Transform an ordinary backyard into a productive farm with Chris Gleason’s Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners (Fox Chapel, 2012). Gleason provides inspiration and instruction for 21 gardening and animal projects to complete the transformation. The excerpt that follows, from “How Does Your Garden Grow?: Garden Upkeep,” will teach you how to install vermiculture worm bins to create your own organic fertilizer.
This book can be purchased from the GRIT store: Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners.
Harness the Power of Vermiculture
My friend Chester has gotten involved with a novel garden-related activity. Inspired by a neighbor, he is now a big advocate of vermiculture, which means using worms to speed up and improve composting. He has found it to be an inexpensive and easy way to enrich his garden’s soil, and it looks pretty fun to boot. He adds all his family’s kitchen scraps, and anything else that would normally be composted, to his worm bin, where the worms break it down and produce a powerful organic fertilizer called worm castings. Note that worm bins should be kept out of direct sunlight, and do not winter over unless they are heated somehow. If you live somewhere with cold winters, try building a portable worm bin that you can move into your garage when the weather turns cold.
Building Worm Bins
The heart of the system is a simple box that Chester built from reclaimed Trex decking material, although he noted that you could use just about whatever material you can lay your hands on. His bin measures 4' x 4' (1220 x 1220mm), and it is about 18" (460mm) deep. He uses a bunch of old 1x6 (19 x 140mm) boards for a top. If you don’t know where to start when building a box, take a look at the raised bed projects below—put a bottom on either of those for a very serviceable worm bin.
How to Use Worm Bins
Placing the bin in a shady spot is critical, Chester says, to keep the soil moist and the worms healthy. Red wigglers are the best species for this, as they will happily live in higher soil densities than many other worms; this means you’ll be able to enjoy a faster soil breakdown. Ever a thrifty gardener, however, Chester just collected worms from the sidewalk after a rainstorm, and he’s pleased with the results. He finds that the worms work very quickly and produce a very rich, black material that keeps his vegetable plants thriving.
Another nice aspect of the system is its simplicity. Chester waters the box with a hose about once every 4–5 days during the hot summer months. He turns the pile over with a pitchfork every week or so, although he notes that you could do that a lot less often: he just enjoys watching the worms do their work.
More Building Projects from Chris Gleason:
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners: A Guide to 21 Handmade Structures for Homegrown Harvests by Chris Gleason and published by Fox Chapel, 2012. Purchase this book from our store: Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners.