4 Cool Season Pests To Watch For

In the cool season garden, the pests that will be most likely to drive you crazy are worms, slugs, critters that visit for a midnight snack, and the weather. Today, I am going to show you how to get a plan to deal with them all. This is a season of low pest pressure, but we can’t let our guard down. Cool season pests can do serious damage!!

The first step to getting a pest plan is to raise your tolerance to insect and disease damage. There is no need to panic if there are a few spots or a few holes in a few leaves of your plants. Insect and disease problems often come and go without causing a substantial amount of damage. In a vegetable garden on Pinterest, there won’t be any munched leaves on the cabbage and cauliflower, but that just isn’t reality. Chances are, you will have holes in your leaves. And that is not a huge cause of concern.

Left unchecked, however, and insects and disease can quickly reduce or even wipe out crops we have worked hard to grow. So regular monitoring and early intervention are the key. The best techniques to reduce pest problems are proactive. Make it a point to inspect your garden every day, at least in the mornings, preferably morning and evening, to know what is going on.

One of the best defenses against pest problems is to keep your plants in tip top condition through good culture. A healthy, vigorous plant is usually more resistant to disease and withstands insect attack better. Good culture includes proper spacing when planting, and planting the right plant in the right location where it receives the proper soil, drainage, water, light and nutrients.

LSU Ag Center

Starting off right is the best way to help your garden through the season. We focus so much on spacing and soil building and sunlight, and this is why! Now, it isn’t a guarantee because we are dealing with nature of course, but this is a great first step. Now let’s talk about specific pests and how to deal with them.

Worms in the Garden…And Not The Good Kind

In the warm season, army worms and horn worms wreak havoc on our summer veggies. In the cool season we will deal with cabbage worms. They act the same way as an army worm. The come meaning business and are very hungry. These worms make the leaves of your plants look so raggedy and drive gardeners crazy.

These are the two most common cabbage worms we will see this season, and believe it or not, the easiest way to get rid of them is to just pick them off. Generally, you can get rid of them before they do too much damage if you are inspecting at least once a day. Some signs to look for are always black or green residue on the leaves. When you see that, you know that a worm is close by. You will also sometimes see their web. The leaf will be rolled over with webbing inside of it. If you see this, pry open the leaf and you will most likely find a worm inside.

There are a couple ways to get rid of them. Picking them off is gross, but it is very efficient. You can also hose them off of your plants. Chickens love to eat them, so if you pick them off, pass them along to the chickens for a little treat!


Companion planting is the key to prevention for fall worm invasions. Planting marigolds and nasturtiums really help out in the pest control department. The worms LOVE these plants , so they will wreak havoc on nasturtiums, particularly, but will leave your brassicas alone. AND, the spiders feast on the larvae (worms) that are all over the nasturtium, keeping them from coming back next year! Companion planting is key!

You can also use Dipel Dust to kill any infestation of caterpillar that you can’t seem to get rid of. Remember, in order for this to work, the worms must ingest the dust. This is only a good remedy for worms you are seeing. If you aren’t seeing worms, but you are seeing munching, you may have another pest problem.

Slugs and Snails In The Garden….Harmless? No Way!

Slugs are one of the most common garden pests during the cool season, and facing a slug infestation is serious business, filled with slime trails, damaged leaves, and missing seedlings. The truth is that organic slug control is both manageable and affordable, when you’re armed with the right tools. Here is how to deal with these garden gobblers.

Now that the weather is cooling off, the slugs will begin coming out for a midnight snack more often. Garden slug control can be difficult because many times the problem is misdiagnosed and the damage is blamed on another garden pest. Since slugs feed primarily at night, gardeners tend to notice the damaged plants, but they can’t find the culprit when they search the garden during the day. So, the cause of the damage becomes a mystery and the gardener might choose to spray the plant with a general insecticide in an attempt to kill the bug, which is useless, of course, against a slug.

So what do you do?? You have to get smarter than them. If you have had damaged leaves on your plants, but aren’t seeing any worms, you may have slugs coming to visit. If you are gardening in raised beds, the chances of slugs finding your plants are less, but if you have been spraying your lawn for cabbage moths in the last few weeks and now you have vegetable damage, you may have inadvertently driven the slugs to your garden. Here are some signs:

• If you come out to the garden in the morning and nothing remains of your seedlings but leaf mid-ribs and stumps, slugs are a likely culprit.
• Perfect, round holes in tomatoes, strawberries, and other soft fruits can also indicate the slugs are coming by.
• Ragged holes in leaf edges and centers is another sign of slugs.
• Slime trails on plants, walls, rocks, or mulch are another tell-tale sign of slug troubles.


