gather and grow

Homegrown, hand-spun living in the city

The most memorable post-it note on my office door was the one two and a half years ago that said simply, “Mari: I have worms for you. Sonia.” That day, my colleague, who had been worm composting for many years, transferred a small colony of her red wrigglers to me, as we both giggled at the novelty of the situation. We had exchanged books, files, and ideas before in that fluorescent-lit hallway, but never worms.

I have been vermicomposting ever since, but I realized I have never introduced these fellows here before. So here they are:

IMG_0927The worms are the most low-maintenance and industrious workers on our urban homestead: day in and day out, quietly, they are producing an incredibly nutrient-rich fertilizer for the garden — all for no other wages but just kitchen scraps, which we would get rid of anyway. Definitely a win-win situation!

IMG_0920Our Worm Palace is the Worm Factory 360 composter, which is great because the stacking tray system makes it convenient to harvest the finished compost. But it’s also really easy to make one’s own worm bin — there are tons of tutorials online, like this one. You can feed the worms almost everything, except meat, dairy, and oily foods. They also don’t really like citrus fruits or tomato. But coffee grounds, eggshells, newspaper, veggies, pasta and other carbs… they will chew it away. We don’t have thousands of worms, probably only hundreds, so it’s not quite enough to deal with all of our kitchen scraps and we complement this system with a traditional backyard compost. But I like having the combination.

Should you try vermicomposting? Here are a few things to consider:

  • These guys are really low-maintenance. I feed them about once a week. If you go on a vacation, the worms will be fine for up to a month.
  • This is an entirely feasible system of indoor composting for apartment dwellers. You don’t need a backyard to be composting!
  • Properly managed, the bin does not smell. Really. We keep the Worm Palace in the corner of our kitchen, and I never notice it smelling funky.
  • If you’re worried that handling the worms might cross your ickiness threshold, I assure you that it’s hardly ever necessary to do so. You could keep a scoop of some sort next to your bin for  when you need to move the worms and their bedding to make space for more food. Or, like me, you might just get over it.
  • Worm compost is ready for the garden much faster than traditional backyard composting.
  • Because it contains water-soluble nutrients, it’s easy for plants to absorb it. It can be mixed into the garden soil or applied around the plants. Or, if you want to take it to the next level, try one of the worm tea recipes out there!

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