My house plants have suddenly gone “Sprrroing!!”. It must be the worm poo brew I gave them a week ago. What’s worm poo brew? It’s a handful of worm castings—the black gold red wiggler worms (Eisenia foetida) leave behind when they eat composting organic matter—mixed with water and shaken, not stirred. (By all means stir, if you wish, but shaking’s faster.) The castings and water become a nutrient rich tonic for your plants, which you can slosh in when watering.
Everyone, especially kids, ought to experience the fun of worm composting. It’s magic how banana peels, crushed egg shells, tea bags and carrot scrapings are quietly transformed into the best, free soil conditioner you can get your hands on. (Hint: If your kids are bugging you for a pet, worms make a great start. Most kids are fascinated by worms.)
People often come to think of their worms as helpful pets.
Red Wiggler worms used in vermiculture digest the bacteria and funghi that decompose the food, as well as the newspaper bedding and soft bits of organic matter. Beneficial bacteria and funghi from the worm’s digestion in the castings improves the life of your soil when you add it. The castings are all natural, odor free and non-burning. They really have no smell at all. A worm bin is a miniature ecosystem, matching what happens on the forest floor. The video above shows a super easy and thrifty way to get started with vermiculture.
8 Tips for Successful Worm Composting
- Make sure your bin has holes for drainage, and an underneath container to catch the drips, which can be added to your watering can.
Keep all your best vegetable and fruit material—banana peels, watermelon rinds, mouldy peaches, (take out the pit) liquifying lettuce, tea bags, coffee grinds—for your worm composter. Any overflow, or hard to break down items like corn cobs or avocado pits can go in the city green bin.
- Don’t add citrus, or onion scraps. Worms don’t like these things. And no meat or oils. A little bit of starch like bread is ok, but don’t overload. You can even throw in dog and cat hair. Here is a list of what to feed your composting worms.
- It helps to chop pieces up into smaller ones. A whole broccoli head isn’t a good addition. Sharp kitchen scissors work well to chop up melon rinds, avocado rinds and even thicker foods. Some people make a mush with a blender. (I want to try that, but I’d keep a separate blender for worm food, I think.)
- Use the freezer as a holding tank when you have extra organic matter. Freezing will kill any fruit flies.
Keep your composter dark. Cover with a dark cloth to keep out the light. A cloth cover also keeps fruit flies from finding the stash. I use a couple of overlapping tea towels.
- Get a paper shredder and use it. You’ll have ready made worm bedding for free. Newspapers, bills, junk mail, paper bags and cardboard all make great shredded bedding. I love recycling all my junk mail this way. Throw in a small amount of sand and garden soil when first starting your bin.
- If you live close to a coffee shop, ask for their old coffee grounds; they’re an excellent addition to your composter. Starbucks has a program called Grounds for your Garden, where they repackage used coffee grounds in the packages the beans are delivered in and give them away for free. If your local Starbucks isn’t participating in the program yet, just bring a bucket and ask them to load it up.
- Harvest your castings after a few months. There are several ways of doing it. You can dump worms and castings on a tray and make a mound shape. Worms will move towards the bottom, away from light. Remove the top of pile, it will be mostly worm free. Keep mounding until you are down to a small pile of worms which you can put back in the bin.
- Add finished worm castings to the top of house plants soil, or dig it into garden soil, or make a worm poo brew. A couple of handfuls added to soil when planting gives tomatoes and other edibles a good start.