Seeing any of these signs?? Let’s talk about how to test the waters to see if you may have a slug problem. It is easier than you think. Next time you snack on a citrus fruit like a satsuma, unpeel the rind carefully so you can keep one bowl-shaped half in tact. Poke a hole that’s large enough for a slug to fit through, and then sit the fruit upside down like a dome in a shallow pan of soapy water in your garden. The sweet scent will lure slugs in, distracting them from their usual meal: your plants. If a predator doesn’t get to them first, you will have a nice dish of dead slugs in the garden the next morning.

One of the best ways to prevent slugs from coming to your garden is to water in the mornings, not the evenings. Slugs and snails love a moist environment, so watering at night is like rolling out the red carpet for them!! For many reasons, not just slugs, keep the watering to a morning chore!

Other Critters To Watch Out For In The Cool Season Garden

Visitors like mice, rabbits, deer, and even skunks and raccoons will enjoy those tender baby seedlings the first night you put them out. If you are having a hard time keeping anything past a night or two, you probably have some visitors feasting on your veggies.

A few things can help with critter invasions like creating a scarecrow, or even installing a fence around your garden area. These may be things that you want to look into investing in the off season, but right now as we are just getting our gardens underway, my recommendation is to use the same method for the critters that I will suggest for temperature! You gotta cover the plants! Let’s talk about that now!

Freezing Temperatures Are The Biggest Pest of All

While worms and slugs and even pesky critters can and will do extensive damage when they pay us a visit, nothing will wipe out a garden faster than an unexpected frost or a dip down into freezing temperatures when you aren’t prepared.

Here are The Veggies That You Have To Keep An Eye On

  • any newly planted tender seedlings
  • tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumber
  • basil, mint, warm season herbs
  • pumpkins
  • okra
  • beans

If you have any of these growing now, you will want to begin making preparations for covering them now, not the day of the freeze warning. With a first frost date usually falling in early November for most of South Louisiana, we are overdue now and need to get a plan to protect our hard work.

Tip: All summer veggies should come completely out this month. Their fruit will be mushy if there is a frost, whether they are covered or not, so don’t give them any more time. Instead, plant something for the cool season in their place where your production will be so much more.

The most uniform way to protect your vegetables for both critters and frosts is to cover them. You not only need frost protection for newly planted seedlings and some veggies, but if you are seeing critters, this is a great way to protect your veggies from them at the same time. Your brassicas, leafy greens, and root vegetables are all frost tolerant, so no need to worry about them, but they are also a favorite of the overnight visitors, slugs, and worms.

Use a lightweight cloth for insect protection. This will allow sun and water to filter through, but at the same time keep the critters at bay. This is the fabric I like to use. For a frost protection fabric, choose something a little bit heavier like this, or just plan to cover newly transplanted seedlings when needed with a bed sheet, or sleeping bags work well. The only difference is that when using a sheet you will have to uncover them the following morning to allow them to get sunlight.

I hope this has been helpful to you. While there is no easy answer that will solve all of our garden woes, these very few pests will most likely be all you deal with this season. Taking measures now to stop them in their tracks will do wonders for your garden in the coming months.

Join me live for Wild Child Wednesday, every Wednesday at noon on Facebook! This week I will be sharing about getting a frost protection plan and how to know when to put it into place. It is easier than you think when you’ve got a plan!! I will also have a free handy download for you too!! I have taken all the guess work out of frosts and freezes, and I am going to help you get a plan too! Join me!!

Nurture Others With Your Garden

Nurture the garden this month, and in turn it will nurture you right back. Then, you can nurture others. It is a beautiful harmony and the most fulfilling part of backyard gardening. Gardening brings out the best in people, and with the fruit of your labor, you can change the world.

Bring over some herbs, give away canned pickles to neighbors, share seeds with friends. This is how you bring the growing season full circle. And the cycle continues. You will be amazed at how these plants will heal your soul, and the souls of those that you share with.

Here are some ways to nurture others with the work of your hands.

