Composting With Worms
I never thought I would be singing the praises of raising worms, but in fact, I’m quite proud of them. They work dutifully day to day without a single complaint--doing jobs the rest of us would never want to even touch. I will take all of the help I can get when it comes to dealing with my garbage and helping in the garden. These lowly heroes at my house are known as red wigglers (Lumbricus rubellus). They are not your average earthworm, but are quite unique.
Red wigglers are the most recommended composting worms. In nature, they are often found in aged manure piles as smaller worms marked with red and buff colored stripes. The fact that they prefer a composting type of environment makes them superior to standard earthworms, which prefer mostly soil and like to burrow deeper into the ground. Red wigglers can be contained and be perfectly content in the process.
It’s really easy to get started with raising worms and can be done practically anywhere. I have even known people who live in apartments to raise them in a bin indoors. It may sound gross, but I know from experience that the worms should not smell bad or make a mess. If they do, then you know there’s a problem. Something as simple as a dark colored plastic tote with plenty of small holes drilled in it for ventilation and drainage is a good start. From there you can upgrade to some of the fancier bins available on the market.
Worms are not too picky when it comes to eating either. I like to feed mine coffee grounds, tea bags, crushed egg shells, and veggie scraps. There are only a few things I won’t add to the bin, such as meat or greasy foods. Some recommend that you keep orange peels and onions out of there too. My main concern in feeding them now is the amount of scraps I place in there at a time. If too much is added, the bin can heat up like a traditional compost bin does during the decomposition process, which exceeds the ideal temperature range for these worms, which is between 50-80 degrees.
Your reward for keeping red wigglers will be the wonderful worm castings that are the digested garbage ready for your garden. “Earthworm castings in the home garden often contain 5 to 11 times more nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium as the surrounding soil. Secretions in the intestinal tracts of earthworms, along with soil passing through the earthworms, make nutrients more concentrated and available for plant uptake, including micronutrients” according to New Mexico State University Extension. That sounds good to me!
There is plenty of information available online to get started. Resources, such as above, are found at: http://cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/h-164.pdf . A book that is fun and very helpful in everything you would want to know about keeping worms is Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Applehof.