to feed:
   Yes
  • Fruit (flesh, core, peel) of all kinds, except citrus.   Melons are a big favorite with the wrigglers.
  • Vegetables of all kinds – cooked leftovers or raw trimmings
  • Potato peelings
  • Tea bags
  • Egg shells – crush ’em up. They act like grinding stones in the worm gut and aid digestion of veggie matter considerably.

Chopped or torn up food gets eaten much more quickly than the chunky stuff.  Please encourage kids to bring chopped or torn up scraps whenever possible.

  NO
  • Citrus fruit (orange, lemon, lime, pineapple etc., – these are too acidic)
  • Meat or dairy.
  • No mayo or oils (eg salad dressing)
  • No pizza, chips or sandwiches.
  • Onions
  • Coffee grounds and filters (too acidic) – those go in the regular compost bin.

Bedding:  Newspaper strips, toilet paper rolls, cardboard egg boxes – tear, dampen and place loosely on top when the bedding needs replenishing.

How to feed:

Place food under the paper bedding.  This discourages flies, and provides cover for the worms so they’ll eat more quickly
Put food in different areas each time you feed.  This spreads the worms out and builds up the bin in a level way.

Bedding – the new bedding will get grungy as the worms turn it into to soil.  When it gets too gross to hide food under, it’s time for a fresh layer.

Moisture – a spritz from the watering can won’t hurt.  All trays drain into the bottom container.  The lid has air holes, which also let in rainwater.  Periodically open the bottom drain valve to check for juice.  If it’s raining please open the drain valve, otherwise the worms may drown.  Which would be bad.

Extra trays are stored in the BUGS cave.  When the bin mass is comfortably up to the fill line we set another try on top, add moist bedding and food, and the worms follow, migrating up to this new tray.  When this new tray is full, the bottom one can be emptied and placed on top of the second.  Repeat.

When to feed:

Feeding frequency:  2-3 times per week.  Worms will eat half their own body weight per day.  Start with a handful or two for the first week, then build up quantity and frequency as the worm population multiplies to keep up with an abundant food source.  By placing food in different parts of the bin you’ll see when you return to your first location whether the food is fully or partially consumed.  If that food is still largely intact you might want to slow down your feeding to let the worms catch up.

What to do with the castings

Worm compost/castings is wonderfully nutricious for plants.  Use as a top dressing on your patio plants, or have the BUGS crew heave it up to their garden to use.

What to do with the juice

Pour into a container (a 1 gallon milk jug works great).  Add a couple of glugs to a watering canful of water and water your plants with it.  DO NOT use undiluted – it’s too concentrated and may cause fertilizer burn on your plants.  The juice is tremendously bio-active as well as direclty supplying nutrients, so you’ll be innoculating your soil with the microorganisms it needs to aid nutrient transfer from soil to root.  It’s the best thing since sliced bread.

What about summer recess?

BUGS will relocate your bin to the upper gardens.  We’ll maintain individual bins or consolidate into one bin and maintain a population ready to re-establish in your own bin in October.  Other school vacations are short enough to keep the bins in place on your patio.

Resources:

The instruction pamphlet that came with your bin is a handy reference guide.
Books: in BUGS cave (in blue bookshelf cabinet on the backpack wall down at the end).  The folks from Recycleworks presented us with two worm books – one for general reading and the other full of educational activities and lesson plans.
Web: wikipedia: vermicomposting is a good starting point.
Our worms came from Sonoma Worm Farm here.