Worms? Not In My Backyard!

by Paul Staley

It is likely that for those unfamiliar with the power of worm composting, the title of this article reflects the usual response to the idea of composting with our wiggly friends. Worms are indeed wiggly but they are also valuable friends to any gardener.

Worms produce castings that actually have more nutritional value for plants than the raw materials that the worms consumed. That means that the castings are actually fertilizer for plants and not just a soil amendment. The worms digestive
system adds nutrients to the raw material, resulting in a plant food that is packed with good stuff for plants.

Getting started is easy and inexpensive. Redworms are used and not earthworms. In nature, redworms live in leaf litter, which is easily duplicated with shredded paper products or coconut coir fiber. The bins to hold the worms can range from simple plastic storage bins from the local big box store to engineered, multitier systems that cost up to several hundred dollars. They all work, and which you use depends on how hands-on you want to be. Rather than go into details here, I will just say that your favorite search engine will deliver all the info and products you could want.

One of the best benefits of using worms along with regular compost piles is that they complement one another very nicely. Kitchen wastes work best in “hot” piles that are made all at once and large enough to generate high enough temperatures to quickly break the wastes down. Kitchen waste does not work as well in “cold” piles—piles created over time as materials become available. Because it breaks down so slowly the raw material becomes attractive to local critters. It also is more likely to become smelly.

Worms to the rescue! They will plow through your kitchen wastes quickly all year round. If not overloaded, they will eat it before it becomes smelly, leaving you with valuable castings for your favorite garden plants. So give the kitchen waste to the worms and everything else to the compost pile. Between the two, you will have all you need for vibrant, healthy soil and plants.

Paul Staley installs veggie gardens and teaches composting to homeowners and businesses. Contact him at 650-215-3791 or email at gardener@growyourownfood.biz.

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