I don’t remember when I first heard about worm composting. I’m sure it happened the way most of my brilliant ideas do – the concept swirled around in my head for a few months until it was suddenly called to action. I went out and picked up a copy of the official Worm Bible, “Worms Eat My Garbage” by Mary Appelhof.
Mary maintains that worm composting is very simple. Give the worms what they need: a box in a warm (room temperature) place, bedding (shredded newspaper), food (your waste food scraps), and sometimes a little water. Voila! They will chomp through your potato peelings and produce beautiful worm castings (poop) and, well, more worms.
For those of us with a minimal sense of adventure, Mary provides detailed instructions on how to build and set up a worm bin. She even did a thorough scientific study of how much garbage worms can eat and encourages newbies to use a kitchen scale if they’re worried about underfeeding or overfeeding their worms.
So my dad helped me build a worm bin, back in 2004. My roommate at the time was very supportive, if a little reluctant to actually touch the worms. The worms – red wrigglers, to be precise – arrived by mail one afternoon in a paper bag tucked inside a box of straw. We opened the bag carefully and my roommate inquired if I intended to name them all. There were probably about 500 in the bag and I was feeling uncreative so I dubbed them all Herman. Except for the one named Bob, although he was soon lost in the crowd.
The worm bin was a great asset to apartment living except for the dreaded fruit fly incident of ’05. I have since learned that baking soda is a great remedy for controlling fruit fly episodes, although I have not tried it. When I moved to Oregon, the worm bin was passed on to my friend Sarah, whose cats enjoyed sitting on it for nearly two years. Last summer, the worm bin returned to me. It has languished unused in my parents’ garage for over a year. Now it is 2008 and I am determined to become a worm wrangler once more. I need to make a few upgrades to ye ol’ worm box, and it will be time to start again.
I think this time I’ll call them Esmerelda.