I was invited to visit the Maine State Prison to see their large scale vermiculture project. The inmates, with the help of VTI Mendes and the support of the warden and Captain Fries, have established a vermicompsting system. They purchased a large (I'd estimate 6'x8') raised bed system that harvests vermicompost by scraping (cutting) from below. It is housed in a daylight basement in one of the buildings and accepts select food waste from the prison kitchen. Everyone involved should be commended for their work (the worms were reproducing without any smell or fruit flies). The project is being carefully monitored and maintained and the dozen or so inmates I met have a very good understanding of vermiculture (they had obviously done some reading!) and asked great questions. They have been working on the system for a little over a year and it is ready to harvest vermicompost. They plan to use some of their vermicompost in their own greenhouse and gardens, but hope to also sell some at the Maine State Prison store. After seeing their work, I suspect they will have an excellent product.
From the blog archive; originally published on February 20, 2010
For the past few years I have had a barter offer on my web site. I've had some great barters that I'd like to share. I have bartered worms for:
Knit yard socks
Bay rum aftershave
These have been wonderful barters, and I am grateful to receive these items in exchange.
The list is not intended to state everything I will barter for. In fact , I am surprised now how many things are on it! If you want worms and have something to barter, let me know.
Postscript: In the past eight years the list has grown to include edibles, a truckload of manure, a signed book, and more. Please note that not all offers are accepted, but many are.
From the blog archive; originally published on February 20, 2010
I get questions like this occasionally:
"When I took the lid off the bin I noticed tiny little black flies flying out... I don't think they are fruit flies because I put out a dish with mixture of cider vinegar, water and a little mild dish soap which always takes care of fruit flies but these guys could care less about it! Please help."
Most commonly these are be fungus gnats (see image). Fungus Gnats are very small 1/32 to 7/16 inch long, long legged and mosquito-like and are usually black, gray, or brown. The larvae feed on moist decaying organic matter and fungi growing in the soil.
I have found the best treatment of fungus gnats to be BTi (Bacillus thuringiensis israelenis) mosquito rings/dunks. To treat an infestation, make a solution of 2 cups of water for about 1/4 of the dunk. Remove the newspaper layer and spray about 1/2 of this solution on the soil daily for 10 days (make fresh solution every 2 days-- one piece of ring lasts 2 or 3 times). Vacuum any adults your can when you open
the lid (dust buster or shop vac work well). Keep the newspaper layer off your bin during the treatment period and do not add food. That should take care of them.
To prevent fungus gnats, be sure to bury any food scraps. If you see mold starting to grow in your bin, replace the newspaper layer and and hold food back until the worms catch up.
From the blog archive; originally published on January 23, 2010
A grower in Taiwan contacted me to share a business model he uses. It was interesting, so I am sharing it.
Coordinate with local companies who have compostable trash, develop a group of friends to make vermicompost from the trash, sell vermicompost at the Farmer's Market.
Because businesses pay a lot in trash removal, this can be reduced if you find other people to take their trash and make worm compost to sell. You get the business to pay you to have members of your group members to take away the compostable trash ($1/kg). You sell your worms to your group and coordinate having them pickup the food waste. Then you pay the growers weekly to provide you with a fixed (2-5 kilograms) amount of vermicompost per month ($2/kg) and to pickup the trash (compost food removal at $0.25/kg).
You can sell the vermicompost for about $5/kg at a farmer's market in the city or online. Remember you also make money on the first sale of your worms to your growers and coordinating payment with the businesses.
Your growers will benefit because they only pay an initial start up fee and coordinate picking up food and delivering vermicompost to you. They get a monthly check from you for picking up waste and processing vermicompost.
If you can do this in a city (so you wouldn't spend a lot of money on gas), the whole group could make some decent money. Plus, if you coordinate food waste pickup at restaurants, you'll probably become a friend of the owner (because you save them money) and get some meals for free, too!
