Worms for Composting

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I ordered a 1/2 pound of red wiggler worms back in May but the sellers have experienced such a boom in orders this year that they were unable to fill my order until July. Encouraging don’t you think?

I have kept a vermicomposter many times but haven’t had one recently. We’ve just been composting on the roof in boxes or carrying our food scraps over to the community garden where our bins of dry browns need all the wet they can get.

I have to admit though that I love having a bin of worms living with me, so when I had an excuse to get some I jumped on it. I have loved worms since I was a kid. Worms remind me of summer nights running outdoors searching the neighbors’ “lawns” for little dew worm heads poking up out of the ground. We always let them go, there was no reason to keep them. I just liked finding them and feeling them wriggle in my hands. I still do.

Worms also remind me of my grade two teacher, Mrs. Hamson. I’m pretty sure her name was Hamson although my brain wants it to be Hamster.

Mrs. Hamster.

Anyways, when it rained the concrete pad of my schoolyard became flooded with worms, and I’m not sure if it was a particularly rainy year or what but the boys in my grade had developed a trend of throwing worms at the girls and it seemed like this was happening fairly regularly. This of course always sent the girls off shrieking which only served to egg the boys on more. Mrs. Hamson sat us down one day and explained that worms are animals, that there was nothing for the girls to be afraid of and that the boys should respect them as living creatures and leave them be. She brought some worms in and we all took turns touching and holding them.

That lesson has always stuck with me. I wasn’t one of the kids throwing the worms or one of the kids having worms thrown at me for that matter but what created an impression was the fact that this adult cared enough about something as small as a worm to teach us a lesson about creature abuse. A lot of adults in my neighborhood kicked cats and abused their kids. So when our teacher talked about the lowly worm as something to be respected and cared for she was also telling us something important about all living beings and ourselves. And what’s more she taught by example with a kind voice instead of lecturing or finger wagging. I don’t think I was the only kid who heard her because the worm throwing did stop. To be replaced shortly thereafter by digging clay or petrified cat poo out of the sandbox to throw at each other.

Here’s how to make a worm composter. They’re fun to have around, especially if you have kids, and those suckers (the worms, not the kids) will eat their body mass in food scraps daily. Worm poo is some of the best stink-free organic fertilizers you can also make yourself. Just be sure to get yourself the red wiggler type. Dew worms, night crawlers, and earth worms are good in the garden but won’t survive the conditions of a compost bin.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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23 thoughts on “Worms for Composting

  1. I was just enjoying my worm bin yesterday- adding some fresh bedding and food. I have had such a population explosion that I really should set up a second bin….I usually just scoop up a pound or so of “extra” worms and give them to someone else to start up their own bin.

    thanks for the post!

  2. My worms are part of my family. I miss them when I’m away and can’t wait to see them when I return. Now if only I could get rid of the fruit flies.

  3. Can you describe how you compost on your roof? I find vermicomposting a little intimidating, especially on a small balcony like mine, but hate watching all of my food scraps go to waste in the trash. Thanks for all the inspiring posts!

  4. Found this blog at facebook.com LOVE IT! Thanks for sharing your information. I will return weekly. Happy Gardening!

  5. Thanks for posting this Gayla. I brought my wormery with me from England and hadn’t got round to setting it up here. You’ve given me the impetus I needed to order some worms and restart the process.

  6. Worms remind me of grammar school, too. When it rained or was really foggy in the morning, they crawled out on the sidewalk. We used to try to save them on the way to school by tossing them back into people’s lawns, otherwise on the way home we would see them again after it warmed up and they were, well… you know.
    Allegra- Gardener’s Supply Company sells triangular fruit fly traps that go into a little soapstone box (I think it’s kind of cute) my aunt swears by them.

  7. Lovely story about your teacher. I think all teachers like hearing that once in awhile they said or did something that a child ends up remembering forever. Makes up for all the rest of it.

  8. I have been keeping worms for years now even before it caught on. I have gotten some very strange looks over the years from non-gardeners but I absolutely love having them! I always mix some castings into my potting soil when I mix it up.

  9. Gayla,
    I think this is the most beautiful post of yours I’ve read. Thank you so much for the wonderful story. On a side note, I’m awaiting my 1lb. box of worms this week!

  10. I’ve always knew that I’ll be happier receiving a compost bin of worms over flowers and jewelry!

  11. Wish there were more Mrs. Hamsters out there. Wonderful post and how nice that that lesson has stuck with you all these years. I have a compost bin that often has earthworms in it so I’m wondering if I can still add the red ones. Also, is there a way to remove the worms when you take the compost out for use? In most of the photos I see, they seem pretty densely populated.

  12. Instructions for harvesting are on the final page. The worms will hid at the bottom to get away from the light.

    You can also just push all the old stuff to one side of the bin and start again fresh on the other side. The worms will migrate to new digs and fresh food.

  13. I really want to do vermicomposting, but my husband just won’t let me order any. He seems to be afraid of all types of composting for fear of stink. We’ve had problems with animals coming out of the woods behind our apartment to dig in the trash. Got any tips on how to convince him that composting for my 4 (maybe a 5th soon!) pots is worthwhile? He’s not a big fan of my mini-garden anyway since the birds ate most of our tomatoes.

  14. We’ve talked seriously of doing this, too. In addition to the wonderful compost, I would really enjoy freaking out my mother in law. heh heh heh.

  15. Question- our’s always ends up with terrible flies and larva and mold spikes…..any way to cut down on this? I live in humid, hot Texas…..

  16. is vermicomposer same as earthworm? we in malaysia are hot and rainy all through the year. what can we do to make sure the worms survive?

  17. Funny, or serendipitous if you prefer, to read this today. In South Africa recycling has been a bit slow to take off but I recently discovered that a large supermarket has dedicated part of its parking lot to a recycling depot. Perfect, I thought. With the addition of a worm bin or compost maker (a heap is a bit impractical for where I live), I should be able to recycle just about evrything, including my old laptop. I do wonder sometimes about what happens to worms if they escape, and how they interact with common garden earth worms.

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