Worms, rotting food and dirt.
It’s cold out and the ground has decided to remain frozen. There’s not much for a gardener to do. I know, now’s the time I’m suppose to be “dreaming ” my spring and summer garden but, I’m feeling too edgy. The thought of sitting down with my notes and catalogs is making me want to jump out of my skin! I’m just not use to being inside so much.
At first it was nice.
I’d look out of the windows, occasionally venturing outside and then being in a hurry to get back in again! In the last month I’ve only managed to garden a handful of days and with this continuing cold, there looks to be even more inside time coming. How is a gardener to survive? Is this suppose to be good for me? Obviously my life needs some adjustment.
Life. breakdown.. space… ideas…. transfiguration…..life?
I’m somewhere in there…
…but, before I could figure out what else to do with myself, I remembered the worms. Yes, worms! How could I forget? This is the distraction that I’ve been needing from these four walls.
I headed out into the last hour of the day, determined to make contact with the earth.
Fun fact: It can take the earth 200-400 years to form 1 cm of soil. Humans can help (for a change) by composting!
The worm bin is where I throw my kitchen scraps and it has been full for the last month. When I first moved into my house I found a “Seattle Compost” bin in the shed. It was a sheet of plastic that could be fastened into a circle with interchangeable lids for the top and bottom. Such a simple design and I used it for years! It was very large and I only had to empty it when I wanted compost for my garden. Unfortunately, it broke down and had to be replaced.
The bin that I use now is Ok , but about half the size and I have to empty it three times a year. Not really a big deal. I just pile it up and let it finish composting either in my garden or in one of my other open compost bins that I would normally use for non-food composting.
This is how I turn food into compost or as gardeners like to call it, Black Gold!
The first step is to find the right spot.
I recommend a place that is away from your house. It is also important that it is in the shade. You don’t want to lure worms to your bin just to have them bake in the hot sun!
Another aspect that is vital is that the bin needs to be on the ground. I now that sounds obvious but, I’ve seen many people try to do a worm bin in those suspended tumbler-style drums. First of all, they are called earth worms for a reason. They need to be able to come up from the ground and go back down depending on temperature and availability of food. Secondly, when you toss and churn materials, they heat up. This is the right method for non-food composting, but if the worms heat up and then can’t escape… ugh, horrible stuff….
Once you’ve picked a spot, you then need to consider a bin. I’ve always used plastic ones that are open on the bottom. A word of warning here, to keep rodents from burrowing into your bin, wrap the bottom in 1/4 inch galvanized hardware cloth. I would like to try building a bin out of the stuff someday. No plastic!
Now it’s time to start filling your worm bin.
You’ll want to add “bedding” for the worms almost as often as you add food. This gives them a place to hang out, lay eggs and wait for food to rot. It will also keep your compost from being dense, wet and stinky! My favorite bedding is debris from the garden. Some people go through a lot of trouble shredding newspaper. I don’t want the extra work and the newspaper lacks the bacteria that garden debris (leaves, cuttings and dirt) naturally have. It is a misconception that worms eat our food. They eat the microbes (mold and bacteria) that grow on our food. It is the microbes that start the decomposition process. They secrete enzymes that break down the molecular bonds of organic material to simplified elements that can then be absorbed by the worms. That was a mouthful! Are any worms out there starting to get hungry? I thought so.
Some people like to start by purchasing worms.
Red wigglers are the usual choice. Do this if you like, but I promise you that once the food scraps start rotting, they will come. It’s what they do. It’s all they do.
The only final words of advice would be to always save some compost to start the next batch, kind of like a sourdough starter. That way you won’t have to wait for the worms to come.