It takes some time to set this up, but it works!
Thanks Chen for sharing this. I would add that you could also make vermicompost tea and sell to local landscapers.
From the blog archive; originally published on October 7, 2015
I was reading the latest issue of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardener and enjoyed the article on ramial wood chips. Celine Caron discussed the differences between traditional bagged wood chips used by many people as landscape mulch and ramial wood chips (derived from the branches of deciduous hardwood trees). While ramial wood chips are considered “wood chips”, these might be called “ramial wood prunings”, since they are commonly the byproduct of landscape or forest maintenance.
Celine’s article references her other writings on the benefits of using ramial wood, and briefly mentions their many advantages over traditional wood chips. These benefits include a better C:N ratio, higher nutrient levels, and preferential breakdown by Basidiomycetes. Basidiomycetes support soil organisms that lead to humic and fulvic acids (you need these in your soil fauna for healthy plants).
If you have concerns about these products robbing nitrogen during breakdown from your soil and therefore your plants, you can add nitrogen periodically (some advocate for dilute urine) to balance this or put down a nice thick layer of compost under your wood chips.
The other unmentioned benefit of using ramial wood for you is that this product can be obtained for free. So rather than paying a few hundred dollars (or more if you are buying bagged) for 4 cubic yards of chips, you can get these for free. The only downsides are timing and the potential for invasive or noxious weeds.
I will address weeds first. Like your farmer and compost providers, you should get to know your local arborist. This is more than networking with service providers who are important to your life and lifestyle. Arborists often pay to dump (or pay to haul) waste wood prunings. If they are working in your area they may be happy to give you what they have with a phone call. However, you should speak to the arborist to discuss what you’re doing and why. Part of this conversation should include a discussion that you do not want chips if they are from a yard with invasive species (bittersweet) and noxious weeds (poison ivy). A conversation is all that is needed.
That brings me to the issue of timing. Your arborist may not be in your area when you need or want wood chips. I tell my arborist that I will take whatever he has and set extra wood chips aside in a pile near the compost pile to be used as needed in the future. Also, even if he is in your area, he won’t know until he is onsite whether there are invasive or noxious weeds. For this reason, you may have to wait a few weeks (or months) before chips are available.
I don’t mind waiting a few weeks or months for a great product that is free. In fact, like most good things, I think it is worth the wait.
Originally published on October 7, 2015
I saw a blog recently that really resonated with me (https://www.treehugger.com/energy-policy/reduce-demand-clean-electricity-electrify-everything.html). In addition to reducing demand, the blog discusses concerns with energy sources, efficiency trends, and consumer choices.
As a homeowner who strives for efficiency I have been grappling with these issues whenever we face a replacement. I have never been able to frame the issues so succinctly as in that blog.
For example, a few years ago we researched mini-splits to heat our home (our decades old boiler was at the end of its useful life). At that time, the mini split technology was not advanced enough to be a single heat solution in Maine (that has since changed). Because of that limitation, we elected to switch from oil heat to a wood pellet-based boiler. I don't regret that decision, but I would probably reach a different conclusion, were I facing that decision again today.
We have gone all in with electricity otherwise-- we are part of a community solar farm (as I mentioned in a previous blog post, our home is oriented badly for rooftop solar). Our stove is induction (which Bert loves) and our water heater is an air-source heat pump. Our cars are still gas (mine is a hybrid), but I expect we will buy electric when they need to be replaced (I don't see the point of getting rid of a paid-for and perfectly useful car just to buy an electric one).
So we heat with pellets (we use about 2 tons/year on average) and support the Maine forest products industry and generate excess electricity for a few years before we get an electric car. I can accept that. If you are replacing your boiler or building a new home, I would strongly encourage you to consider a mini split.
It could be a few things: too warm, too wet, too noisy(vibrations). They could also be hungry, but you’ve done this before so that’s unlikely.
