Yesterday 31 kindergarteners crowded around my worm bin. It was hard for them not to push and shove. The bin is loaded at the moment. Loaded with worms. And worm castings, otherwise known as poop.
Red wigglers, or compost worms, make some of the world’s best fertilizer. These little guys (you could call them gals, too, since worms are hermaphrodites) are easy to care for and no, the bin doesn’t smell. If properly maintained, a worm bin smells like fresh earth. I always have the kids take a few sniffs first before springing the news that what they’re smelling is worm poop.
I’ve had a worm bin for about 3 years now. It sits unnoticed in a corner of the dining room, unless I’m having a dinner party or it’s making a school visit. This week the worms are visiting Waterford, CT.
My bin was started while researching my picture book, The Chicken and The Worm, which is an imagined conversation between a chicken and a worm on how they’re different and alike. This book is part of a curriculum kit offered to preK/K teachers by Heifer International. To do the research, I visited Dunbar Gardens in Little Rock, AR. The garden is situated next to an elementary school that works in partnership with the garden to educate kids about the earth. The garden has plants, trees, a tilapia pond, a chicken coop, and worm bins.
Soon after my visit, when I realized that I was going to write about the compost worms, I made my own bin. Worms are easy to care for. The biggest mistake people make is overfeeding them. They only eat about a 1/4 cup of food every other day. This is for an 18 gallon Rubbermaid bin with about 1,000+ worms. I always tell people that worms do best with benign neglect. Make sure they have moist strips of newspaper for nesting and a reasonable amount of food (veggies, fruit, bread crusts, coffee grounds, etc) and that’s about it.
My bin gets harvested about twice a year, and I get about 4-5 gallons of compost. This gets spread with happy abandon all over my garden. Not only is it a natural pesticide, but also it produces vigorous plants with beautiful blossoms and fruits. What could be better than that?