Herb Bundles

One of the easiest things to share from the garden is herbs. They need to be harvested, and by now, you may be tired of them. Use what you have to spare to brighten someone’s day. Make a basil bouquet, a mint bundle, or even put together a variety of herbs and bring them to someone else to enjoy. Or have them on hand for visitors who come to you.

Photo credit @tribevantassel (Instagram)

Garden Fresh Bouquets

Cutting flowers is healing to the mind and soul. You will awaken your senses with each flower you cut. The sights and smells will bring your mind to a place of rest and comfort that cannot be overstated. When I am having a rough day, I go out to the garden and start making bouquets. There is something about bringing in these beautiful flowers that just makes things all better.

Remember to leave some flowers for the pollinators, but in the garden symphony, these companions are the most beautiful note. Bring them in to enjoy, or give them away to someone who needs their day brightened.

Spend the Morning Canning

If you have never channeled your inner Ma Ingalls, canning is a wonderful way to simplify your pantry and enjoy the fruit of your labor on a higher level. This practice is soothing and will make you so proud of what you have accomplished in the garden this season. Canning pickles or salsa or two favorites around here to share as well. My go to canning recipe for pickles and my salsa recipe can both be found here.

Supper In The Garden

One of my favorite summer time activities is supper in the garden. Whether it is on a picnic blanket or a fully set table, eating outside is a special treat all in itself. I love to nurture my family and friends by setting a beautiful table, and enjoying supper outdoors. When there is plenty, the garden repays us for our hard work by nurturing us right back with a menu fit for a king. Invite some friends over for a special evening, or just serve your family in the garden. It will make a memory for a lifetime!

Share Your Seeds

One easy way to nurture other gardeners is to share the seeds from your favorite vegetables this season. I have lots of seeds leftover from this year’s planting that I can’t wait to share with other gardener friends of mine. It is a really special thing that can brighten someone’s day when you offer an envelope of seeds and tell your friend how much you loved this variety this season. And sharing seeds is like sharing gold in a lot of ways. There is no telling whether or not the seeds from this year will be available next year. Most experienced gardeners know this, so to share something you love with them, is a big deal. It makes them feel special, and they will always remember your generosity! Changing the world one shared seed at a time!

Share Your Veggies

This goes without saying to most gardeners, but if you have never bagged up some tomatoes for a friend or neighbor, you are missing out on my favorite part of gardening. I think most gardeners would agree that giving away veggies is the most rewarding part of the growing season. To be able to make someone’s day with a bag of produce that you grew is hard to beat. If you haven’t yet, make sure you do that this week.

As gardeners, we have the ability to change the world, one vegetable at a time. And we are on the mission. By nurturing our gardens all month, we have extended the growing season well into the summer, when most gardeners have given up. As we worked to keep the soil in tip top shape, the garden in turn, nurtured us. Now, we have the opportunity to nurture others with what we have grown. It is the best feeling in the world!! Join me this week, and make someones day. Nurture their bellies and souls with a little love from your backyard!

The Wild Child Garden Club will be opening to new members on July 1st!! Don’t miss out on this coaching community!! Subscribe to my email list and receive $5/month off our your Garden Club subscription! Once you see the garden as a symphony, you will grow like you can’t believe!

Letting Go of What Isn’t Working Anymore

Giving up on a garden plant is easier said than done, but at this point in the growing season, there may be cause to let go of something in order to enjoy something better.

What Might Not Be Working In The Summer Garden

Potatoes, lettuce, greens, strawberries, and other cool season veggies are just done at this point in the season. They will not continue producing a high enough yield to make it worth while for them to stay, so you may want to consider letting them go to make room for something better.

Veggies like squash, zucchini, and cucumber are short term veggies, which in the beginning of the season is wonderful because in just about thirty days, they are producing. But in the later season, they have given just about all they’ve got. It may be time to let them go.

What Does It Mean To Let Go?

When veggies are no longer beneficial in the garden, you can cut them off at the ground, leaving the roots behind, and put them in the compost. By doing this, their job lives on as their roots become food for the soil microbes in your garden beds, and the spent plants turn into soil for next season in the compost.

Be sure to jot down when you removed each plant in your garden journal. This will help you next year as you determine how long a particular veggie will take up real estate in your garden bed.

All plants have a life cycle, so it is not something to feel guilty about or question. If you feel that a particular plant has served its purpose, let it go.

