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Worm composting to eat your garbage and feed your garden

In the interest of providing my plants with the nutrition they need without using chemical fertilizers, I went to worm school yesterday, to learn how to compost properly.  I feel good about no longer having to throw out my food waste, and I can even feed the worms newspaper, computer paper, paper towels etc, so I will be putting less into the recycling bins.  Our instructor told us that worms eat anything made from organic material, and she knew of a fellow that put an old running shoe into his compost bin, and the worms ate everything but the rubber sole and the metal eye-rings for the laces.  Call me weird, but I find that hopeful and exciting!

I came home from class with a plastic bin about a 1.5 feet by 2 feet by 1.5 feet deep (45cm by 60cm by 45cm deep) with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage, and air vents along the walls just under the lid.  We had filled the bin about half full with shredded newspaper and straw, moistened it with water, put in a handful of old dirt to introduce bacteria into the bin (not new potting soil from the store, as that doesn't have bacteria), and then we put about 32oz or a litre of chopped raw vegetable waste, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags etc. into one corner of the bin, covered it with the bedding of newspaper and straw.  Then we added our red-wiggler worms, and put the lid on so they wouldn't dry out.  Because the bin is small, it is perfect for an apartment or condo - I can keep it outside on my porch most of the year, and when it gets cold, I can put it in my storage room so the worms don't freeze.

Each week now, I will add my litre or two of raw vegetable waste to a different corner of the bin, cover it with brown, dry leaves and/or newspaper shreddings, make sure the mix is moist without being soppy, and in about three to six months, I'll have beautiful compost, full of the nutrition plants need.  Check your municipality for composting programs - many will subsidize bins to make it easy for you to get started.

If you have a big backyard compost bin and are finding that it is becoming a smelly mess, make sure that you are layering dry brown material which provides carbon, with moist green material which provides nitrogen.  Grass clippings alone won't work. Save a bag or two of those brown leaves that you raked, poke a few holes in the bag so the leaves stay dry, and layer the leaves in with the grass.  This will help keep it aerated too, although mixing is also beneficial.  Adding some red-wriggler worms may greatly speed up the process as well.  Even though worms will eat meat and dairy, those items will make your compost smell, and will attract rodents.  You don't want to compost grain or flour products like bread or pasta.

Soil that is alive, full of humus, good bacteria and fungus is what pest resilient, healthy plants are made of.  Compost can greatly improve the quality of the soil, and therefore the plant.  As human beings, we are just as much a part of the food chain as every other animal or plant, and our health depends on the quality of the animal products and vegetable matter that we eat.  Eventually everything comes down to the quality of the soil that grows the plants that we eat, or feeds the animals that we eat.  Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides kill the good stuff in the soil, rendering it sterile, which makes it tough for the plant to be healthy. The pesticides etc. add toxins to the soil, which are then taken up by the plant, and then eaten by us.  (Not good.)  Unhealthy plants attract pests, and so the downward spiral goes, with more and more sprays being needed, which further destroys the nutrition in the soil, which increases the need for watering, and chemical fertilizers to feed the plants.  Using chemical fertilizers on plants is like relying on a multivitamin for your nutrition.   It doesn't work for long.  This conventional method of farming is not sustainable and should not be encouraged, so have fun making compost, growing your own food chemical-free, and with your dollars, please choose local organic to encourage a sustainable world.

Related Tips:
What is organic food?
Organic vs. conventional meat, poultry, eggs and dairy

City of Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden - Worm Composting Class 2150 Maple Street, Vancouver B.C. phone: 604-736-2250  web: www.cityfarmer.org
Appelhof, Mary, Worms Eat My Garbage Flower Press, Kalamazoo Michigan, 1997.
Chek, Paul, Under the Veil of Deception Chek Institute, 2002.
Greater Vancouver Regional District Brochure Guide to Composting with Worms phone: 604-736-2250 web: www.gvrd.bc.ca
Greater Vancouver Regional District Brochure Here's the Dirt, Guide to Backyard Composting phone: 604-736-2250 web: www.gvrd.bc.ca