Grit Blogs > Pasture Deficit Disorder

Vermicomposting

Cheryl in Texas head shotWe are finally worm (Eisenia fetida, aka red wigglers) parents again. I know there are few out there that can appreciate that. But that's okay - we're excited.  Even if worms don't do anything for you personally, you should have a healthy respect for them since they do have something to do with almost everything you eat, but don't usually get any credit, kind of like our bee friends. They are truly amazing though.  Vermicomposting is awesome!

We had our first worm “herd” in Colorado.  And we were quite successful with them – they multiplied exponentially.  But we sold them to some like-minded folks when we migrated back to Texas.  It's so interesting to learn about them again and how different it is to manage them in a different climate.  They certainly are not hard to take care of, but it is different in Texas vs. Colorado even though t they are inside, and therefore, climate controlled (YES!  Our worms live in their high rise “condo” in a corner of our dining room.  And I dare say, you would never know it if we didn’t point it out or you didn’t know to specifically look for them.)  Even indoors, the heat and humidity are much different here than in Colorado and it just requires different adjustments to keep their environment optimal.   My wonderful hubby has built each of our worm condos, and while I might be biased, they really are quite nice. He continues to record changes he'll make to future worm bins so that we have optimal housing units. 

Worm binYou could even say red wiggler worms are the perfect pets. They don't hog the bed; they do shred newspaper, but only the stuff we give them (unlike one of our furry daughters who loves to destroy magazines in our absence); they don't have to go for walks; they're SUPER quiet (although our snow dogs are pretty darn quiet too); they don't shed; they don't have to be brushed; they eat our garbage, and not $45/bag food; they don’t try to hog your pillow at night (unlike our cat). Recently there was a great article in “Texas Gardener” magazine about vermicomposting. The guy referred to himself as a "worm rancher" because it had a great "Texas" ring to it. We really like that! After all, we've always referred to our worms, not to mention the rest of our furry clan, as "The Herd."

It’s hard to take a picture of the worms themselves to show you. They're not really the publicity divas you might think. And they don’t show up very well against the background of rich, black compost (Black Gold!) they leave behind as they recycle our kitchen scraps for us. It’s wonderful to use in the garden.

If you’re into composting even a little bit, I’d encourage you to think about trying it with worms. There’s lots of information out there to help you get started. They’re easy to start on a small scale – even in urban environments.

Here are a few things we’ve learned. Do not feed your worms any animal products (meat, cheese, dairy, etc.). Don’t feed them citrus, onions or garlic. Cut produce into manageable chunks - don’t just dump a whole vegetable in there, it’s hard for them to manage that. They are much more efficient with smaller pieces. They like high density. If you throw in an egg shell or avocado skin, you will probably find a TON of worms stacked up in there together. We give them our coffee grounds. Worms need some grit to help break down food in their gizzards - soil or sand work. I’ve read of using corn meal before. For us, the coffee grounds seem to work great and the old boy we got our first herd from claimed that coffee grounds were “like Viagra for worms.” No kidding. I did not make that up. As mentioned in a previous post, we’ve started getting a fresh produce delivery from a CSA organization. They pack our produce on a layer of shredded newspaper (in a plastic tote) each week. We eat the veggies, the worms get the scraps, AND we have a ready source of shredded newspaper for their bedding.

I could go on and on, but that’s it for now. Until next time, worms rock and bees rule!

 

cindy murphy
2/21/2012 1:53:01 PM

We did vermicomposting for a few years at the nursery as part of our Children's Garden demonstration, and the "Worm Bin" was always a big hit. Once, I was teaching a Girl Scout troop about soils - clay versus sandy versus loam, and what is optimum for growing most plants. Part of the class included each of the girls planting a strawberry plant for them to take home. I had them mix the growing medium used to plant the strawberry - it included topsoil, a bit of organic slow-release fertilizer, and plenty of compost.....of which I took before the group arrived from the worm bin. (These were not city kids, btw; it's a rural area and many of them live on farms.) The look on the girls' faces when I told them they were elbow deep in worm castings was priceless - think a kid-like word for "castings" here (when I typed it the first time, my comment was deleted). The look on the Girl Scout leader's face was more so! Great post, Cheryl - and it brought back a fun memory


nebraska dave
2/21/2012 4:36:47 AM

Cheryl, worms in the house huh. I'm not sure I'm ready to love my worms that much. The only worms in my life are the night crawlers I find to go fishing. In a way they do provide food to eat but not from compost. I've not really thought too much about raising worms. They come and they go in my garden beds and if they can make it past the spring Robin feast then their good to go the rest of the year. Living in the urban area of town where lawns are bathed in chemicals that are not worm friendly, I really don't see a huge amount of worms. If I could find a person that would take care of bee hives, I would allow them to use part of my newly acquired property. I just don't want the responsibility of caring for the hives. I think it would be a productive thing to have bee hives next to a garden. I'll have to think about that a bit more. Have a great vermicomposting day.