Saturday was quit the day for our Grow Appalachia teen group, Food Commanders. They gave three demonstrations on vermicomposting at the Greeneville Farmers Market in East Tennessee. The teens prepared all week at making home worm boxes and learning how to make worm casting tea. Then they prepared posters and made assignments on who would talk about what and when.
The teens took turns drilling holes in the sides and lids of the totes to allow air inside for the worms to live comfortably. They also drilled a few holes in the bottom of the tote to allow excess water to drain out. We used opaque totes so light would not intrude into the worms habitat. Worms do not like the light. When we try to recreate their outdoor home, they live underground. No light goes underground. The holes were drilled with a very tiny drill bit. This will allow air in, and should be small enough not to allow the worms to escape around the home. Teens chose all different sizes of boxes to take home – some took 18 gallon totes, 10 gallon totes, and 5 gallon totes. They based it on the size of gardens they have, and what they thought would fit in the space they have in their house to keep it. The smaller size totes are really nice to fit right under your kitchen sink. Very handy at dropping a handful of vegetable scraps into after cleaning.
Here are two of our girls, Addie and Terry, tearing and soaking shredded newspapers to use as bedding. They were very dedicated at the Farmers Market to keeping paper soaking, wringing it out, and fluffing it out in the box. For an indoor box, cardboard can be used as well. I would stay away from leaves for the indoor box, just to keep bugs down in the house. I don’t know about everyone else, but I hate finding unsuspected bugs in my house!
The teens were very excited to give the demonstration, but nerves did set in, especially when our local radio station was there and asked our teens to speak on the air. One young man was extremely excited too, pointed out he didn’t think he would ever be on the radio, then the only thing he could say is we are doing a worm composting garden demo. Then he handed the phone back to the interviewer! He said he couldn’t think of what to say. The first demonstration was the same for everyone. They locked up and couldn’t remember what to say. They all laughed about it when they finished. Each one pointed out what each one of them forgot and how nervous they all became. They all laughed it off, and by the second one, they had settled down and could remember what to do. They discussed housing, bedding, feeding, troubleshooting, oxygen, water, and how to make a tea.
In preparing to show how to make the tea, I had brewed some up ahead of time, then the teens brewed up their own. One of the young men, Sydney, said, “it looks like you are doing something illegal in here!” I couldn’t but laugh. He took the lead on demonstrating how to make the tea at the farmers market. He is excited to potentially make this at home. I told them I would get items for them to brew their own tea with the worm castings they will get from their home bins. Sydney, along with three or four other teens, took tea home for their gardens. Almost all the teens, which was so exciting for me, wanted their own worm boxes at home! I don’t know how their mothers feel about crawlies being in the house, but I was so excited that they wanted to compost and create a natural fertilizer! This is the first group I have had that were excited to take them home!
Here, the teens are filling socks (tea bags) with worm castings. I think Fernando (red shirt, second picture), looks like he is up to something that amounts to no good with his sock. Yes, we had a few flying socks for a short time, but it did not stop them from making the tea. Here is the steps the teens followed to make their worm casting tea:
5 gallon bucket filled with non-chlorinated water
1 fish tank air bubbler with an air stone at the end of air tubing (all can be found with fish tank supplies at any local pet store or Walmart.)
1 rock or small brick (we place our air tubing/stone under it. It is important for the air to circulate through the entire bucket to keep the microorganisms alive)
1/4 cup of honey, molasses, or corn syrup (the sugar is food for the microorganisms. As they eat it, they will begin to multiply. By the time the tea perks, their will be millions of beneficial microorganisms!)
5 cups of worm castings
2 tube socks (old socks can be used. I split the 5 cups into two socks. I think they brew better in two verses one sock.)
Turn the air bubbler on and let brew 12-24 hours. The microorganisms will begin to dye after 24 hours, so make sure you use it up quickly after making. I prefer to brew 12-18 hours and use. After about 18 hours, the brew does begin to smell. I generally use a watering can and apply the liquid to the plants. Some have used a sprayer, your preference. You can also dilute the tea – half tea half water. We dilute depending on our plant needs. If they are stressed, or undernourished, we do not dilute. If you have been fertilizing regularly, then we dilute. Use your best judgment. I have used this on severely distressed plants, and within a couple of days noticed a difference in their appearance.
The teens and I enjoyed playing with the worms, setting up bins, making tea (no it’s really not illegal!!!), and demonstrating the process at the farmers market. The market asked us to come back in the fall for another demonstration. By the fall, they can share stories of their bins successes/failures, their improvements, and their gardens growth from the worms. There is just nothing more exciting than youth, and not just any youth but TEENS, taking an interest in something besides cars or video games!