What’s red and green, male and female, and can easily eat half their body weight in garbage every day? Give up? A worm bin. Redworms are hermaphrodites – male and female. And they can eat a lot of garbage and they produce a lot of wonderful rich compost. What could be more green?
We’ve had our worm bin since 1997 when David – with lots of help and supervision – put it together for his second grade Science Fair project. It seemed like the perfect project for a boy who liked to play in the dirt, and loved to fish. And whose mom loved to garden and keep plants in the house.
And it was a great science fair project! It won a first place blue ribbon, and the worms took up permanent residence in the Paladini menagerie.
Of course nine-year-old David wasn’t much interested in continuing the upkeep of the project after he got his ribbon. Mercenary little dude! (In all fairness worms aren’t all that much fun to play with. They provide very little interaction.)
But his mother became a very enthusiastic wormkeeper. I think they are fascinating! With some ebb and flow, we have maintained a pretty healthy worm farm for about 14 years now. There were two times when the population was nearly wiped out – once from heat and another time, I think, from neglect. I had to call in new recruits from a local bait store.
I keep the bin just outside our back door, in a shady place. (They need to stay cool.) There really is no odor and it’s a convenient and interesting way to get rid of vegetable scraps and the mystery food that I find in little tupperware containers when I clean out the fridge.
John calls the worms my girls, although, as I mentioned earlier, they’re actually hermaphrodites. They have both male and female sex organs. I keep a container by the side of the sink where we collect food scraps to feed the worms. John will be helping me cut up some vegetables and he might indicate a pile of peelings or something and ask, “Does this go to the girls?”
The worms will eat fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and even the coffee filters. I don’t put citrus or spicy things into the bin and I don’t put any kind of meat scraps in. That would be where a decomposing odor would come from.
I can just feel the enthusiasm growing! You are dying to know how you too can have your very own worm bin, right?
This is how David did his project all those years ago.
He got a large Rubbermaid tub and poked holes in the bottom for drainage.
He shredded and moistened enough newspaper to fill the tub about half-way.
Then he added a thousand worms. That is one pound. We got them from The Bond Worm Farm in Ceres. Touring that cool worm warehouse was an interesting field trip associated with the project. (Today redworms can be ordered from any number of online suppliers.)
Then he added scraps of vegetables and peelings and apples cores, and set the bin aside. It’s as easy as that!
Every few days we added more veggie scraps, burying them under the paper. Then voilá! In about 6 weeks the worms had created a rich compost of castings. Yes, worm poop. But it looks a lot like dirt.
Maintaining it has really been pretty easy. Just bury the food scraps and add shredded paper from time to time. When the organic matter looks like good rich compost with no big chunks of vegetable scraps, I push it to one side of the bin and add more shredded paper and vegetable scraps to the empty side. (I just dump the contents of my office paper shredder into the worm bin.) Most of the worms will eventually move over to the side with new paper as the pickin’s get slim among the castings.
And I can scoop out the rich black compost to add to our garden or potted plants. Sometimes a few worms come along, but that’s all to the good.