Worm Farming on Alcatraz

As part of our commitment to being as sustainable as possible, we have a worm bin on the island. One of my volunteers, Dick Miner, started it two years ago and has since become nicknamed the Worm Man of Alcatraz.

Dick outlines in a few easy steps how you can make your own worm bin.

To start a worm farm one needs a simple container. We use a Tupperware container in which small holes have been drilled for air exchange. Fill the bottom half with bedding, we use coconut coir, this is the fibrous material of the coconut. The bedding should be moist but not wet. Coconut coir can be purchased in many good nurseries.  In Marin, it’s the nurseries the specialize  in native plants that carry coir and red wigglers.  

 

Sturdy container for the bin with small holes. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Next, ordering the worms. One should start with maybe a 1/2 pound of red wigglers. The worms can be ordered through worm farming websites, Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm which is in Pennsylvania is where we ordered ours from.  Another web site that is good is Worm’s Wrangler in the Northwest.  

The worms will eat most kitchen scraps, just not meat or dairy products.  They love coffee grounds, melons, and salad greens. They are picky eaters when it comes to onions, garlic, or peppers. The worms on Alcatraz are fed once a week. Dick buries the veggies in one corner of the box; and next week the next corner and so on. The worms will migrate to wherever the food is. It is vital not to let the box dry out or they will try to leave, making a very slow getaway.

 

Food scraps (dinner for the worms). Photo by Shelagh Fritz

The bedding should be changed when the box gets too wet.  Harvesting castings is a bit tedious.  Dick dumps out the bedding on a tarp and separates the worms from the coir one at a time.  The worms then go into new bedding.  The castings are used in our compost tea, which is sprayed on our roses.

Worm Poop. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

The worm bin stays in the greenhouse under a bench and does not get too hot, the worms can stay outside but they do need to be brought inside for chilly winter evenings.

Visitors on the free docent tour are shown into the greenhouse and get a chance to see the worm bin and if they are lucky, will have Dick as their guide.

 

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