By Veronica Sliva
Cathy Nesbitt of Bradford, Ontario was afraid of
worms until the year 2000. Then she found out that
worms can eat half their weight in kitchen garbage and at
the same time create wonderful compost for her garden.
She has since developed a new attitude. Ask any
gardener. Compost is black gold. So, why go out and buy
the stuff when you can make it yourself with the help of a
few worms? At the same time you are helping to solve an
environmental problem too.
Ms. Nesbitt, the owner of Cathy's Crawly Composters,
ships worms and composting kits all over North America.
She says, "I'm an avid environmentalist and my mission
is to raise awareness about vermicomposting."
Vermicomposting? Yes ... it's composting with a little
help from some creepy crawlies called Red Wigglers.
The process is simple; the worms eat organic matter like
kitchen scraps, make worm castings (poop to us) and
breed more worms, It's the worm poop that we can use in
Why Red wigglers?
Red wigglers come from the same family as the
common earthworm (sometimes called Night Crawlers),
but the important difference is that regular earthworms
make burrows (up to 6 feet deep) and draw food down
into them. Red wigglers are top feeders and like to eat on
the go. They scavenge for food julit 6 inches to 12 inches
below the surface, making them perfect for a composting
Vermicomposting is usually done indoors because the
worms prefer 16 to 21°C (60-80° F), although Ms. Nesbitt
says, "The bin can stay outside in spring, summer and
fall. But, in winter they need to be inside somewhere.
Some people keep them in the basement; some prefer
the convenience of keeping a bin in the kitchen. Some
people even keep them in a closet. The worms are
happy wherever they live, but they prefer dark and quiet
conditions so avoid bright lights, vibration and excessive
Managing a worm bin is relatively simple. An aerated
container is filled with worm bedding (shredded
newspaper and dried leaves, or straw), a small amount
of soil, and a pound (half a kilogram) of red wigglers.
Bacteria and other organisms break down food scraps
buried in the bin. The worms eat everything in their path
-- waste, organisms, and bedding. Afterward, they excrete
the castings ... a soil-like rich, dark humus.
Red wigglers eat most things organic including fruit
and veggie scraps, bread, coffee grounds and filters, tea
bags, grains, plant trimmings, paper, leaves, etc. Typically
two pounds of red wigglers recycle one pound of organic
matter in 24 hours. They eat half bedding and half food
scraps. Ms. Nesbitt says, "You'll get enough for your first
compost harvest in three to five months".
Feeding the worms is easy. You simply pull back the
bedding (shredded paper, shredded leaves, peat moss,
wood shavings or chips, chopped straw or hay, sawdust),
and add chopped up food scraps, then cover the food
scraps with bedding.
Using worm compost
The worm castings can be used immediately, or stored
for future use. They can be added directly into the garden
or mixed with soil. They can be used as a top dressing for
indoor or outdoor plants. You can also make a "compost
tea" by adding a couple of inches of castings to a watering
can or rain barrel. Let castings and water to "steep" for a
day or so, mixing occasionally. The resulting "tea" helps
make nutrients already in the soil available to plants.
Water plants as usual.
Kids love worms
Unlike many adults, kids are fascinated with all things
Yucky, and worms qualify. Getting kids involved with
vermicomposting is a fun and fascinating way for them
to learn about recycling and composting. See yucky.kids.discovery.com/flash/worm/index.html for an
entertaining and educational website for kids.
For more information visit www.cathyscomposters.
com. Contact Cathy's Crawly Composters, toll free at
1-888-775-9495 or email@example.com.
The City of Toronto also has worm composting
information at www.toronto.ca/compost/withworm.htm.
Veronica Sliva is a freelance writer living in Durham Region. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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