Oh dear. I should explain. The worms I’m speaking of are red composting worms. They reside in a tub in our garage and feast on food leftovers and paper waste. In return, these low maintenance pets give us worm “castings” (a nice word for poop). The castings are full of vital nutrients for plants and can be used as regular compost or to make something called compost tea. Keeping worms in this way is known as vermicomposting.
Some of you are totally disgusted at this point. And I don’t blame you. Worms are not the cutest of creatures; in fact they’re pretty gross. But we didn’t purchase them to call them cutesy names and dress them in sparkly clothes. We bought them because of the mere fact that they take food/paper waste and in return give us free fertilizer.
These are not the same worms you’ll find in your yard; they are an entirely different species. Most places will charge $25 to $40 for a set of composting worms, but I’ve heard you can simply go to a bait shop (or even Walmart's fishing/outdoors section) and find some live red “wigglers” for a few dollars.
If you are interested in creating your own worm bin you can order a worm system or simply use a couple of non-translucent Rubbermaid bins with holes drilled into them. You can view a full video demonstration of everything you need to create and set up this type of system via www.redwormcomposting.com/getting-started. This is the video I used to set up our bins, which took less than 10 minutes from start to finish. The worms love and thrive in darkness and mild temperatures, so set up your bin somewhere where they’ll get both.
Feeding the worms is easy; just try to keep a balance between brown waste (think shredded paper grocery bags, newspaper, leaves, etc.) and green waste (sliced veggies, coffee grounds, tea bags, etc.) It’s also best not to add items like meat, bones, dairy, oils, too many grains and dog or cat waste.
From there the worms will take over and do what they do best. We feed ours about once or twice month. It doesn’t take them long to turn kitchen waste into black gold. Other organisms like white worms or springtails might join in the composting process too if the bin is outside. Fruit flies might try to crash the party so limit fruit in the bin. But all and all, the other organisms do not hurt the worms or the quality of compost.
The worms will breed in the bin and so you can expect to have more worms each year. You can create or buy another bin, sell them to local fishermen, or donate them to a classroom or school garden. For more information search the web or look for books on composting with worms such as “Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System” by Mary Appelhof.