How To Know When To Let Go

When veggies begin to look dry and discolored, even after watering, and the fruit production begins to slow, it is a good indication that a veggie is spent. You may have disease or pests, or it just may be the end of this veggie’s life cycle. He has done his job and is ready to move to the compost, where he can continue to serve your garden.

The easiest way to determine whether it is time to let something go is to remember that while not everything is a crisis, if something is looking worse and worse in spite of your best efforts OR if it is no longer bringing you joy, it is time to let go. This can be different for everyone. I still have strawberries in my garden because they still bring me joy….even though I am only getting one or two strawberries a day. They plants are spent. The season is coming to an end. But they still bring me joy, so I leave them.

Gone are the days of a shirt full of strawberries.

And The Cycle Continues

It is not too late to plant something in the place of the spent veggies you remove. Squash and zucchini are great to plant in succession. Keep seeds started indoors and as you remove one plant, replace it with another that you have already growing.

Warm season veggies like okra, melons, and green beans are just starting to get going. There is plenty of time to enjoy them. Plant only transplants this time of year. It is too late to direct sow these summer favorites, but it is not too late to plant a started plant for a late summer harvest.

Finally, it is important to remember to not be afraid to remove what is no longer bringing you joy. In its place, just waiting to be planted, may just be something you really love.

Setting Up A Brooder For Your New Baby Chicks

Before you ever go to the feed store and feel the temptation to bring home all the fluffy cuteness, get supplies together and set up a brooder for your new additions. A brooder is just a fancy term for anything you make a home for baby chicks. They will live here for about 4-6 weeks before they outgrow it, so it needs to be spacious and comfortable for them, and also safe from other pets too. Here is my favorite way to set up a brooder for baby chicks.

Supplies You Need For Your Brooder

Setting Up The Brooder

The first thing you will want to do when setting up your brooder is make a way to attach the secret weapon for brooder happiness. The guinea pig waterer.

This little bottle will change your life from frustration to easy street, trust me. With a traditional chick waterer, the chicks can turn it over, get shavings in it and even use it for a bathroom, leaving you cleaning the brooder two and three times a day. If you take a little bit of time, cut out a small rectangle on the side of the Tupperware bin, and replace the plastic with a small piece of hardware cloth, you can attach the guinea pig waterer to your brooder in no time and keep clean up to a minimum.

You can see how it is done here. Screw the hardware cloth on from the inside to make sure that you don’t injure your babies. This system is a game changer. And is well worth the extra effort.

Next, fill your brooder with shavings about 2 inches deep.

Then add food to the feeder and place the feeder on one side of the brooder.

Finally attach the heat lamp to the top of the brooder and adjust it to a low position of about 6 inches from the shavings.

Understanding The Heat Lamp

In the first few weeks of life, chicken require temperatures of about 95-100 degrees. After about two weeks, you can reduce that temperature by five degrees each week until they are fully feathered. You may be wondering how to know the temperature inside the brooder. And the easy answer is that your chicks will tell you. If you chicks are huddled under the heat lamp, piled on top of each other, and making a lot of noise, they are probably cold and you will want to lower the lamp a bit more into the brooder for them. On the other hand if they are spread out in the far corners of the brooder with their wings open or panting, the brooder is too hot, so raise the lamp up immediately. Keeping your chicks warm, but not hot, is super important. They will signal you and tell you what they need from you, so keep a close eye on them for the first few days as you learn how to keep the lamp at a comfortable height for them.

Also remember this as you are taking them out to socialize them. About five minutes or so is all they can stand in the beginning. Love on them for a short period of time and get them back under the heat in their brooder.

Things That May Go Wrong

A few common ailments you may see in your chicks while they are at this delicate stage are pasty butt and lethargy. Here are some solutions to help if these concerns arise.

Pasty Butt

Pasty butt is pretty common and just as easy to fix. Because the babies do a lot of sitting and sleeping, they may end up with waste caked to their backside. This is very dangerous and can be deadly, so you want to watch for it right from the beginning. If you see this happening with one of your chicks, immediately place her in a shallow bowl of warm water and clean her up real good. You may even find that she loses a few feathers in the process. That is ok. It is just important to get her clean again. Her feathers will grow back. Be sure to dry her off really well when you get her clean. And place her right back in the brooder under the lamp.


Lethargy is common in chicks after they travel across the country to get to you. Then getting adjusted to their new home is just exhausting. You can help your baby chicks by adding a dose of Nutri-Drench to their water the first time you fill it. You will only need to do this one time if you use a guinea pig watering system. If you choose to go the traditional route, you will add it to the chick waterer each time you fill it, for the first week. After about a week, the chicks should be adjusted and settling in well.

