Parenting Seminars

Monday, August 29, 2011

Worm Bin and Fungus Gnats

Yummy, right?  Yeah, well, it happens.  Especially with just the right environment.  Dark space, basement apartment, no garbage disposal.  You get the picture.  What wasn't going in the bin was going in the garbage and it really doesn't take long.

So here's where we started.  I had a worm bin I had already created a few years ago.  I killed all the worms in my first attempt with too much citrus and onions, or so I thought.  I now believe I killed them with too much food in the beginning.  Like any good composting system, it takes a little while to find the right balance.  But with a pound of worms costing $25 I wasn't ready to try again so quickly especially when we had a yard/food waste pickup system in Seattle that took absolutely every food scrap we created.  SO...we move to Colorado and there is no yard waste or food waste pick up.  And it is suddenly clear how much we throw out that could be turned into that garden gold. 
My husband actually took the leap and ordered the worms which made us really commit.  There are lots of tutorials online for homemade bins.  They are not complicated.  They need some air holes and need to be opaque.  But other than that, the bin is the easy part.  Its the balance of materials that can get difficult. 

We have a paper shredder that never seems to get used for the confidential mail we originally purchased it for.  So instead, it sits in a cabinet next to the bin in the kitchen so I can shred newspapers.  They make a perfect bedding for the worms.  I've been keeping a box ready so its easy to add.  We layered damp bedding, a small amount of soil and the worms in the bin.  Then we spread out some food scraps and added another layer.  The first few days the worms looked so happy.  They were getting big and were very active. 

Then at around the one week mark, gnats exploded in my kitchen.  Its already crazy hot here so fruit is ripening really fast on the counter.  My fridge is overflowing.  But suddenly the kitchen was swarming with them.  It was gross.  So I took the bin outside and my mom and I did massive research online.  Oh the strategies people came up with.  I was starting to feel overwhelmed and like the bin wasn't worth keeping.  I wasn't ready to create a mosquito net bag for the bin and treat it with some spray each time I added food. 

Instead, mom found a simple technique we decided to try.  I like to start simple.  A jar with about a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dishwashing liquid.  Then add a cone of paper.  The gnats fly down the cone attracted to the vinegar only to be trapped by the dishwashing liquid.  And why the cone?  So those flying in can't get out before they drop into the liquid.  Just in case there are some smart ones in the bunch. 

This method is FANTASTIC!!!!  Within hours these little buggers are trapped and drowned.  I get a bit of a high checking how many are settled in the bottom of the liquidy tomb.  I know, a bit morbid, but it works for me! 

To the bin, I've added much more bedding discovering that we probably overfilled it and I dumped an entire batch of pancakes that I messed up which probably tipped the scales in the fungus department and aided the reproduction of gnats.  So we are letting it sit for a while and re-establish itself.  I'm hoping I haven't killed the worms.  Last I looked, they were still there, but not as busy.  I keep reading they just need more bedding.  I'm hoping that is the case and we can get back to business. 

1 comment:

Ruby said...

I was going to say "too bad the shredder isn't doing what it is supposed to do", but it looks like you have found a better job for it! Not only can it get rid of newspapers no one reads anymore, but it transforms them into beddings for worms. Too bad it can't get rid of the gross gnats though. At least it made your worms happy.
Ruby Badcoe @