I suggest you verify that the bin is not too warm or wet and is free from vibrations, then leave the lid off and a put bright (at least 100W bulb) light above the bin for a day. That should encourage them back into the vermicompost soil layer.
One of the issues that prevents people from composting (indoors and outdoors) is smelly compost in the collection container in the kitchen. I think this is more likely to be a problem for smaller families (we fill our container too fast for it to get very smelly before we have to empty it!) and probably more likely to be a warm season issue.
If you find this is an issue, I have a solution— biochar. At the Common Ground Fair this year, Todd from Char-Cola (www.char-cola.com) came to my booth to ask whether I had used biochar in my compost collection container. I told him that I had not, he offered me a 1 quart sample to try. I did some reading to ensure that using biochar in my worm bins would harm my worms. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t.
Time for a vermicomposting experiment! A few weeks after the fair, I tried about a quarter cup of biochar on top of our compost collection container and then let it sit covered in the basement to get ripe and simulate what some families might experience. I was surprised that it didn’t smell too bad (rotting potato peels and onion pieces can smell pretty bad). I added the food waste with the biochar to a corner of my bin and marked the corner. Whenever adding something new to your worm bin always add in the corners. Over the next month, I observed that bin as I added food waste to that bin with biochar. During a vermicomposting experiment, I monitor that bin and check the corners. If the worms don’t like what was added they will move away. Adding the biochar to the food didn’t cause the worms to move away and when I peeked in that corner the smell was not too bad. I then monitored that bin for 2 months and everything is fine. I have not tried biochar in my outdoor composting bin, but I cannot imagine that there would be any problems.
I would recommend biochar for those families who have concerns about keeping a compost collection container in their kitchen.
The new 35th anniversary edition of Mary Appelhof’s book Worms Eat My Garbage is now available from Storey publishing.
The original version was an excellent resource, but it was difficult to find and some updates were needed.
I was delighted to be asked to serve as an invited reviewer. The new edition honors Mary’s objective of making vermicomposting easy and understandable for beginners.
You can buy a copy (just in time for Christmas!) here (http://www.storey.com/books/worms-eat-garbage-35th-anniversary-edition/).
After many years of hard use, I needed to make a new soil sieve. My old one (shown above) was badly rotted at the corners. Even pressure treated lumber doesn't last forever. Note that the galvanized hardware cloth lasted longer than the lumber. Always clean your sieve after using it.
First step is to measure my old one and cut the lumber. I then laid out the cut pieces to make sure they fit together and are square. You want to size it so that it fits over your wheelbarrow to make sieving an easy chore.
Then square up the corners (using a framing square) and attach using framing corner to hold shape securely. I used galvanized nails with these galvanized corners.
You did it! Your finished soil sieve should look like this (bottom is shown on left and top on right). Notice that it fits my wheelbarrow nicely.
This one is build better than my old one. I'm thinking it will last for more than 30 years. That means I'll get to pass it to the next generation.
From the blog archive; originally published on December 24, 2009
I receive many questions about compost worms escaping from the worm bin to destroy forests. If you read the story, it relates to worms introduced by fishermen dumping their bait in the forested areas around lakes.
The fact is: earthworms can harm some environments. In nature nothing is as simple as all good or all bad. The earthworm's ability to tunnel through the soil and make passageways for air and water, to decompose organic material and release its nutrients, and essentially "till" the soil is good news for farmers and gardeners. They are actively growing crops that are continually replanted, and where the soil is continually amended with other nutrients (compost or mulch). Earthworms essentially prepare the soil for us. Here the presence of a lot of worms is good.
On the other hand, in forest ecosystems an overabundance of earthworms rapidly decompose the spongy layer of leaves and plant matter that makes up the forest floor and it is consumed faster than it is replaced by falling leaves and other decay. This 'duff' layer is essential to understory development (tree seedlings, wildflowers, ferns, etc.). Without the duff layer, invasive plants have an opportunity to gain a foothold. Here an overabundance of worms can result in harm.