Not all chicks will make the transition. It is a difficult one. Don’t beat yourself up if you lose a chick. It happens. Choosing strong and healthy chicks are one way to lessen your chances of losing one, but it may still happen, even if you do everything right.

By following these simple steps, your brooder will be a nice and clean home for your chicks’ first month or so of life until they move out to the coop.

Herbs Are For Everybody

Herbs are one of the easiest and most rewarding things to grow for a backyard gardener. Herbs can be grown with vegetables in the garden or in pots as gorgeous decoration for your porch or patio. Today, I am going to tell you all about herbs…how to grow them, how to harvest them, and how to enjoy them the whole season long.

Growing Herbs

When growing herbs, the first thing to remember is herbs and spices are not the same thing. Herbs are the green fleshy parts of the plants, and species are the seeds, bark, and stems. For example, cilantro is an herb used in many Mexican dishes. But coriander is a spice which refers to the seeds of the cilantro plant. Herbs and spices come from the same plant, but they are different parts of the plant.

Second, with herbs, a little goes a long way. Herbs are prolific. One plant is all you need of each herb you want to grow. Herbs can also be invasive. They will take over their container and smother out their neighbors, so give your herbs plenty of room, and plant them with some companions that enjoy their company.

The herbs above love warm weather and thrive in dry conditions, so make sure you plant some of these in your garden soon. You will see that they have many benefits, in addition to being delicious. Herbs are a huge part of the companion plan that has been so beneficial to my garden for so many years. Herbs will bring in the pollinators, add so much beauty to your space, and smell amazing. And they deter pests! Yes, please!!

Growing Herbs in a Container

Maybe you don’t have room in the garden for all of the herbs you want to grow. An container herb garden might be just what you need. I love to plant containers with herbs for the patio and porch. They grow voraciously and fill in so much faster than ornamental flowering plants, and they are useful. Like all plants, different herbs require different sunlight and water requirements. Below you will find a chart of my favorite herbs that grow well together. Plant these in a large pot and make a beautiful container for your porch or patio. Also, containers look amazing in raised bed gardens. They add dimension to the beds and as the herbs grow and overflow their pots the beauty will just be the cherry on top of the backyard garden.

How To Put Together An Herb Container

When arranging the herbs in your container, the first thing to think about is how tall the plants will get. You want to make sure that your pot is big enough to sustain the weight of your tallest herb. Although hopefully you will be trimming your herbs often, you don’t want to come home to a spilled out pot of herbs because it got too top heavy.

In addition to determining height and pot size, you will want to make sure you plant upright herbs in the back of your pot. Herbs like basil, lavender, chives, and dill will grow in an upright posture, so you want to plant them in the back of your pot. Herbs like rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, parsley, and cilantro grow in a shrubby type form. As you continue to prune and trim and use your herbs, you will continue to encourage that shrubby form. Plant these in the middle and front of the pot. Finally, herbs like mint, thyme, and sage will grow in a compact or trailing form that makes them perfect for the front of your pot. They will stay very close to the soil, but some will actually spill out of the front of the pot, making a beautiful show on your porch or patio. Planting them up front also makes them easy to trim and prune as you need them. Just a little snip off the ends and you get the herbs you need or want, and the herbs get a little haircut that will encourage them to just keep growing.

Photo Credit: diyfanatic

How To Trim Herbs To Keep Them Growing

When harvesting herbs, you have to shift your thinking a little bit, but once you know the tricks, harvesting herbs all season long will be a piece of cake for you.

Harvest from the top to the bottom

Counterintuitive, but the best thing to do is to prune the leaves at the top, not the bottom. The big leaves on the bottom act as a sturdy base.

Take basil for example. When they are only a few inches tall, you want to prune, or “pinch” off the newest leaves at the top from the stem. It may seem weird, leaving the big, full leaves to grow at the bottom. But you need them to act as the basis of your plants to absorb up all the sun. Plus, the leaves at the top are tender and delicious!

Tipping The Top

Remove the end 1-2 inches of your plant’s stem. This is called “tipping.” That exposed end will split and grow into two separate branches. Once you get into the habit of doing that, your plant will become bushier, creating more foliage for you to trim as you need it.

