Worms turn garbage into good-for-your-garden organic fertilizer.
By Melinda Myers
Have the urge to raise livestock, but not the space? Consider becoming a worm farmer. The wriggling recyclers transform kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich compost for your garden—a process called vermicomposting.
It’s a simple and fun activity for the whole family.
Here’s What You’ll Need…
- Large plastic storage bin (about 8 to 10 gallons)
- Bricks or wood blocks
- Plastic tray
- Bedding of shredded paper
- Peat moss or topsoil
- Red worms (check your local bait shop; there are about 500 worms per pound)
- Kitchen scraps from plants (no dairy, meat or cooked food waste)
Build a worm bin
Drill about ten evenly spaced quarter-inch holes in the bottom of the container, another ten on the sides and ten through the lid. Prop the bin up on some bricks and place a plastic tray underneath to capture fertilizer. Keep the bin in a warm, dry, dark place.
Make your worms comfy
Fill the container about three-quarters full with shredded paper and moisten it with water. Mix in a couple handfuls of peat moss or soil to increase water retention and help the worms digest.
Distribute red worms around the bin and close the lid. Leave them alone for a couple days to allow them to burrow into the bedding. One pound of worms can process about a half pound of scraps a day.
Provide food and TLC
Bury kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable scraps, pulverized eggshells and coffee grounds) in the bedding. Add food every couple of days. Rotating the spots where food scraps are buried will help the worms distribute throughout the bin. Water as needed to keep bedding moist but not soggy. Add fresh bedding every four months or when you have more worm castings than bedding.
Harvesting the worms and compost can be a fun family affair. After emptying the finished compost onto a work surface, have one person hold a flashlight over the pile. The worms will crawl to the bottom to escape the light. Slowly scrape away the compost as the worms continue to move down. You’ll end up with a pile of compost for the garden and worms to start the process again. Use castings as a slow-release organic fertilizer for your indoor or outdoor plants.
About our Guest Expert: Melinda Myers is a nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist. She is a contributing editor to Birds & Blooms magazine and other publications, and maintains melindamyers.com.
Photography by Jim Wieland, Country Woman Magazine