Vermicomposting: Trash and Worms Are an All-Star Team

A few weekends ago, I helped my mother set up an indoor vermicomposting bin. By "helped," of course, I mean that I watched and bothered her with questions. She finally sat me down with a DVD she'd purchased on the subject (the woman is serious about her gardening) and was left in peace with her worms.

Vermicomposting is the process of using earthworms to speed up the process of composting certain trash such as kitchen scraps, yard clippings and some paper waste. The little red ones my mother buys from Wabash Feed Store are, by far, the most prolific at careening headlong through piles of organic waste, eating everything in their path and leaving lovely piles of worm castings (the more pleasant way of saying "worm poo") behind.

You can, of course, buy worm castings at Wabash as well. But it's far more efficient to just make them yourself at home with stuff you'd just toss into the garbage otherwise. And the worms will thank you for it; worm castings -- also known as "compost" -- are one of the best ways to introduce nutrients into your soil if you're an organic gardener.

A multi-tiered earthworm composting bin like the one my mother purchased starts at around $80. has specials, however, that package the bin along with helpful books and a big batch of starter worms.

A few weeks later, and my mother reports that the worms are doing well in their little home, with all the sustenance and shelter that a colony of red worms could want. Their compost will be ready to harvest in another couple of weeks. Each batch of compost takes two to three months to "prepare." But that's perfect timing for her: She'll be planting an enormous batch of heirloom seedlings at the same time.

And, as usual, I'll be there, in the way, asking a bunch of questions and taking pictures.

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Katharine Shilcutt