Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I've Got Worms: Vermicomposting

No, these are not my hands. In fact, this is a stock photo from an unknown source. I am using it to illustrate that even someone like me, who would be totally creeped out holding a double handful of worms, can take up vermicomposting with little or no discomfort. And, man oh man, the compost these worms create from kitchen scraps is black gold.

I've always had a not-so-hot compost pile for my garden and yard waste. Even though I understand the theory behind layering green and brown materials and turning the pile frequently to keep it aerated - in practice I dump all my trimmings on top of the pile and forget it. Just between you, me, and the garden shed, my compost pile has too much green stuff, is anaerobic (lacking oxygen), and takes at least a year to produce usable compost. I'm just not into the hard work on the business end of a pitchfork in order to make compost faster.

That's where the worms come in. They take all (or most) of the backbreaking work out of creating rich compost and do it fairly quickly - at least, that's what I've been told. The set-up and maintenance seems to be dead easy. Basically, you fill up a large Tupperware bin with shredded, moist newspapers, add a small amount of kitchen scraps (vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds, filters, and tea bags), and add 1 lb. of Red Wriggler worms. I got my worms from a dairy farm that uses them in composting cow manure and they cost $20 per pound. Theoretically, worms can consume half their body weight each day. That means I should be able to add 1/2 pound of kitchen scraps each day, burying the scraps under the top layer of newspaper to keep down odors and fruit flies. At the end of 5-6 months (or so I'm told) this first bin will be full of super-rich brown compost and power packed with worm castings (a.k.a. worm poo).

No sweat. No complicated layering of brown and green materials. No back-breaking turning of a pile with a pitchfork. Just feed the worms, they eat, they poop, and I get compost for the garden. Bonus...in addition to the compost, I also get "worm tea." This is a concentrated miracle liquid that leaches out of the compost. 1 Tbsp. to a gallon of water makes a wonderful liquid fertilizer or a rejuvenating tonic for weak or sickly plants. Worm tea comes highly recommended by almost everyone on the orchid forum I visit. It's saved many an orchid from dying the death of a rag doll at the hands of newbie and expert orchid growers alike.

If you'd like to give worm composting a try, here's a link for more information on constructing a worm bed. Let me know if you decide to give it a go. I'd love to hear from other gardeners who (like me) will try anything once.


Tatyana said...

Hi Jean! Good post! For several years, I remembered to turn my compost pile. Now I do exactly what you do - just dump new stuff on the top. I think I've been spoiled since our friend brought a load of horse manure a couple years ago, and I still use it. I should give a serious thought to a worm farm!

Frugilegus said...

Hi Jean, Hope your worms are settling in well. I set my bin up a couple of months ago and my first batch of vermicompost is nearly ready - so you might not have to wait as long as you were told. It's a very satisfying process!

disa said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.