Worms: little garbage eaters!
I have a confession to make. I have been letting worms eat my kitchen garbage for 15 years now. I am not alone! Several of our TSCF tribe let worms eat their garbage. Much of our kitchen waste is turned into an amazingly nutrient-rich amendment for all of our plants courtesy of hundreds of hungry red wigglers that produce worm compost.
Worm composting is very simple. Kids love it, and will really get a kick out of feeding their plate scrapings to a pile of wriggling Eisenia foetida!
All you need for worm composting is a bin, brandling or red wriggler worms, bedding, and food scraps. The system is quite simple, takes up very little space, and can be kept inside or outside. When it is working properly, there is no smell, and it produces valuable “worm tea” and “vermicompost.”
Worm tea is the liquid byproduct of the worms. It is loaded with beneficial microbes and nutrients, and can be used instead of store-bought liquid fertilizer. I use it for my houseplants, and they thrive on it. Vermicompost is the solid byproduct of the worms and microbial decomposition. It is high in nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and many other nutrients required by plants. I use it to amend my garden soil. My friends and family are astounded at the productivity of my vegetable garden, and I owe it all to my worms!
Worm bins can be homemade or purchased. Constructing your own bin is cheap, and a fun project for the entire family. You can find excellent construction plans online. Commercial bins are more expensive, but are specifically built for the special needs of the worms.
No matter how you acquire your bin, make sure it is large enough to hold your kitchen scraps. Worms need 1 square foot of space to process 1 pound of food waste. A bin that is 2 feet wide by 3 feet long and 8 inches to 12 inches deep should be adequate for a family of four. One pound of worms is sufficient to process the weekly kitchen waste generated by a family of four. I recommend buying your worms locally from Yes Compost.
The kitchen waste worms love most are coffee grounds and unbleached filters, vegetable peelings, leafy greens, pasta leftovers, crushed eggshells, and any other fruit or vegetable scraps. Don’t put too many scraps in the bin at one time, or the worms won’t be able to keep up, and your bin will begin to smell. Also, don’t feed your worms meat scraps, bones, or large amounts of fats. Every time you feed your worms, cover the scraps with shredded paper, straw, sawdust or peat moss. This provides their bedding, and helps absorb moisture.
Worms can’t tolerate extreme temperatures. In the summer, I keep my worm bin on the north side of my house where it’s shady and cool. In the winter, I move the bin into my garage. My garage is not insulated, so I wrap the bin in insulating foam, making sure to keep the vents uncovered.
Worm composting is an easy way to reduce the amount of garbage you send to the landfill, while providing your plants with rich compost. And, you can compost year-round, without making trips outside to the compost pile in the cold!
If you don't want to set up a vermicompst system at home, you can sign up for a subscription with Yes Compost. They will pick up your food waste and turn it into Black Gold. It's a WIN-WIN!
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