The underlying (no pun intended) problem is that earthworms are not native to most northern parts of the country, including New England. Earthworms in this area were killed during the ice age. The earthworms in your garden are species from Europe that may have arrived with the Colonists (in soil used as ship ballast or with plants) or gardeners spreading compost or mulch from away.
I am not concerned about my red wigglers. Although I recognize they are non-native, they are not hardy in northern climes and probably won't survive our long Maine winter without a source of heat (hot compost pile). Here in Scarborough, my worms would have to cross Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike to reach an old growth forest (http://www.primalnature.org/ogeast/me.pdf).
Nevertheless, we should use good worm management to limit the potential for a problem. If you live in an area that abuts old growth forest, you should locate your outdoor compost pile and garden away from the woods. The University of Minnesota, which has been a leader in researching and spreading awareness of the problem, has some recommendations (and lots of helpful info) in their Great Lakes Worm Watch.
Originally published on December 24, 2009
From the blog archive; originally published on November 9, 2009
You may think you have mostly worms in your bin, but you’d be wrong. In fact, your bin is a very complex and diverse ecosystem. You have hundreds of species of organisms working in harmony to turn your food waste into beautiful compost. Your red worms are only a very small population of the other micro- and macro- organisms that inhabit your bin.
Sometimes new users write me with concerns when they notice some populations that bloom in number. Often they fear these organisms will flee the bin and harm houseplants or become a pest in their home. No need to worry. These organisms are happy in your bin where they have food and darkness. They are decomposers, so they do not harm houseplants.
What is really interesting is that these species have slightly different environmental preferences and food requirements. This means that depending on the conditions in your bin and what you are feeding, you may have some population blooms of these other species. For example, if you place a lot of sugary fruit in your bin, you will see mites bloom followed by an increase in the number of springtails. When their food supply weans they will die off.
Bacteria are by far the most numerous organisms in the vermicompost system. They break down organic matter to make it available to earthworms and other organisms in the bin. Remember, your worms don’t eat the food you put in, but the rot that is on the food. Bacteria are essential to your worm bin, just as they are in outdoor soil.
Mold & Fungi
In addition to the bacteria, mold and fungi are busy decomposing the organic matter in your worm bin. They are also an additional food source to other organisms in the system, including earthworms. Because they can grow big enough to be seen, these can be a sign that you have more food than the system can quickly manage and the feeding rate should be decreased. Mold and fungi pose no threat to the garden or the animals living in the worm bin, but overgrowth of these can cause irritation to humans with mold allergies. To keep them under control, feed in small amounts and when you see an overgrowth of these hold back on feeding.
Mites (reddish brown specks about as large as a typed period) are commonly found on the surface of the bin (if your bin is light colored, you can often see them on the sides near the soil). Mite populations will bloom when you have wet, sugary foods (fruit) in your bin.
Springtail are an insect (white or tan) that can be seen fairly easily on the surface of the soil. They are beneficial in the system and have no interest in living plant tissue. Some texts claim that more than 80% of the organic matter on earth passes through the gut of a springtail or sow bug on its journey to becoming topsoil. They are most noticeable after a bloom in the mite population or in nearly finished compost.
Sometimes mistaken for young red worms, these are very small white worms. They too are beneficial organisms that feed on decaying organic matter. Potworms are more common when your worm bin is on the acidic side, but they do not necessarily mean that you have a problem. You will see them after adding a lot of citrus.
Tips for keeping your bin running smoothly
Remember: the food waste you add to you worm bin today isn’t eaten by the worms until the other actors in your bin have done their job. Bury your food (adding the amount appropriate to the number of worms in your bin) to bring these organisms in contact with your food to get the process started and next time you have a moment, take a close look at your ecosystem. You may be surprised at the complexity of the system you are maintaining.
As always, your senses should be your guide to vermicomposting. What do you see, smell and feel in your bin?
