Thursday, May 10, 2012

Honey - I have worms...

My latest Chautauqua article:

My husband has worms. It's gotten so bad that family members are bringing over food scraps because our table can't feed them all. It's hard to figure out exactly how many there are but we estimate around 11 kilograms of them.

Oh wait – not THOSE worms. I am talking about red wigglers, the kind of earthworm that is excellent at taking your table scraps and animal droppings and turning them into beautiful compost to use as a fertilizer in your garden and on your land.

A year ago he purchased a yogurt container of worms and by wintertime we had three mineral tubs full and needed to find them a warm place to reside. Red wigglers are not hardy over our Canadian winter as they stay shallow in the earth and a small amount will not produce enough heat to keep warm over winter. So into our basement they came and soon we had a pyramid of about 13 mineral tubs stacked up.

Many people have composts in their backyards so why use worms? For us it comes down to the fact that worms breakdown material faster without needing to get your compost up to a high heat. Regular compost can be incredibly fast too – but take a lot more attention. So far we've learned that keeping worms are pretty simple: feed them anything organic although keep the amount of citrus to a low part of that ratio and forget about laminated or glossy paper; keep them moist but not too wet and don't pee on them (urine has been found to speed up composting and add value to the end product however it's not a favorite of the worms). Your nose is the best gaugue of how things are doing: the main smell around the bins is one of potting soil. If it starts to smell a bit 'off' then you have overfed them. The size of your worm operation is dependent on how much you feed them and how much space you give them – many people in urban cities find worm composting the easiest as they can keep them inside without a smell and they break down waste faster, taking up less space.

So why do we want so many? For one – we have a large garden that we plan to expand and our soil is quite sandy. We plan to use the worm castings (the compost end-product also known as 'worm poo') to build our soil. Secondly – hubby is taking a course this May on the soil food web so we can experiment with using worm castings and compost tea (made from the castings) as natural amendments to our pasture.

This time of year the gardening stores are busy selling fertilizers and soil amendments – ours are coming out of our basement and onto the garden. The cost: our table waste, some cow manure and a bit of my husband's time. Although I am not sure if I should even consider his time. Before we married he warned me that he's still a 12 year-old boy at heart and I am sure digging in the dirt and playing with worms keeps that part of him happy.

1 comment:

  1. If you want to focus on building your numbers, I suggest using as much shredded cardboard as possible. Drink trays and old egg cartons are ideal. The fastest way I have found to get the most amount of castings is to give them old cow manure which they will use as food and bedding. I'd think about some bins for processing garden scraps and some just for manure. At least that is how I'd like to move forward with my worms.