The Worms Crawl In...
Ketzel and Scott Simon spend quality time in the studio with a box full of red wigglers. The subject is vermicomposting: turning kitchen waste into super soil with nothing more than a can of worms.
Unlike Scott Simon and his wife Caroline, who share their home with indoor plants (admittedly, Scott doesn't touch them), I don't "grow" anything inside. No houseplants, no fish tanks, not even a Chia pet. Some other time I'll tell you why.
Ketzel and Scott: The Handoff
Anyway, when I began researching vermicomposting, the idea of cultivating worm poop in my kitchen didn't exactly trip my trigger (and given how infrequently I eat at home, my worms would likely starve). But I am convinced that having an indoor bin of red wigglers, the chow hounds of the earthworm world, is a wonderfully efficient if slightly eccentric way to give kitchen compost back from whence it came.
Not that there's anything eccentric about the process. Compost worms (Eisenia foetida) need a job to do. Feed them vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds and tea bags and they'll belly up to the bar for more. Over time, the result will be rich, brown worm castings, a potent compost incredibly rich in micronutrients, which can be added directly to potting soil, houseplants, transplants, even trees in your parking strip without any fear of shock or burn.
Successful vermicomposting is not unlike outdoor composting, where variables such as contents, temperature and moisture levels determine how long it will take debris to become dirt. Essentially, it's pretty easy: a shallow (say 12") and long (say 19") container, preferably plastic, with tiny holes cut to let the air in, placed inside a box to block the light; a quarter-pound of red wigglers (resources below); shredded newspaper (soy-based ink only, no color pix) and a steady supply of appropriate worm food. The biggest pitfall seems to be too few worms and too many leftovers: the result, rotting garbage, i.e., stench.
Scott wooing his worms
On my honor, I swear that the box of worms I presented to Scott did go home with him. No doubt we'll hear more about his adventures in vermicomposting over the next few months. Stay tuned...
Composters.com -- Worm composting systems worthy of Rube Goldberg
Worm Digest, out of Eugene, Oregon, is an eight-year old quarterly newspaper -- and now Web site -- offering juicy info for both novice and seasoned vermiculturists. Tons of links for where to shop.
Mary Appelhof is the author of Worms Eat My Garbage, evidently a seminal work in the genre. Her Web site, WormWoman.com, sells books, bumper stickers, composting bins and Eisenia fetida, the famous red wiggler.
Naomi Bloom, our featured guest on Weekend Edition Saturday and proprietor of CityWorm.com, has taken worms to heart. You won't believe me if I tell you about her line of Worm-Ware. See for yourself.
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