The garden: Composting is for the worms

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Date: Nov. 2000
From: Countryside & Small Stock Journal(Vol. 84, Issue 6)
Publisher: Countryside Publications Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 480 words

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Preparing large holiday meals produces more than happy families with full tummies. It also produces waste -- peelings, shreddings, and choppings -- that make excellent worm feed.

Don't stuff all that food waste down the garbage disposal: turn it over to a herd of worms. Red worms or red wigglers will turn those banana peels and apple cores into rich compost that can be used next spring.

Vermicomposting (composting with earthworms) can be done anywhere, even under the kitchen sink. Bins located near a hot water heater will save trips trudging through the snow and cold carrying wastes to the compost bin. And the heater will keep the worms warm, ensuring optimum recycling results.

Red wigglers tend to be surface feeders, so the bin shouldn't be more than eight to 12 inches deep. The length and width of the bin will vary with the amount of waste produced by your family, although a good rule of thumb is to have one square foot of surface area per pound of waste.

Plastic bins with 1/4-inch holes in the bottom will provide good drainage and aren't as messy as wooden bins. Place the bin lids underneath, supporting the bins on top with wooden slats. The liquid that is caught in the lids can be used as plant fertilizer.

The bedding can be made of shredded newspaper, cardboard, leaves, straw or peat moss. Keep the bedding moist, but not water-logged. Throw in a handful of sand to provide grit for the worms' digestive system.

Red worms can eat their own weight in food scraps and bedding in one day. On the average, it takes two pounds of worms to eat a pound of food waste in 24 hours under optimum conditions.

Composting worms can be purchased through COUNTRYSIDE'S classified (see "Worms")or through some gardening publications. When the worms arrive, add them to the top of the moist bedding and they will disappear within a few minutes. Cover the top of the bin with a moist burlap bag or straw to prevent the bedding from drying out.

The worms will eat all kinds of waste including coffee grounds, tea bags, pulverized egg shells, and of course fruits and vegetables. Bury the food in the bedding instead of laying it on top.

Add scraps for two or three months, or until the bedding disappears. Then it's time to harvest the worms and compost the material.

Place the compost on a tarp in the sun to remove the worms. They don't like the light, so they'll move to the bottom of the piles. Scrape off a layer of compost until you reach the worms at the bottom. Combine the piles and continue the process until you have a pile of compost and a pile of worms. Add the compost to your garden and the worms to the bin, and begin making a new batch of compost.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A66307000