by Donna Tatting
Chisago County Master Gardener
Most of us who garden know the value of composting. Compost bins are easy to make, and the organic material created gives our gardens much needed nutrients. But what if your vegetable garden is more in the line of good-sized pots where you grow things like tomatoes, peppers and beans? Good organic compost greatly benefits these growing environments as well as backyard garden plots. For composting on a smaller scale, there is vermicomposting, which can be done right in your home.
Common kitchen waste, including papery onion and garlic skins, carrot tops, and coffee grounds, can be composted year-round in an indoor worm bin. A worm bin fits discreetly into a closet, garage, or pantry, making composting quick and convenient, especially for small-space gardeners and apartment-dwellers. The process is known as vermicomposting, and it requires a specific type of worm. Unlike regular garden earthworms, which burrow in the soil, red wiggler worms (Eisenia foetida) act as nature’s recyclers, living on or near the surface, where they help decompose organic matter. This habit makes them ideal candidates for living in an enclosed worm bin.
Worm compost, or vermicompost, is a mix of castings and decomposed organic matter. Vermicompost contains a greater diversity of beneficial microbes than traditional compost, which may be why it is linked with increasing plants’ resistance to fungal diseases. The nutrients in worm compost are also more available to plants—a quality that researchers think helps plants grow faster and stronger and resist attacks from aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites.
So where do you find these red wiggler worms? I found them on the website,
www.gardeners.com. In just a few months, you have literally thousands of them chomping on your kitchen scraps making compost. There’s no need to invest in expensive materials for the compost bin. You actually start out with 14-gallon plastic storage container, and, of course, the kitchen scraps go into the container instead of the wastebasket or garbage disposal.
For complete and easy direction on creating a compost bin for vermicomposting, I found the following website to be very helpful, and it has a nice 3-minute video of instructions: