January 10, 2012 > Pat Kite's Garden: Worms for the New Year
Pat Kite's Garden: Worms for the New Year
By Pat Kite
Just for winter fun, or for a science project, try making a worm bin, or two. It is tempting to use ordinary garden worms, but these aren't the best for nutritious garden compost. Garden worms feed deep within the soil and prefer privacy. For best results, get red worms or red wigglers. Their fancy Latin name is Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellus.
Where do you find the proper worms? Bait shops at any wharf, although sometimes fishing bait worms are sold at large markets in a separate cool container. You can also look in a phone book under "worm farms", or check your computer.
What about a worm bin? You can order them ready-made from stores that carry red wigglers. Or make you own, just for fun. Your basic bin will be about 24 inches wide and about 12-inches high. This will hold about a pound of red wigglers. You can make the bin of wood, or even use a large pail. Either way, the bin will need tiny air holes in the sides. Worms need air to survive.
Now start filling. Begin with shredded black and white newspaper. Tear the newspaper into skinny short strips. Fluff these up a bit before putting into your bin. Sprinkle water on the shredded newspaper. It should be slightly damp, not soaking wet. Now add a cup of ordinary garden soil, mixing this in. Now add your red wigglers, easing them into your shredded mix. Place some shredded newspaper on top. When all is ready, add some snacks: crushed eggshells, some coffee grounds, pancake crumbs, apple peels, pizza crust, etc. Not too much at first, maybe a cup full altogether.
No meat, dairy or animal waste products at all... it may cause stinkiness.
Then cover the bin loosely so your worms get even more air, but don't think of escaping. Put your bin in a dark place, such as a closet or cupboard. The worms will wiggle down into the newspaper.
Even though you are curious, try to leave them undisturbed for a week or two. That gives the worms time to feel comfortable in their new home. After that, you can feed them a cup of leftovers every day. If you skip several days, just give a little extra before and afterward.
Gradually the material in your bin will become darker. Worms eat your leftovers, and their waste product is called worm castings. This is super good for plants. After about four months, shift the bin contents to one side of the bin. Put in fresh newspaper scraps on the other side. Put food on the new side.
Wait a week or so until the worms have moved over. Then you can take the brownish compost from the first side and add to your plants. For science projects make several bins, trying different food menus.
Always remember that worms, although small, are living creatures and should be treated kindly and with respect.