Trim at the Stem

Leafier plants like basil can become bitter quickly after blossoming, so pruning is particularly important. When pruning these types of plants, cut them right where the leaf meets the stem to prevent blooming.

Woodier herbs, like rosemary and thyme, should be trimmed so that they don’t become too woody (as they generally do with age), as no new leaves will grow. As soon as you start to see new growth, trim some of the leaves back at the stem here as well. This will encourage new leaves to grow, which will in turn keep the whole plant growing.

If you want to do more in the garden this season but need some help and encouragement, check out my FREE workshop on January 28th called “Garden Like A Wild Child.” I am going to show you three ways to increase your success in your backyard garden. This is garden gold!! Join us!

You can get all the details here!! I promise you, it will be time well spent as you begin to dream of your spring garden possibilities!!

Photo Credit @RootedGarden

Vermicomposting – Using Worms To Build Your Soil

If starting a composting bin seems like more work than you are ready for, starting a worm bin might be just what you are looking for to start your composting efforts. Maybe you have heard of vermicomposting maybe you haven’t, but it is a fun and easy way to turn kitchen scraps into amazing soil in a short amount of time, with very little work. Give vermicomposting, or composting with worms, a try this spring. You will be surprised!

Photo courtesy of Lazy Worms Supercharged Red Wigglers

Composting can seem intimidating, and maybe feel like a costly endeavor to take on for some gardeners. Maybe you don’t have the space or don’t like the look of a compost bin in your backyard. Or maybe it feels like a waste of time. Vermicomposting takes all of those doubts and turns them upside down and into soil in no time.

Here’s How It Works:

Worms are scavengers and they like their home to be cool, dark, and moist. When you provide them with those three things plus something to eat, they will work day and night turning organic material into a nutrient rich soil that is perfect for your garden beds, containers, and pots. This process only takes around 8 weeks from start to finish, so you can have garden gold to add to your soil in no time!

Keep Their Home Cool

To start, their home has to be cool. This means that you will probably want to keep it in a sheltered location like the garage or laundry room. THE LAUNDRY ROOM? Yes! This method of composting is super discreet, so you never have to worry about smelling the worms or even seeing them. That is because their home just looks like a bin of Christmas decorations. Yep, the ideal worm bin is simply a tupperware bin that you have laying around. We prefer a 35 gallon bin, with a lid, as our ideal size. Use a quarter inch drill bit to drill holes around the top of the bin, NOT IN THE LID where water can get in, for optimum air flow. You can see in the picture below how to drill the holes. I forgot to take pictures of ours when we built it, but this is exactly how we did it.

Photo Courtesy of Homestead and Chill

Keep Their Home Dark

Think about it. Where do worms live? Underground. So you want to mimic that environment for them. It needs to be dark. The easiest way to give your worms a dark domain is to make sure you use a colored tupperware bin. This will not only keep it dark, but also help it stay cool and moist. All things worms love. And as a bonus, because the bin is not see through, nobody will ever know what you secretly have stored in it. SCORE!

Keep Their Home Moist

This is really important. Too wet and the worms will drown because they breathe through their skin. Too dry, and they will dry out and die as well. You want your bin to keep the consistency of a wet sponge. By using a spray bottle or the sprayer at your kitchen sink, this job is super easy. Each week when you add food for the worms, check the feel of the soil. If it doesn’t hold together when squeezed in your hand, add some water. More on this below.

Setting Up Your Worm Bin

So, you have your tupperware bin, and you are ready to go. Perfect. In about 30 minutes, you will have a working worm bin. It is that easy.


Bedding for your worms is the first order of business. We use a combination of potting soil, coco noir, and paper shavings to create the bedding for our worms. This combination doesn’t have to be exact, but the three ingredients are important. The potting soil provides sand and grit for the worms that they need to digest the scraps. The coco noir is loose and fluffy, so it helps the bin retain moisture, and the paper shavings or newspaper clippings give the carbon element that is needed to give the worms energy. They will eat the bedding too, so you will have to replace it occasionally. We usually add a handful of “browns” (small piece of cardboard or paper bags, newspaper clippings, or shredded newspaper) to the bin each time we add food scraps. It keeps everything balanced, and just like in a traditional compost, the browns help to balance the high nitrogen content of the scraps or “greens” we are adding when we feed them.

This is the bedding in a new worm bin we just built.

