It’s March… warming up in northern California. It’s the time of year that fellow green-thumbers in Hardiness Zones 1-5 admit they are also a little green with envy, of us left-coasters. While my buds in Minnesota and Michigan wrestle with tornadoes and wild, nasty weather, I get to turn my patio chair into the morning sun and have my coffee and newspaper with the hummingbirds. One of the few remaining perks of living in California, but, I digress.
And so, as my garden wakes up from its short winter slumber, it makes me think of only one thing – Vermicomposting! Right? I know, I know, you thought of it too. Red wigglers, banded red worms, night crawlers – worms, glorious worms. Hey, don’t be a hater; worms are people too!
So what is vermicomposting and why should we care?
Any self-respecting gardener knows the value of the sexy, squirming segmented eisenia fetida. You may know it as the humble red wiggler. Not your garden-variety earthworm, the red wiggler is the owner and operator of nature’s best soil amendment – worm poop. Yah, I went there.
Red wigglers and banded red worms eat organic matter. In nature, they thrive in damp, dark organic environments such as under rotting logs and cow patties. In the home worm bin, they eat your organic scraps and leftovers. Oh, did I forget to mention that we were going to talk about bringing the brood into your home? Oh yah! We’ll get to that a little later.
Eventually, worm compost comes from the business-end of the worm. In this way, organic matter is broken down into nutrient-rich, perfectly organic, beautiful little castings. Well, I suppose, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The castings, or pellets, are incorporated into the soil. Working in harmony with healthy bacteria, the castings break down, amending and conditioning the soil.
While vermicomposting from your home worm bin is inarguably done on a small scale, large, industrial vermicomposting cycles actually divert food waste from the landfill. Considering up to 30% of your neighborhood waste stream is made from food or food byproducts, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
But, let’s get back to you– why should you practice vermicomposting? You have to admit, it’s an interesting science and a super-efficient method for recycling. By now, you are already recycling your aluminum, glass and plastic. You bundle and separate newsprint and shredded paper. But what do you do with your wasted food, food scraps and uneaten leftovers? If you’re like most Americans, you run water in your sink, use electricity for your garbage disposal and send it into the sewer, for further processing. What a waste of perfectly good waste!
Vermicomposting converts your kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich compost that you can incorporate into your indoor and outdoor plant’s soil.
Healthy worms = healthy worm poop = healthy soil = healthy plants.
So there you have it. You owe it to your plants to have a worm bin in your house.
Next up: What does a worm bin look like? How do I make it? And most important, doesn’t it stink? We’ll dig a little deeper into the mysterious world of vermicomposting.
Editors Note: photo, courtesy C. Douros