Where does soil come from? What do you do with your kitchen scraps and newspaper? Here's an idea to reduce, reuse and recycle all around, and show your kids how soil is really produced! They'll have a close up view of how it happens with this project!
What you need:
- 2 2-liter plastic bottles (remove labels)
- scissors and craft knife
- newspaper (one whole section, we used "sports")
- kitchen scraps (like vegetable peels, coffee grounds, but NO meat or bones ... if you use egg shells, rinse them first and crush them so they don't hurt the worms' soft bodies)
- potting soil
- small plant or cutting
- WORMS ... about a dozen ... all shapes and sizes!!!
- small bucket with a small amount of water
What you do:
1. Carefully punch holes in the bottom of one of the bottles (for drainage). Have a grown-up help with this.
2. Cut the bottom off of the same bottle about 4 inches from the bottom (this will be the planting dish).
3. Cut the top off of the other bottle about 8 inches or so from the bottom (we just followed the existing lines on the bottles, which worked very well).
4. Place the top of the first bottle inside the second bottle so that the screw top points down (remove the lid first, but save it in case you need it to retain moisture later).
5. Fill the planting dish with potting soil and add the plant (this is a great way to root plants like a coleus, just by taking a clipping from another plant, removing the bottom leaves, and then placing the stem in the soil. Be sure to keep the soil moist until it roots). The planting dish becomes the lid for your compost station so that the worms don't escape and will also make it look nice!
6. Tear the newspaper into thin strips (easiest to tear from top to bottom) and soak them in water for a few minutes. Squeeze them out so that they are moist, but not dripping.
7. Chop up your kitchen scraps (smaller pieces break down faster!) and add to the newspaper mix. Try to use more newspaper than scraps (about 1/4 scraps to 3/4 newspaper)
8. Add your worms to the top of the compost mixture. Treat them gently ... they are your workers!!Then have fun watching them wiggle down into the mix.
9. Put the planting dish on the top of the bottle tower so that the worms don't escape.
10. Place your compost station in a cool place, inside (not on a sunny window ... the worms will get too hot and dry out). Check it every few days to make sure it stays damp. Brownish water will collect in the bottom of the bottle. This is "worm tea" and makes a wonderful liquid fertilizer! Pour that on your houseplants. The worms will be chomping away at the contents of the bottle and will turn it into potting soil. This potting soil is actually worm castings ... a nicer name for worm poop!
11. Keep adding scraps and newspaper to your station and you will have a constant supply of rich, healthy soil for your plants!
The best place to find worms is under damp rocks or all over your yard after a rain storm ... they come up to the top of the soil ... dig around, I'm sure you'll find some. We scooped a bunch out of our drainage well outside of our garage. Or if you want fancy super-composting worms, you can order them online.