Worms, worms, worms!

August 22, 2013

Author: Neighborhood Farm Initiative

Category: General News Growing Knowledge

I can confidently say that NFI’s Garden Education Program has changed my life in many ways. I’ve become more grateful for farmers and farmworkers, more attentive to the global food system and a more a believer that widespread small-plot farming would make a significant contribution in addressing its problems. 
Over the course of the summer, I’ve also had the opportunity to move into a home with a big lawn, and through GEP I’ve developed the confidence to know how to get started transforming that lawn into a space that will grow food for my housemates and myself. 
But the change that has taken place in me most rapidly through my GEP experience was my conversion to vericomposting after last Saturday’s class. I’ve been a “lazy composter” for several years — collecting food scraps in a large bin and scrounging up leaves to mix with them. The stuff would decompose slowly and it would often smell like a feedlot. I knew worms could help address the situation… but I had always felt nervous. Would I be able to keep them alive? Might they escape into my kitchen?
Joe’s vermicomposting class put my fears at ease. He talked about how easy it is to feed and care for them, and how they survived even while he was out of town for two weeks. But the thing that sold me most quickly was being able to see and feel the “worm dirt” they produce.

GEP instructor Joe shows off the worms feeding off scraps under a layer of coffee filter.

My somewhat smelly, often chunky “lazy compost” was absolutely no comparison to the fine, odorless worm dirt! When Joe told us how much more nutrient-rich worm castings were than regular compost, and how they release the nutrients in a slow, balanced way, I was totally sold.

I went home that same day and began to research red wigglers, the most common type of worm used for vermicomposting. I purchased two pounds of them on a “Summer Sale” at nearly half price, and they arrived in my home last night. I was so excited to put them in their new home of peat moss bedding, and I can’t wait to start feeding them food scraps.

The worms can eat up to half their body weight in a day, which means that my household should be feeding them a pound of scraps per day. In two or three months, I should have some castings to add to the new garden. And in three months, the worms should double their population, meaning I can start new bins or give some away to friends!

So, my advice to those of you who are interested in vermicomposting… hesitate no longer! Do a little reading, get a bin, some peat moss, and some worms, and get started. Your veggies or flowers will thank you!

Jenn Svetlik is a member of NFI’s Garden Education Program for the 2013 season. She’ll be reflecting on the experience throughout the summer.

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