Worm Box Composting

One of my PCV SAS (Sustainable Agriculture Systems) friends regaled me with tails of her experience composting with worms. When I moved into my own house, I started a regular compost outside. I’d never composted with worms before, but it sounded like it could be fun! After talking to other volunteers and gathering more information, I set off making one.

You can make a worm box out of many different materials, but the most readily available for me was wood. I used an old chicken roosting box, lining the inside with plastic. To ensure the worms could breathe and their urine could drain, I poked small holes in the plastic. The inside of the box was filled with ‘bedding’ material: light soil, broken up cardboard and egg cartons, coconut husks, and cow/chicken manure. Their bedding has to be damp and soft enough that they can wiggle around as they please. Each morning and night, I would spritz water onto the bedding and give it a fluff. According to one website, the bedding should always feel like a wrung-out sponge. With the box and bedding ready, I invited some kids over to collect worms. It turns out that collecting them is harder than I thought. Every time I would finally find a worm, one of my chickens would swiftly eat it before I could put it in a jar. So one child became in charge of shooing the chickens away. After a lovely morning collecting worms, we placed them in the box and crossed our fingers it would work out.

Well…all of the worms ended up dying over the following weeks. Reason 1) a vicious attack of ants 2) I had to leave for a training and the bedding dried. One volunteer recommended lathering the box’s posts with oil so the ants could not enter. My box is partially hung though so the ants could not be avoided as much as I tried. If you’re starting a worm box, I recommend ensuring you will be around to give it the TLC it needs in the beginning. Also, look into more ways to prevent ants from entering. A lovely friend of mine has a worm box on four posts. She places small bowls of water and oil under each box leg, then chicken wire around the bowls so her animals do not drink the water. What strategies do you have for composting with worms? For now, I will revert the worm box back to a roosting box and continue to use my other successful compost.

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