Friday, May 20, 2011

Urban Land Scouts--Composting with Worms

This past Wednesday at Beardsley farm, the Urban Land Scouts had their penultimate meeting of the series and learned how to make worm-bins out of five gallon buckets.  And although I'd known about composting with the help of worms for a while, I've never really bothered to do it--after all, we have a (somewhat successful) compost pile. Why bother with the worms, I thought? Actually, that's not true, and that's not what I thought at all. Earlier in the spring, I tried to make a worm bin out of buckets, and failed; I knew my failure by the worms' determined escape from the home I had created for them. I abandoned the project and released the worms back into our compost pile, not really reflecting on my failure until now.

At the workshop we learned that if worms are escaping their home, that means something is not right in their environment; we also learned that it is necessary for worms to have some sort of moist bedding--we used soaked newspaper shreds--to be happy. (After all, as Shannon reminded us, "A dry worm is a dead worm." The picture is of her showing us how to make the bedding.) It is exactly this bedding that I neglected to make in my earlier attempt, although I knew that worms love to eat half-composted fruits and vegetables and need a little shovel-full of dirt in their habitat.

I still feel a little strange taking worms out of their natural habitat and keeping them in a bin in our kitchen; however, now that I know that this type of worm thrives on food scraps, and would soon die off  if put into the garden bed (as was soon to be the fate of the worms we dug up from Beardsley's compost), I feel a little better.

For some reason what was most surprising to me was that Shannon was handling the worms and the compost without gloves, and so lovingly! She would take a mostly rotted apple, break it apart and show us how the worms love its moist environment. She instructed us to feed the worms in our bin by burying the food scraps somewhere beneath the bedding, and as squeamish as I started out the workshop, I think that I will be ready to do this in a day or two. After all, it's just worms, and my own food scraps, and newspaper--all things that I decisively handle.  Make soil with the help of worms!
Inside the worm bin--see the worms?


radioactivegan said...

The worm picture is like a Where's Waldo. I'd really like to try doing this in my new place, although I don't have anything to do with the compost. Perhaps I can start a container garden. Do you think that compost would work well for that? I think my chances of finding a house to move into immediately are slim-to-none.

zemmely said...

Worm castings (poo!) work well for any kind of plant--container plants especially, because they can't get additional nutrients, they're just stuck with whatever is in the pot to begin with. And the compost bin can be a fairly unobtrusive under-the-sink kind of thing. Even if you don't have a lot of worms, you can still make the best of your scraps and feed them every few days or so.

And you're right about the worm picture--the worms hate sunlight, and immediately buried in the compost as I was trying to photograph them!