Tiny Choices Archives:

« |    Main    | »

Worms live in my Kitchen.

By Karina | August 13, 2007

When people ask if I have a pet, I’m not really sure what to say. That’s because I’ve got worms living in my kitchen.** I vermicompost, which means I feed worms my vegetable scraps. Because I live in an apartment without access to the yard, this is the easiest way to handle the excess organic waste I generate from my kitchen. And because I am a member of a community supported agriculture group, I have organic waste in spades!

I started vermicomposting with a homemade bin. I bought a small plastic tub and drilled holes in it and hot-glued screen pieces down to keep the worms in. I was given some worms by a professor at my graduate school and I settled them in to eat scraps. They lived under my kitchen sink with me in Pittsburgh. They were fun and a good show-and-tell at dinner parties. After I moved from Pittsburgh to NJ, I wanted to step up the composting. The worms in the little bin were great, but couldn’t handle a lot of volume. So I committed to a can-o-worms.

The can-o-worms is a tiered vertical system. It has trays that leads to easier worm casting harvesting. And, it fits right in my kitchen next to my hutch.

Last year I got a pound of worms and set up the system. the worms did really well for a long time… until they all vanished. which means they died! I don’t know why: maybe I didn’t feed them enough or they didn’t like what I was feeding them. I cleaned out the bin recently and set it up again with another pound of worms in preparation for the start of my CSA. And since then I’ve been feeding them pretty well – I freeze my scraps and then thaw before I feed them to start the break-down of the cellular walls of the vegetables, and I definately have the quantity to keep them happy.

But I went through my bin Saturday morning and was pretty dismayed to find that most of the worms are gone. Which means dead, because they don’t move fast enough to get out of the bin and creep away before I’d notice them. So I mixed up the bin to aerate it with additional newspapers and added more food, and left it alone for a couple of days. Sunday night I checked again and I didn’t see any worms, but hopefully they’re in there, eating and reproducing. I DID see a bunch of fruit flies, and frankly that’s pretty disheartening. Fruit flies! what do I do?

I don’t know — I love vermicomposting, and I love reducing my waste stream like this, but I hate feeling like Sargent Slaughter. I don’t like to feel like I’m killing hundreds after hundreds of worms. I hope my worms can pull through this latest stressor.

** for the record, though, I consider the worms working animals, not a pet.

Related Reading:

Topics: Home, Waste | 26 Comments »

RSS feed


Comment by Stacey
2007-08-13 09:33:44

Jenn, I went to the LESEC website and read the drop off info – I can just bring it to Union Square any of those days? You just use one container and dump it and refil it and dump it and refill it? Northeast side of the park?

Comment by Jenn
2007-08-13 10:07:12

The Lower East Side Ecology Center is so amazing for collecting NYC’s kitchen scraps! The collection bins/table sometimes move around, but generally they are located around the NE side of the Farmer’s Market. Sometimes (especially early in the morning) the table isn’t set up yet, but there are always big grey plastic bins– usually 2-4 of them in a row– and you can just put your scraps in there and sashay away. You wouldn’t know what the bins were, if you didn’t know what the bins are…

I collect the scraps in a plastic bag (I know, I know, plastic bags) in my freezer, then bring the accumulation to the market whenever I remember, which isn’t as often as I’d like, so I’m usually lugging a too-heavy bag on the subway, but that’s my fault alone. Now that you brought the issue to mind, I could really use a medium-sized sealing container for this, and just dump it all in the bin, instead of using plastic bags. The big grey LESEC bins are filled with plastic bags of scraps, so I don’t really think anyone has touched on this specific issue yet…

Comment by Stacey
2007-08-13 10:21:15

I noticed that the other day because I was looking for the scraps drop off – just out of curiosity because Kari mentioned it. Anyhow, I saw the plastic bags in there and was a bit curious about it. Does someone just go in with gloves and pull them out? Do people drop scraps that aren’t in bags, too?

I will do this starting, umm, Wednesday, since I do hit the market several times a week anyhow. I think ultimately for me. I’d get a container that attaches nicely to my bike rack – an oyster bucket would be perfect, though a bit large if I’m doing drop off 3x a week. (http://www.cobbworks.com/)

Comment by Jenn
2007-08-13 15:37:26

Wow, those panniers are awesome!! And I’m glad you brought up the issue of the plastic bags in dropping off your scraps– I don’t really know why I hadn’t thought of it before… probably because it’s already a schlep from Brooklyn, and the thought of carrying an empty container every day I drop off my scraps is slightly unappealing. But. Unappealing though it may be, I think it’s the way to go.

I don’t really know if people just dump their scraps in the buckets, to be honest. I’ve only seen plastic bags. And yes, the workers at the table do go through the bags and load the contents into a single, bigger container, at which point I assume they seperate out the non-compostables.

Keep us posted!

