If you have followed Speed River Journal for a while you may remember I set up a worm chalet at the end of January (this photo shows it with the lid removed). The red wrigglers have been busy reducing our kitchen scraps to compost. The bottom level of the chalet is full now, so on Sunday I prepared the second story of their luxury condo.
The worm chalet is a vermiculture structure I purchased from Cathy’s Crawly Composters. It harnesses the power of earthworms to produce rich organic supplements for houseplants and the garden. The process is aerobic (using oxygen-loving microbes) so it does not stink so can operate indoors all year. We keep ours in the basement where the air should remains cool through the summer (worms like it that way).
It got off to a slow start, which was to be expected as the worms got used to their surroundings. The chalet uses red wrigglers, which like to live in rotting stuff; not fat night crawlers, which are more familiar to gardeners. Night crawlers like to descend into deep burrows during the day, so they are not happy in this kind of dwelling. Several weeks ago I found red wrigglers in some chicken manure from a friend’s farm, so I added some new blood to the colony.
Whenever I added food, I would check for worms. The were bewilderingly invisible, yet the food would disappear with startling speed. Within a few days all but the toughest bits would turn unrecognizable. Today the bottom level is full of rich, dark castings. In the photo at left, I moved some bedding aside to show the compost.
So today it was time to add another level to the chalet. The bottom of each tray has a screen so worms can crawl from the one below. I covered the screen with fresh bedding (mostly shredded newspaper and cardboard) mixed with damp coir fibre, and inoculated it with a little compost from the bottom tray. More kitchen scraps went on the bedding and then more bedding on top (see top photo). A third tray and lid cover it. Now that the worms are firmly established in their home, I expect the process to move faster.
In other gardening news, I have a new strategy against the groundhog. In response to my post the other day, one reader replied that she has successfully used marigolds to keep a woodchuck out of her garden for ten years. Marigolds arrived at Brock Road Nursery this week, so I bought a flat of 48 and began placing them around the vegetable garden today. If it works this would be a more permanent solution than spreading substances noxious to vermin, like ammonia, epsom salts or blood meal. Here’s hoping it keeps them away from the succulent peas springing up in this delicious spring weather.