Friday, February 29, 2008


This is one time when I can point to my sister and say "She started it!" without hearing any protest from her.

In fact, she'll probably brag about it. Several years ago, she got interested in organic gardening, took some classes, and started a worm bin. I was initially fairly neutral about the whole thing. I'd put my garbage in the pail if I remembered, but I left the tending to her.

Except, of course, she left from time to time & I ended up in charge of the garden and, thus, the worms. I got hooked. Maybe I'm easy to please, but the quiet change from apple cores, banana peels, rice-that's-been-in-the-fridge-too-long, and general gunk into rich, dark soil continues to fascinate me. I like peeking in to see what's going on, and I love having nutrient-rich soil to put on my plants.

It's usually pretty much automatic, too. In several years of worm composting--and of doing it wrong (kind of, see below)--we've had only a handful of problems.

In fact, it's our most recent "problem" that prompted this post; we've been getting too good at giving the garbage to the worms rather than dumping it down the garbage disposal and have outpaced the worms; some of the garbage has been outright rotting rather than composting--When things are in balance, it's a pretty seamless transition from scraps to dirt with little to no "yuck" in between.

So, I spent part of yesterday afternoon setting up a new bin. This is where we have the "wrong" setup: The bin is a large, plastic trunk with some holes punched into it for air and something underneath to catch drips. We're not always terribly consistent about the ratio of leaves or paper to garbage, either, which can, but doesn't usually, cause problems. Honestly, if we really *did* chop up the garbage like some of the instructions demand, the composting simply wouldn't happen. And, like I said, our arrangement mostly works quite well.

The bin layout is on the left. The smaller garbage cans are used for holding leaves & other garden waste. The worms munch on those, too.

The picture on the right is the new bin.
Both bins are usually kept covered; I've the lids off in order to arrange things and to let them get some air.

It's quite satisfying, really, sitting out in the sun, setting up a new worm-home, transferring leaves and shredded paper in, and feeling just a bit smug about doing something "good for the environment."

I don't suppose this post by itself will convert you into vermiculturists (or whatever the correct term is), but should you happen to be in the area, and happen to be interested, I've got some nice, red worms you can have to start with; don't worry, this batch is bedded down in leaves--you won't have to take our garbage home with you.

Oh, and whether or not you're interested in composting, I recommend The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart. It's a well-written, fascinating book. I suggest picking up Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, also by Amy Stewart, while you're at it. It has nothing to do with earthworms, but it's equally well-written. Try your local library before going to the bookstore to buy it; you can read a lot more books that way!

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