Originally published on November 9, 2009
From the blog archive; originally published on November 25, 2009
A worm bin and pound of worms make a great Christmas gift.
I am not alone in this idea। I had someone come by my booth at Common Ground who told me that a worm bin and pound of worms the hot item at Yankee swap. Also, several people purchased worms and a bin from me this year as gifts for mom.
Worm bins need not be expensive or complicated. I think a simple bin is really a lot easier to use (and certainly easier to build!).
In my mind, the perfect gift would be a book on vermicomposting (like Mary Appelhof's book, Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System), a pound of worms and a new bin.
If you are already vermicomposting, you can provide the worms and make the bin. If you're an experienced vermicomposter, you can provide a vermi-consultation and skip the book. The more people we have vermicomposting the better.
If you are looking for other gift ideas, I recently created Amazon lists of my recommended vermicomposting supplies, as well as favorite garden tools and books.
You can view at:
Originally published on November 25, 2009
From the blog archive; originally published on October 6, 2009
Really that is determined by what works for you in the space you have.
You can buy manufactured bins online or in progressive stores, but I suggest you save your money and make one yourself!
When I respond to this question, I offer the following suggestions and considerations:
Red wigglers don’t typically dig more than 8” deep into a worm bin, so a really deep bin does not work as well as a shallower bin. You want to have the worms all the way at the bottom of the bin to keep conditions aerobic.
Really large bins (30 or 50 gallon size) can be used for worm bins, but they are VERY heavy when full of worms and vermicompost. If you’re planning to move your bin (e.g., take it outside to harvest using the sun), consider a series of smaller bins. If you're not going to move it, these large bins can certainly work.
Small bins can also work. Some people have shoebox size bins they keep under the kitchen sink. This can work, however, you must closely monitor conditions in your bin and be careful what you feed them. In a small bin the worms have nowhere to escape if the conditions become unhealthy. A friend had a wonderful bin until a bunch of limes were added in a layer to the bin after a Cinco de Mayo party. Soil pH dropped and all the worms died. This is also why I recommend you feed in the corners when you are starting.
I find the standard 18-gallon plastic storage totes work well for me. They are reasonably sized to allow the worms to flee from any bad things you may add, they are not too when full, they don’t take up too much space in the room, and they can be stacked. Click here for instructions to build your own bin.
The size and style of your worm bin is not important. If it works for you then it is best. The most important thing is that you get started with a worm bin.
Originally published on October 6, 2009
If you're reading my blog, then you probably know that worm compost tea is great for your plants. I want to make a distinction though: worm compost tea vs. worm bin drainage.
In my mind, worm compost tea is distinctly different from the liquid that drains from some bin designs (what I call worm bin drainage).
Worm compost tea is made by separating the vermicompost from the worms and steeping the worm compost in water to make a tea. My website has complete instructions for brewing up your own worm tea: 1# of vermicompost in a 5 gallon bucket of water.
I don't mean to say that the drainage from a worm bin would be bad for plants. From what I have read it is great fertilizer; however, I'd be concerned about putting it on edible veggies because you do not know what is in it. I have also found a variety of different reports on how to use it ranging from straight (undiluted) to diluted to the color of straw. If I were to use this on salad and other greens I probably diluting it to straw color and bubbling air through it for 12-24 hours using an aquarium bubbler.
If anyone has experience using worm bin drainage, I'd love to hear how you prepare it for use.
Originally published on October 8, 2009
I thoroughly enjoy meeting other vermicomposters (new and old). While I do mail worms, I prefer to meet people who are buying from me. This saves them money and allows me to spend a few minutes educating so they get off to a good start.
When I started WormMainea, I assumed those who visiting my site and contacting me would be a narrow portion of the population, Essentially, people a lot like me: frugal, eco-minded people looking to experiment with a different way of composting that allows you to compost inside in the winter.