Tip: Coco noir is sold in bricks that must be rehydrated in order to be used. I place the brick in a shallow bin or bucket and spray it with the hose until it begins to break apart and crumble. Remember, you want a moist bin, not a soggy one. When the coco noir begins to crumble, take it out of the water and work it with your hands in your bin. When it is too hard to break again, place it back in the water for a few minutes. Repeat this process until it is completely crumbled. If you leave it in the water for too long, it will become soup and won’t be usuable.

Food For The Worms

After your bedding is in the bin, the next step is to add food for your worms. This process is simple. Form a small well one corner of the bin. Then take kitchen scraps like vegetable peels, fruit, veggie scraps, egg shells, and coffee grinds and place them in the well. Easy right? That is all you do. Now the next time you feed your worms (anywhere from a few days to a week) you will feed them the exact same way, but on the other side of the bin. This keeps them moving from side to side week after week adding air to the bin as they move along.

Here I added lettuce, sweet potato peels, an apple core, and coffee grinds for food.

Tip: Never use meat, dairy, citrus, or sweets in your worm bins. They don’t balance the bin well and are hard for the worms to break down. Remember that we are what our animals eat, so feed the worms well. And always chop your scraps into small pieces. The smaller the pieces the easier for the worms to digest and the faster the process gets done.

Adding worms

Once you have the bedding down and food in place, it is time to add your worms. You can get worms locally or buy them online at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. We have done both with great success. To get started you will want to purchase between 500-1000 worms. This is a mistake that most people make, and that I made on our first, second, and third worm bins we built. Adding 10 worms is only going to create a nasty mess inside your bin. They can’t eat the scraps fast enough, so bacteria and fungus finds its way in and will overtake the bin in a very short amount of time. Worms will not overpopulate an area, yet they will double their population in no time, so don’t worry about adding too many. 500-1000 worms is a good place to start. When you add worms for the first time, place them right on top of the food pile and cover it all up. This will help your worms get right to work and not have to spend time trying to find the food source when they are first introduced to their new home.

Building a worm bin is a great way to get kids interested in gardening. They love the worms!!
Here we are adding worms to our new bin.

Tip: When buying worms, always choose Red Wigglers. This is very important because they are surface eaters and will devour their body weight in no time. This is the perfect worm for your bin.

Maintaining The Bin

Now all that is left to do is put the lid on the bin and let the worms go to work. Easy huh? They will begin devouring the scraps right away, so check your bin every couple of days and see how things are going. If the bin looks dry, give it a spray of water. If the food is gone, add more.

Keep your scraps in the kitchen and add them to your bin about once a week, or as needed. Mostly, you will be feeding the worms once per week. But check the bin every few days to make sure that they haven’t devoured their last meal already. If they have, just add more.

When you feed your worms, it is also a great time to get the air circulating in the bin. Mix all the bedding with your hands before adding the food. This allows you to see what has been eaten at the same time. You can see if you need more carbon or “browns” and then dig a well again, and bury it just like you did during start up.

Mixing the bedding for our new worm bin during the Wild Child Explorers Club

Tip: If there is a fair amount of food scraps left when you check the bin after a week, add less scraps than you added the first time. You can also add more coffee grinds to the bin as a little bit of an energy booster for your worms. The coffee will get them moving, just like it does for us in the mornings!

Harvesting Worm Castings

After a couple of months, you will begin to see that your bin is filling up with dark, rich castings. Castings is just a nice way of saying POOP! Yep, worm poop is the gold of the garden. The easiest way to harvest the castings is to begin a few weeks ahead of when you want to harvest and just start feeding your worms on one side of the bin only. Almost all of the worms will migrate there to eat, leaving one side of the bin worm free…or almost.

When you are ready to harvest, scoop out the finished castings from that side only. Then go through the castings and remove any rogue worms that may have been left on the wrong side of the bin. If you hitch a few stragglers who end up in the garden, that won’t hurt a thing. They will become useful residents in no time.

After you harvest the castings and put the runaways back in the bin, spread the bedding that is left back across the whole bin, adding more “browns” if needed, and start the process over. The only difference is that this time, you will probably have more worms. That is because worms can double their population in 90 days. So, at the very least, you will probably have more than you started with. That means you may want to add more scraps to the bin each week to keep them happy.

Give the bin a good misting if it needs it, and the lid goes back on. Now you can add those castings to your garden, potted plants, or containers around the yard. These little guys do a lot of work in a short amount of time! You will love them!