Vermiculture – the easiest way we can save the world.

This is the easiest and surest way to start saving the world. I wouldn’t start here if I didn’t KNOW we all can do it and find immediate success. So, get ready to raise worms!
What it is: Vermiculture is the use of worms to break-down organic waste into worm-castings, which is an extremely useful soil additive and fertilizer. (It is basically their poop). In nature, worms crawl around under the surface of soil eating plant material. Along with other organisms and microorganisms, they play an important role in taking the carbon, nitrogen, vitamins and minerals that are locked into the products of plants and turning it into readily-available forms of nutrients for plants and other animals. Worm bins concentrate the number of worms and therefore increase the capacity to digest plant waste. With the right amount of worms and proper feeding techniques we can very quickly turn food waste back into rich soil that your plants will love. So, when you regularly use fresh fruits and veggies in your cooking and put the waste (stems, leaves etc) into green bins or garbage, then I suggest putting them – instead – into a worm bin.
Me and my worms: I bought a half pound of red wiggler worms from a local vendor in November of 2014; I have bought no more since; I have almost never put organic waste into our garbage (or green bins); I have on four separate occasions harvested pure, black compost for my own garden; I have done this will living in an apartment in Vancouver. I mention this to make clear that vermiculture requires very little space and very little work, although, it does require constant attention. The attention I have given it, is lifting the lid when I feed it and observing: Are there still worms?; do they seem content?; is the humidity satisfactory?; are they still protected from sun and heat?

How to set it up: On the (aforementioned) small balcony, facing North-East to downtown Vancouver, I have a plastic bin, drilled with many small holes which is home to my worms. It is sitting loosely inside another bin that collects excess liquid and helps maintain optimal temperature. I only need to work on it once or twice a year, other than emptying the liquid (also a potent fertilizer) every few weeks from the collecting bin and adding new food. I bought a half pound of red wigglers at a cost of approximately $20. It came with some bedding material and some compost for it to feed on. There are commercially available worm bins, but I made my own for whatever the cost of two plastic bins and one lid. I keep a small plastic container in the kitchen to put scraps into, before transferring it outside. I add all the newspaper or fliers that are delivered to my house by finely shredding it as a carbon-rich bedding for the worms. I also keep a layer of this newspaper on the surface to reduce smell and flies. To feed it, I lift the lid of the worm bin, push aside some of the shredded newspaper to expose the worms, dump the kitchen waste onto the worms, replace the shredded newspaper and then replace the lid. These large bins I use are enough to deposit almost all my organic waste, and to never overflow. I collect from the bins several liters of incredible compost that I add at varying rates to my potted plants. Then I start the bins again.
Potential problems and by-products: Compost can smell. Fortunately, the stink comes from the decomposition of organic materials. So, if done right, our vermiculture will not stink. The reason: instead of – for example – just throwing a broccoli stem into my worm bin, I (if not making soup with it), dice it to small bits before adding it. The smaller dimension the food, the more quickly the worms can eat it, and the less likely it will succumb to the stink of decomposition. Furthermore, but keeping a proper balance of green waste (nitrogen rich) and carbon rich additives, it not only naturally reduces odors, but provides the optimum feeding ratio for the worms. A pound of worms eats half its weight daily of green waste, and half its weight of carbon rich food. I should mention that carbon rich foods include but are not limited to the shredded newspaper, cardboard egg cartons, dried leaves, or my favorite “Compy.” In ideal situations, the worms eat your organic waste faster than can the pathogens (molds, yeasts, mildews and fungi) which produces the smell. Of course, if you know me, you will be aware that I also encourage these pathogens from establishing, as they are naturally part of the cycle…as are the pesky fruit flys and other flying pests that are doing the same job as the worms. The specific benefit of all these microorganisms? – we are just at the tip of the scientific iceberg on that one. But we know that balance is good, and we know the complicity of said balance is good. By keeping a cover of carbon rich materials, or a lid, we reduce but do not eliminate the presence of pathogens and other bugs.
Another by-product is the liquid that will collect in the bottom. The reason for my two bins, or the structure of the commercially available worm bins is to remove this liquid from the worms’ environment and to collect it. It is an extremely potent fertilizer. Online sources suggest diluting it 1:10 with water to apply to the soil around your plants. By the way, this liquid, if disturbed can be foul smelling. And, if one doesn’t believe in letting nature do it’s course, then they should also be warned that this liquid as well as the compost, no doubt, contains all sorts of pathogens that will be transferred to your plants. Obviously, having a healthy compost means everything is in balance, the pathogens are fighting with each other, therefore no single pathogen can get to a damaging level; and yes, you just have to believe me on that one.
On carbon. The reason I have previously mentioned “Compy” is because it is a great example of locking in carbon, thus reducing our foot print. Compy takes the waste of the forestry industry, and agricultural industry (stocks, stems, branches) and chops it up into a bark mulch like product that I use as my high carbon material. The reason Compy is so good is because the plants are specifically selected in their “recipe” to not only break down more quickly for bugs and worms to use, but also to provide the perfect habitat for micro organisms to help reduce the smell. It is the perfect product to add to your bins. Compy is often used in green bins. Because this product breaks down quickly, (thus compacting it), and it reduces the smell, users have found they need to empty their green bins left often. That’s great for your appartment, but increadible for your building, as each pick up can be over $100. While feeling great about using Compy, you have also been keeping your organic kitchen waste (potentially all of it) out of the landfill, and to be used to create more food, or to lock that carbon into the garden somewhere. You have therefore, significantly reduced your carbon footprint.

Here is a link to Compy’s website.
Listen, it’s the time for change. We can’t ignore it. Wait for the wave of large scale changes to sweep you up along with the crowd or take matters into your own hands. As is obvious to a worm keeper, a bee keeper or an integrated pest management specialist (some of my hats) – many doing a small thing will always be more efficient then few doing a large thing. Vermicompost is your small thing. Do it.


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