Well I got it completely wrong! I meet all sorts of interesting people ranging from back-to-earth retiring hippies who want to vermicompost again to apartment-dwelling professionals who want to reduce their waste, from former Everest climbers to college students, from monks to manufacturers of skate-chic clothes, and everything in between, including some frugal, eco-minded composters like me.
I am continually amazed by how many people are interested in vermicomposting and the cross section of the population that contacts me. I enjoy talking with them about how they found me and how they became interested in vermicomposting.
Originally published on October 3, 2009
I really enjoy teaching vermicomposting to school children. Their excitement is wonderful, and some of the questions catch me by surprise.
Another observation by teachers has also caught me by surprise: several teachers, especially younger grades, have reported back that after my vermicomposting demonstration and the arrival of the worm bin there has been a change in the snack diet of the classroom .
Children want to participate in feeding the worms. However, only some food can be placed in the worm bin (e.g., remnants of fruits and vegetables and NOT processed sugary or salty foods), so children who want to feed the worms must bring in fruits and veggies.
Who would have thought vermicomposting would make children eat better?!
Originally published on September 28, 2009
The answer is: you don't!
Aside from the gut wrenching fear of recovering an item that has fallen in there with your hand, garbage disposals are very wasteful.
A worm bin and outdoor compost pile make this common household appliance unnecessary. Everything that goes in the disposal can go in your worm bin or your outdoor compost pile.
Some people call their disposal the "pig". Likely, because the disposal takes the place of the family pet pig that would eat the food waste. Vermicomposting is much slower than feeding a pig, but worms are far more manageable for keeping indoors.
Did you know: disposals use about 500,000 gallons of water per day in the United States (both in your sink and during sewage treatment).
Food in the garbage disposal goes to water treatment facilities, and from there into the environment where it's at least three times more likely to disrupt ecosystems (via algal blooms) than it would if it went to a landfill. (Not that it's so great there either...)
Food scraps make up at least 10% of space in our landfills and off-gas methane, a greenhouse gas.
Through composting a typical household can keep 500 lb of biodegradable kitchen and garden waste out of landfills every year! That is per home!!
Do you feel empowered? I do. Feed your soil, not the sewer or landfill.
Originally published on May 3, 2009
It never fails. With the retreating snow, frozen dog poo is revealed in my yard near the sidewalk. You'll find this also at the beach. I understand this is not always controllable and forgive the owners who forgot to bring a bag. I don't have a dog, but I sympathize with owners who have to clear the yard in the spring. The typical dog produces more than 200 pounds of waste each year, according to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
What to do with it?
There is a solution, and I don't mean entombing the poo in a plastic shopping bag. Of course, the solution involves worms!
When it comes time to pick up after your pet, plastic shopping bags are bad options. If you choose plastic, you are wrapping something that degrades quickly in something that takes decades to break down.
Instead, use sturdy paper, or plant-based biodegradable bags. The corn-based BioBags, for example, are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute to break down in a matter of days (in industrial landfills; probably longer in a home compost pile).
If you chose to compost your pet waste,you should have a separate compost pile for pet waste, and you should not use the resulting soil on anything edible. As always, you want the compost pile to be HOT. The best practice is to ensure optimum temperatures is through layering and turning.
Or you can use worms...
The best solution (in my opinion) is to collect the poo in a bag (paper or biodegradable) or with a shovel and use it to fertilize your lawn (ensuring it is never used for food).
Essentially you are vermicomposting dog poo outside in the ground outside with a fancy cover.
You can make your own a poo-doo vermicomposter to put on your lawn. You dig a hole in your lawn and insert a roll-top garbage can with the bottom cut out. Fill the hole half way with bedrun worms and it is ready to go. Be sure to place it away from low-lying areas of the lawn.
When it is nearly full, dig another hole, remove the garbage can and start again. You can cover the old hole with the sod you dug for the new hole or new grass seed. Like the grass near the septic tank, it will be a lush spot in your lawn.
