All You (N)ever Wanted to Know About Harvesting Worm Poop

We have previously established how awesome it is to have a bucket of worms under your sink, in your pantry, or hidden under the bed. Now that you’ve set everything up, your worms are settled into their new home, and they’ve had the opportunity to eat (and subsequently poop – a lot), you’ve made it to the next step – actually doing something with all of that poop.

After all, while it’s nice to be able to compost some of your kitchen scraps using worms, it’s extra nice to fertilize your basil and tomatoes with their, ahem, output. That will be the topic of discussion today: harvesting worm poop.

Step 1: Scope out the worms. I have been actively feeding only one side of the bin (the brighter, fresher looking side on the right) and allowing the worms on the other side to process as much old food as they can. Once I’m done with this harvest, I’ll keep feeding the fresher looking side for a bit, then move back to the other side and eventually harvest the right side of the bin. Basically, if you have one active-feeding side, the other side will be where you plan to harvest next once the worms have processed it.

20120407. The left side will be what we harvest today.

The left side of the worm bin, looking ripe for harvest.

Step 2: Scoop that poop! Scoop the most poop-laden side out onto a plate, preferably in a nice rounded pile. Worms don’t like light, and, as you will soon see, we are going to take advantage of their desire to get away from light as we harvest.
20120407. A whole pile of poop.

Step 3: Make a smaller, more manageable pile, and give the worms a few minutes to work their way towards the center of the ball. Remember, they want to get away from the light, and letting them do so will make your life easier.

20120407. Piling up the worm poop sends the worms to the center of the ball, making it easier to harvest.

Hi, guys!

Step 4: Begin harvesting. Slowly pull off pieces of that lovely black gold from the outer layers of the ball with a spoon, putting it into a Tupperware or other long, shallow container. As you remove pieces from the outside, you can throw any worms you encounter or less processed pieces (my worms just cannot get through the inner layer of edamame, for instance) back into the bin. As you work, the worms should be working themselves farther and farther towards the center of the ball and away from the light.
20120407. Beginning to harvest the worm poop.

Step 5: Revel in the magic of a giant pile of worms. Once you’ve gotten to the center of the ball, you will encounter a writhing mass of worms. RAD! After you have oohed and ahhed over how cool they are, put the poor dears back in their home – they’ve had enough excitement for one day.

20120407. Worm ball.

WRITHING BALL OF WORMS! MAGIC!

Step 6: Rinse and repeat with the remaining giant pile of poop on your counter until it’s all been processed.

20120407. Post-harvest worm poop!

I don't really have heartburn over having pieces of paper and bits of food still in the final product. It will all dry out, and I figure those pieces of paper are soaked in the same good nutrients I want for my plants.

Step 7: Add bedding. Now you’re ready to put some bedding back into the side of the bin you just harvested.
20120407. The end - time to keep feeding!

Step 8: Save the babies. Some people probably don’t care about this, but I like to save as many worm cocoons as I can from the stuff I just harvested and put them back in the bin. You know, cycle of life and all that crap. Plus, worm cocoons just look really cool.
20120407. Worm cocoon.

Step 9: Air it out. There is a lot of organic matter in there still, and if you let it sit wet, well, it gets stinky and funky and just plain gross. All it takes is letting it sit in a shallow container for a week or so, out of reach of any animals or small children. You might need to turn it over or stir it to dry it out completely.

On a related note, the other morning as I was tending to the cats, chickens, and worms, and it occurred to me that I tend to the input and output needs of a lot of different creatures on a daily basis. Weird. Also, speaking of worms, the chickens’ new cutest trick ever is playing keep-away with worms from the garden (no, I haven’t brought myself to feed them worms from the worm bin – it just doesn’t seem right!).

Next worm update: what to do with all that poop!

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