From worms to wonderful

It’s true: one worm can produce up to 1,500 more worms in a year. This is good news for all you vermicomposters out there.Image

What? Never heard of vermicomposting? Not to worry: the Internet abounds with useful information about turning kitchen scraps into rich garden soil via the magic of wormpower (red wigglers, to be exact.) But let me backtrack.

When a colleague encouraged me to teach a vermicomposting class at the Arboretum, I hesitated. Worms are cool, but I’ve never had a huge interest in housing them. Plus, tender-hearted person that I am, the fear of accidentally killing off my worms with too much moisture, the wrong kind of food, etc. outweighed the allure of composting with critters.

As it turns out, worms are more resilient than I realized. My eventual decision to teach the class led to a month of worm research and a mail order of red wigglers. (What doesn’t Amazon sell?) The research went well, but the worms were waylaid at the post office for five days due to a March snowstorm. I expected the worst when my package finally arrived but was pleasantly surprised to find the worms wiggling away and ready to get down to the tasty business of decomposition.

Why vermicompost? Like traditional composting, vermicomposting is a great way to recycle what might otherwise be added to the landfill. Unlike traditional composting, vermicomposting doesn’t take up much space, doesn’t have to reach high heats, and doesn’t require turning over (think “worm churn”). Worms produce a lovely black, nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the form of castings, a.k.a. worm poop. Perhaps most importantly of all, worms will provide endless excitement for the children and grandchildren in your life.

While one of my favorite worm websites recommends building your vermicomposter out of wood to form a coffee table (Ha! What a fun surprise for dinner guests!), I would recommend using two lightweight and inexpensive plastic bins instead. Click here for clear and concise directions. Be sure to research first: I was surprised to learn that worm bins require temperatures between 59 and 72 degrees, making them ideal for placement in garages but not in sunny gardens. While worms enjoy a wide variety of foodstuff and can eat up to their weight in scraps a day, they prefer to have their food cut up and cannot tolerate the pesticides used on banana peels. A handy guide to worm dining preferences can be found here.

My foray into vermicomposting has only just begun, but I’m confident it will be a success. At least I hope so, because now that I’ve taken on the care of 250 wigglers, there’s no worming my way out of it.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

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