Monday, December 26, 2011

Vermicomposting in Cape Town

In 2008 I wrote about starting to vermicompost in Boston. I started our new Cape Town worm bin about 2 weeks ago, and the worms are eating well and seem healthy and happy.

Worm bins are a quick and easy way to get concentrated, natural compost while drastically reducing your trash output. Worm castings provide almost all the nutrients your plants could need. And worm farming is very scalable: in Boston we started with just 50 worms and a very small set of bins, in Cape Town we're starting with 500 (though they're smaller) in a large bin, and I have a dream- once we're settled down- of canceling our rubbish pickup and repurposing our giant rubbish bin (used for rubbish pickup) for a larger scale farm.

Pros of vermicomposting in Cape Town:

  • You can leave the bin outside (in the shade) all year round, or have it indoors- either way, the worms will be ok. 
  • In Cape Town, without any recycling pickup (unless you pay for it), there's the great advantage to having a place to recycle small bits of paper, junk mail, and the like. Worms don't like glossy paper very much, but the worms should be able to take all the paper waste in our house, as well as rags and so on.
  • Our diet seems to fit pretty well with what the worms like: fruit scraps, bread leftovers, greens, papers. At least in summer, our supply (at my parents house) seems just right for the worms as they establish themselves.
The only con seems to be that you can't stock up on worms from bait shops, as in Boston. Most of the fishing shops here seem to be for ocean fishing (where worms aren't used as bait). So I had to buy worms at a gardening shop, where they seemed overpriced (R253 for 500). You also don't need to buy a ready made bin, which are overpriced and, I think, way to small for if you're trying to do serious vermicomposting. We used the bins we shipped to South Africa, drilled holes, and added newspaper.  

If you'd like to start, you're welcome to visit us in Observatory and check out the worm farm- I'm hoping to be able to share the wealth of worms as they multiply.


ET said...

This is quite a treasure post! My dad naturally started composting in our home in Fier, but has not yet moved to vermicomposting and I wonder what kind of worms would do? Is there a better time of the year to set it up in a place like Boston (I assume its climate is nearer that of Albania ;))?

loved your christmas card - cannot wait to meet Noah and all of you live soon(ish) ;).

Concrete Gardener said...

The best worms to use are "Red Wriggler" or "Red Crawler" worms- they just look like earthworms. Basically they like eating food scraps and leaves better than plain soil. They're used a lot in fresh-water fishing. You may want to check out agricultural stores/garden stores- they're used quite a bit in agriculture.

Any time of year is fine, but perhaps start them indoors if you're starting in winter in Fier. Basically they shouldn't be below around 5C, but they create quite a bit of warmth also. But after they're settled, they're very resilient.

Yes to seeing you soon =)

emily said...

Hi Jo and ET, the "technical" name for these worms, especially if you can't find them offline and have to order them is Eisenia foetida. They are uniquely suitable for vermicomposting as they are not particularly territorial like some other species (I know, crazy, worms, territorial?). I'm sure there are other reasons.. but that's my favourite one!

Darren B said...

Just saw this post. Sent the link to Carla. We just started composting. We wanted to do worm composting, but we got intimidated by the start up issues.

Our town was selling really cheap composting bins, so we got one there. Carla got really excited about it, which was kind of cute. One thing, I've realized after composting for about a month is how much organic waste we produce. Still not sure if we're doing this right, but we'll keep it up and see how it works out for us.