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.
- A great step-by-step for setting up your own bin!
- Treehugger breaks down vermicomposting
- University of Illinois Extension vermicomposting page
- NYC composting workshop calender
- The Lower East Side Ecology has composting workshops and also eats Jenn’s garbage!
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