Okay, it’s the dead of winter and there’s a foot of snow outside.
A freezing rain descends and covers everything in your garden with a sheet of ice.
The problem is, you just made a delicious soup and have all those wonderful vegetable trimmings you would normally put in your compost pile.
But there is no way in Tokyo that you’re going to slip and slide out to the garden, break through the ice and snow to add those scraps to your compost pile.
Now, you might just be one of those hardy individuals that uses all the peels and scraps in your soup. I know there are some brave souls out there.
But I just can’t get up the gumption to add carrot tops to my soup. I don’t really want to scrub that hard to get all the dirt out.
And I don’t particularly relish the idea of adding to my soup those little black spots I cut out of my potatoes.
And what do you do with that green pepper that you only used half of, stored in the vegetable drawer and forgot about? It ain’t looking so pretty right now. As a matter of fact, it’s starting to look like compost in your refrigerator.
I dare you to put that in your soup, but don’t invite me over for lunch.
What to do?
Compost piles are great for the active months in the garden, but what on earth do you do when there is a foot of snow and ice on your pile?
Well, I know plenty of gardeners (and I have done it too) who keep adding to their compost pile throughout the winter months—when they can get to it or the weather is not too bad.
On occasion, I have actually dug down through the snow and put in my vegetable trimmings. Come spring, I mix it all up and life goes on as usual.
But there is another option you might want to consider.
OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip # 13: Start a worm composting system inside your house.
Now, if this is a new concept you might be asking yourself, “Why on earth would I want a bunch of worms inside my house?”
The answer is simple: WORM POOP.
By the way, I’m talking about a worm composting system, not a bunch of loose worms squirming all over your kitchen floor.
Hey, you can put it in the basement or someplace out of the way as long as it’s accessible enough to the kitchen where your vegetable scraps and trimmings will come from.
But lets get back to worm poop, officially known as worm “castings.” Worm castings are about the best thing you can add to your garden.
These little power pellets are Mother Nature’s Own: high quality, premium, organic fertilizer.
So what is a worm composter and how does it work?
It’s simply a container and/or a series of nesting containers that has a bunch of worms in it. You provide some “bedding” like strips of paper or a soil like mix and then add your vegetable trimmings. The worms eat the veggie bits and then do their “business.” And you harvest the castings to use in your garden.
Pretty simple, right?
Now, you may be one of those do-it-yourself folks who wants to build your own worm composting system. This is totally an option. Just go to YouTube and you’ll probably find tons of videos on how to do it.
But frankly, it’s easier to buy a ready-made system that is designed specifically for the job at hand.
Oh! Did you just now notice that elephant in the room?
What about the odor?
Okay, you may be wondering how bad this contraption will stink up the house. After all, we’re talking decomposing veggies, worms, and worm poop.
Well, fret not thyself. If you do it right, it’s pretty much odor free.
And those little worms have a voracious appetite that can compete with a house full of hungry teenagers. So you won’t have to throw away all those scraps in the garbage. OR trek through a foot of snow and ice to get to the compost pile out in the garden.
They love coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, oatmeal, bread, and of course fruit and veggie scraps.
The worms are your personal recycling team.
You should get the other team members (also known as children) involved in the project. It’s a great way to get them excited about gardening and the way nature recycles things.
How to choose a worm composter
All worm composters do pretty much the same thing. But there are some options to think about. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
- How much vegetable waste will you produce per day?
A pound of worms can process about a half pound of waste every day.
NOTE: Do not just take earthworms from your garden. Make sure you get redworms. The Latin name is Eisenia fetida. That is really the only variety you should use for indoor worm composting.
So find out what the capacity of various worm composters is before you buy one. You want to make sure it can hold enough worms to deal with all the scraps you have.
Most systems have multiple trays that can be stacked up on each other. Do you want 3,4, or 5 trays? Some systems can hold up to 8 trays and house 4000 to 5000 worms (that’s 3-6 lbs. of food per day).
- Where will you put it?
Guess what the single most important factor is for where you put your worm composter?
It’s the temperature.
Your worms will do their duty as long as the temperature is at least 40º F (5º C). But they will be in prime operational mode at 60-80º F (15-26º C).
Some folks keep their bin right in the kitchen where it is easy to access and monitor the activity.
You’ll need to discuss this little detail with other household members. There just might be different opinions about where to put the thing. Best to decide before hand where it’s going.
And by the way, you can put your worm bin outside during the summer, but keep it in the shade. NEVER put it in direct sun…unless you want fried worms for breakfast. Remember it should not get above 80º F inside your worm poop factory.
- Does your worm composter come with top-notch instructions?
Make sure there are good instructions with your composter. You can always go online and figure out what to do. But if you’re like me, it’s nice to have a handy reference guide to make sure you set everything up right and answer your questions.
- Is there a good warranty?
- It’s not just the price. What comes included with your composter?
In comparing prices, check to see if the worms are included. You may want to order your worms from someplace nearer to home.
What else is included? How many trays? Is there bedding? Any special tools?
I recommend getting as complete a kit as possible instead of buying everything piece meal. That way you’ve got what you need to get started right away.
- What style and color do you prefer?
As I mentioned above, all worm composting systems pretty much do the same thing.
Maybe you’re not into the aesthetics of worm bins. But that special someone in your family will be. Check with other family members before you decide.
There are square shaped ones and round ones. There are some styles that come in different colors, usually black, green and terra cotta.
Sometimes it’s nice to have a choice.
Give it a go
So if you don’t have a worm composter, you should certainly consider giving it a go. As always, do a little research to find the one that will fit your needs best.
Most garden catalogues have a worm composter available. But I suggest you also check online because you can find more choices.
Once you start learning about worm composting, you’re bound to run into the term “vermiculture.” It’s just a fancy name for what we’ve been talking about. Then there’s “vermicomposting” too.
Don’t forget to impress your friends with your new vocabulary. In fact, you can call yourself a vermiculturalist if you so desire. Go for it.
I hope you will seriously consider starting a worm composting system if you don’t already have one. The benefits are profound. Those worm castings will work their magic in your garden.
You can even use the stuff to fertilize your houseplants. It’s a win-win all the way around.
Do you already have a worm composter? If so, what type do you use?
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. Just leave a comment below. Thanks so much.
To all those hard working worms waiting to eat your banana peels (from organic bananas, of course),James Early Organic Gardening 365 Helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.
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