The response on this has been great from people using it. It makes so much more sense than sending it to the landfill.
If you have worms, you can do this in about an hour with a cash outlay of <$20 to buy a container with a cover (like the Rubbermaid bullet 2 gallon roll top can) that will last for years.
Try this in your yard and let me know how it goes.
Originally published on April 4, 2009
If you read my solar hot air blog (that sounds funny!), you may have noticed that we replaced the siding and windows on our home. We needed to replace the windows (to more energy efficient models), repair some water damage, and replace some of the damaged siding. Unable to match the color, we elected to replace all of it. When we got our quote, it included dump fees for disposing of the old windows and siding.
I am frugal by nature, so I had an idea: maybe someone would want some the windows and some of the siding. I thought this would avoid sending it to a landfill, and save both me and the recipient a few bucks.
So I listed these for free on Craigslist. It took me all of 15 minutes to post what I had. The response was INCREDIBLE.
The windows were snapped up within a day or two of removing them. And the siding is now gone, too.
Instead of going to a landfill, ALL of it is being reused or re-purposed . The people who came have been happy to get it for nothing and I am happy to have it gone (without sending it to the dump).
Before you throw something away, consider listing it for free on Craigslist. You may be surprised how many people want it.
Originally published on March 28, 2009
I realize that some of you who purchased in the fall processed last weekend when temps in Maine were spring-like. My garden is still under about 2 feet of snow. Many contacted me to ask: what do I do with 15+ gallons of worm castings in March?
Worm castings can be stored in a container like a worm bin. Keep them moist and let the castings breathe (remember that the castings are alive!). You don't want to let the casting dry out if you're going to make great tea (active organisms plus nutrients). Most recipes for tea call for about a pound of castings in 5 gallons of water (dilute to 10 gallons to use).
Castings stored this way will keep for several months-- just in time for real spring! In the interim, use what you have to make tea for your houseplants or soil amendments for seed starters. Just remember that your vermicompost may be full of viable seeds!
Tip of the hat to Bruce Deuley for his valuable contributions to the procedure. You can get the brewed vermicompost tea directions here.
Originally published on March 14, 2009
When you first begin vermicomposting (with a pound of worms), it may seem as though the worms will never eat the food waste you produce. Then, as the worms multiply, you develop a nice balance and the worms keep pace with your input.When you have as many worms as I do (18 bins with 4-15 pounds), my family of cannot produce enough to keep them all fed and multiplying. So, I utilize the waste from my local organic grocer (Lois’ Natural Marketplace in Scarborough). Mary and Chris (the chefs at Lois’ deli) kindly set aside coffee grounds and food scraps when I request it.
I am writing about this not to tell you how to feed a few hundred pounds of worms, but to encourage a grass roots movement. Think of this as an alternative recycling opportunity where everyone wins.
That’s right, society benefits. By having less waste go to the dump (or in this case the trash-to-steam incinerator), society benefits because less food waste equals less weight equals less fuel used to truck it around. Also, I learned from Chris of EcoMaine (the company who runs the incinerator) that organics such as food waste are a poor source of energy in the trash-to-steam process. They would rather not collect food waste.
I know I haven’t made a big difference but my little contribution fits the “think globally, act locally” concept.
In the course of a year, I probably keep a thousand pounds of food and yard waste out of the waste stream (both from my home and collections from Lois’). Scale that up a few-fold, and by outdoor composting in the summer and vermicomposting in the winter, we can all make a difference.
This makes me think: can we all reach out to grocers or restaurants in our community to see if they would be willing to set aside food waste for pickup during the spring, summer, and autumn for addition to our outdoor compost piles? Can we bring a 5-gallon bucket with us when we shop to pick up some waste veggies? Can we encourage our fellow gardeners, others in community gardens or garden clubs to do the same?
Originally published on March 1, 2009
Vermicomposting and beyond! Check out what I've been up to on my blog.