Now that you have a worm bin ready and set up for your homestead, you need to learn what to do with it. In this post, you will learn how to harvest your vermicomposting bin as well as when. You will also learn what to do with your harvest so that you can make the biggest impact in your gardening beds outside as well as your indoor plants as well.
How To Harvest Your Vermicomposting Bin
In the last post, How To Get Started With Vermicomposting, I explained that worm compost is also called vermicompost, vermicast and worm castings. In reality, it is worm poop. Not too attractive of a term, I know, but that is what it is. It is black, crumbly, and should smell like, well, the earth, or dirt. This compost is super helpful in helping your plants to grow and thrive in your garden.
When To Harvest Your Vermicomposting Bin
The typical starter bin is usually begun with about a pound of red wiggler worms. One pound of worms is about 1000 or so worms. Those 1000 or so worms usually will produce worm castings in about 6 months from the date the bin was started. Once you harvest your bin the first time, you should be able to harvest a small amount about every month thereafter.
Keep in mind these three simple considerations for a successful harvest:
- The bin must be set up correctly and maintained correctly.
- The more worms you started with the more you will harvest.
- Your worm bin must have enough room for the worms to grow and reproduce.
Vermicomposting Harvesting Methods
There are quite a few ways to harvest your worm bin. Let me say before I mention these methods, that when harvesting your bin, the worms must be separated from the castings and this can sometimes be a bit tricky. After all, you want the compost to leave the bin and the worms to stay in the bin to produce more compost.
Method 1: Harvest Your Vermicomposting Bin By Hand
Using your hands is the easiest way to collect worm castings. Using this method you simply dig down to the very bottom of the bin and grab a handful of the vermicompost. You have a choice at this point to add the entire handful to your garden bed, worms and all, or sort out the worms and return them to the bin adding only the vermicompost.
Method 2: The Pyramid Method:
Using this method means waiting until the worms have eaten everything including the bedding so that the entire bin is worm castings. Then you simply dump out the contents of the bin onto a large tarp. You then pile or mound the casting into large piles,(pyramids), and let the worms dig into the pyramid.
Once the worms bury themselves, you simply dust or brush off the castings until you reach the worms. Then the worms bury themselves again and you repeat the brushing process. Repeat this until you are left with only worms in a pile.
Restart your bin with fresh moist bedding as you did this bin and add your worms so they can start the process over. The castings you have on a tarp now go into your garden beds.
Method3: Using Screening to Harvest Your Vericomposting Bin
Using this method involves a screen in a frame similar to a window screen. Hardware cloth works well too. Take some handfuls of your vermicompost from the bin and lay it on the screen. Lay the screen directly on the bedding in your bin and shine a light into the bin for about 12 or so hours to 24 hours.
The worms will leave the screening because they don’t like the light and will leave the screen and bury themselves again leaving you worm castings on the top. Many castings will also fall through the screen but will be on the top of the bedding allowing you to collect it easily.
Method 4: Using a Flow-Through Bin
These types of bins can be purchased or even built yourself. These bins usually have a grate that holds the bedding up above the bottom of the bin to allow the castings to fall to the bottom of the bins without allowing the worms to reach the bottom. This makes harvesting the compost much easier. You can find a flow-through bin on Amazon, here and here.
Method 5: Side To Side Method
This method involves moving all of the contents of your bin to one side while starting new bedding on the other. If you feed your worms only on the new side, they will migrate from the side with all of the castings to the new bedding and food. This allows you to remove the older castings in a few weeks. You also have a jump start on the new vermicomposting bin.
How To Use The Vermicomposting Castings
There are so many benefits to using your worm casting in your garden. Let’s talk about a few ways you can use these castings on your homestead.
Adding Compost to the Soil
If you are starting a new garden bed or simply turning over the soil in an existing bed, you can use the worm castings as a supplement. Simply cover your bed with 2 to 4 inches of worm compost to the top of the soil and start turning or mixing it into your beds.
Adding Compost to Potting Soil
Worm castings can also be added to potting soil when you are transplanting an existing plant or starting seeds for your garden. Just add a bit of compost to the container you are using.
Top-Dress Your Plants
Take some of your compost from the worm bin and simply pile it up around the base of your plants.
Make Compost Tea
Compost tea is basically making an outdoor tea for your plants just as you would make tea inside for yourself. Basically, using this method you will “brew” your compost over a few days and then water your plants with it. In my next posts, How To Make Compost Tea From Worm Compost, you will find recipes and more on how to do this.
Final Thoughts on How To Harvest Your Vermicomposting Bin…
You should now have the knowledge to harvest your vermicomposting bin successfully and even know how to use the harvest you obtain in both your garden beds and your potted plants and starters. Have you harvested your worm bin yet? Do you have other ways of using worm compost? Tell me about what methods you use below.