Comment by Stacey
2007-08-13 16:01:59

So, on my way to lunch, I asked the woman at the table and she said that there was a bigger can in the back where if I was going to toss scraps with no bag I could. I don’t yet know how much scrappage I’d generate – it could be only a quart soyogurt container’s worth, but aren’t those panniers awesome? I’m looking for an excuse to get them. I bought one for my future former husband, but now I might want one, too – and I’m not really the wanting type of gal…

Comment by Jenn
2007-08-13 21:16:05

They’re made from repurposed materials, constructed in the good ol’ Pacific Northwest, and totally useful. I think you can feel ok about wanting such goodness!

Comment by Sangu
2007-08-13 11:18:54

My CSA pick up point is at a community garden in Brooklyn on Union Street, so i can return my foodscraps there into their compost bins when i go to pick up my veggies.
There’s another garden closer to my apt, and i have to check if non-members can bring their food scraps there.

I also wondered if any CSA farmers take back the CSA members’ food scraps for compost on the farm?

Comment by Karina
2007-08-13 11:21:31

I don’t know if my current farmer does, but b/c I pick up at someone’s house I don’t’ think it would be feasible to hold for the week. I haven’t even asked.

I picked up from my last farmer at her farm, but she wasn’t interested in starting a compost acceptance! I asked her a number of times but she just didn’t want to set it up.

Comment by Jen
2007-08-13 16:20:16

I’m pretty sure the pickup house has a compost pile (I’m in the same CSA as Karina). I wonder if they’d be interested in scraps?

Comment by Karina
2007-08-13 16:21:54

if the worms keep dying on me, I know someone friendly who does have a compost heap – you!

Comment by Stacey
2007-08-13 11:34:36

I think if the CSA is certified organic, there may be issues with them accepting the scraps. I feel like I had this conversation with someone once.

My co-op had a place where I could leave scraps. but it didn’t seem large enough to bring my household scraps, just for carrot tops and whatnot while I was shopping.

Comment by Xuli
2007-08-13 12:06:33

My struggle is not so much with what to do with the food scraps (I also vermicompost at home, and can drop extra food scraps in the compost bins at my university food service), but what to do with the compost! I have a giant bag of worm castings that I’ve had for awhile, and I’m going to clean out the bin again in a few weeks! I guess I could always Craigslist it, but I’m just not sure. I have some houseplants, but I get more compost than they can handle. Or maybe I should check with my CSA farmer to see if he wants finished compost.

Comment by Jenn
2007-08-13 15:40:12

You could Freecycle it… I bet it would go to a good home!

Comment by molly
2007-08-13 16:16:11

I am very bummed, because I cannot find a Chicago-area composting program similar to the Lower East Side Ecology Center one that Jenn mentions. I’m not ready for worms, but kitchen scraps make up the majority of my household waste. If anyone has suggestions or can point me to a local resource I’ve overlooked, please let me know!

Comment by Stacey
2007-08-13 16:40:08

In addition to freecycle (mentioned above) you can see if a neighbor or a friend wants them. At one point, I was going to give mine to a friend from the yoga studio, but then I moved suddenly (to Chicago, actually)

Comment by Jenn
2007-08-13 17:45:41

Here’s a list of Chicago “Compost Education Centers”– maybe they can help!

Comment by Xuli
2007-08-14 11:29:31

About the dying worms … it’s a long shot, but do you feed them a lot of acidic scraps? Tomatoes, citrus and onions can all kill worms in large enough quantities, or so I’ve heard.

Comment by Karina
2007-08-14 11:38:38

I did feed them some tomato scraps last week before I noticed the dying off – maybe that had something to do with it!

I checked last night and saw at least one worm – so there’s hope! I’m going away for the weekend so thursday morning or I need to tuck them all in for a few days of independent thriving, I hope.

2007-08-19 06:23:12

[...] Karina discusses the trials and tribulations of vermicomposting. Also, Q&A – when you’re bagless, how do you throw out your [...]

Comment by Jennifer
2007-08-19 12:08:45

is your bin moist enough for the worms?

Comment by Karina
2007-08-19 15:45:20

it seems like it is – the papers aren’t wet, but kind of damp spongy. I leave the drain spout open on the bottom to allow air flow through, too, so it COULD get too dry if I’m not careful though – I should make sure to keep a spray bottle handy just in case.

2008-01-24 10:09:55

[...] break down organic matter into rich soil. You can either purchase a ready-made system (including Karina’s choice: The Worm Condo) or DIY your own for a very low cost (plus you get to mail-order worms!). The bin [...]

2008-06-15 20:33:58

[...] and scrapings. Rather than worry about how to compost them (though there are a lot of great options out there), how about turning those vegetable peelings into tasty and useful veggie stock? Vegeyum [...]

2010-05-27 13:00:17

[...] break down organic matter into rich soil. You can either purchase a ready-made system (including Karina’s choice: The Worm Condo) or DIY your own for a very low cost (plus you get to mail-order worms!). The bin [...]

2010-05-27 13:07:16

[...] break down organic matter into rich soil. You can either purchase a ready-made system (including Karina’s choice: The Worm Condo) or DIY your own for a very low cost (plus you get to mail-order worms!). The bin [...]

Comment by Kitchenware
2010-12-20 07:36:41

So there is an actual kitchen appliance that allows you to set this up? Wow, sounds a bit weird but I guess does its bit for the environment.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.