January/February 2017

Although it’s only January, does the winter already seem to have gone on too long? Are you already dreaming about your summer garden? If so, then composting with worms is an easy winter project that will benefit not only your summer garden but the greater environment as well.

Why worms? Worms can spin flax into gold . . . so to speak. If you feed your daily vegetable scraps and your shred-ded paper to hungry red wiggler worms, by summer your garden will have spectacular, nutritious vermicompost (that’s worm poop in lay terms) and you will have kept numerous bags of garbage out of the waste stream.

Just as soil bacteria feed on the grass, clipped by your mulching mower, or as the soil fungi eat the leaves and twigs on the forest floor and break them down into micro-nutrients, your worms can eat your vegetable waste and transform it into food for your garden or houseplants.

To get started, all you need is a pound or two of red wiggler worms, available from bait shops and websites. An easy worm home uses two plastic containers that stack, one inside the other, plus one lid. Drill the lid, body and floor of the upper container with air holes to provide oxygen for the worms. Put bedding, like straw or shredded paper, lightly moistened, in the bin and add the worms. The bottom container will hold excess moisture which drips from the holes in the floor of the top bin.

Feed your worms weekly (no meat, bones or onions) and add dry bedding to maintain the moisture of a wrung-out sponge. Keeping a proper moisture level will involve a little tri-al and error. Too little and the worms can actually dry out; too much will encourage the growth of damaging anaerobic bac-teria. Properly kept, there is no odor. So, you can house your worms in a closet, the basement, or any place that maintains a temperature between 45 and 80 degrees. In summer, separate the worms from the compost. (A pair of rubber kitchen gloves is great for the squeamish.) The compost can be added directly to the garden or diluted with water for compost tea which is wonderful for houseplants. Then, begin the process again.

To learn more, check out Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof or visit the Shedd Aquarium website at www. sheddaquarium.org/worm_composting.html for a beautiful, illustrated and very detailed explanation.

The Riverwoods Preservation Council’s mission is to preserve a sound balance of plants, animals and development in Riverwoods. Keep up to date with the RPC events and news at www.riverwoodsrpc.org.

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