Earth Matters by Jacqueline Milner – Red Wigglers – The Cadillac of Worms!

Cornwall ON – We have new permanent house guests who are going to help our household compost our kitchen scraps, newsprint, dryer lint, pet hair and floor sweepings.  Our new house guests are red wigglers (eisenia foetida); they are voracious garbage-eaters who eat and expel their own weight every day. The “black gold” that they expel each day is nutrient rich vermicompost.  This byproduct material builds soil structure, will help the soil around our plants retain moisture, can be used as top dressing for your lawn and house plants and can serve as organic fertilizer for our perennials, trees and shrubs.

A small container of red worms can yield pounds of sweet smelling compost within two months.  These worms reproduce quickly.  It takes about three weeks for the fertilized eggs to develop in a cocoon.  Two or more worms will hatch from this cocoon.  Within a year you will have a large population of worms some of which you can give to friends to start their own vermicomposting project or you can plant them in your garden, flower bed or put them to work in your outdoor compost pile.

It is recommended that the worm bin be kept at room temperature, out of direct light and in an environment that allows air to circulate around it.  Red worms will eat just about any kitchen scrap including vegetables, fruit, stale bread, rice, pasta, peelings, leaves, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg shells.  Meats, oils, salt, vinegar, dairy products, onions garlic should be avoided.

Vermicomposting is an aerobic process (with oxygen) which is essentially odourless.  The trick apparently is to maintain the right combination of moisture, air circulation and the right combination of dry bedding over the added scraps for the worms to feel secure and to discourage fruit flies and house flies from frequenting the worm bedding.  Under ideal conditions the worms will produce an egg each 21 days which will result in a troop of worms which will be able to consume all your organic waste.  The worms do like their privacy so it has been recommended that I only disturb them every few days to feed.

I’m very excited about this new project.  This small step can eliminate good organic material wasting away in our landfill sites thereby eliminating green house gases and can replenish vital nutrients to our indoor and outdoor plants.  I look forward to giving an update on this new project down the road.  My kit was purchased at the Eco-farm Day Gala evening silent auction.  The kit was donated by Gerrie Baker who is known around Eastern Ontario as the Worm Lady. Gerrie operates The Worm Factory; Gerrie’s glowing happy self clearly reflects her passion for sustainable agriculture and vermicomposting.  Gerrie also operates an 8,000 square foot greenhouse on Foley Mountain in Westport, Ontario where she cultivates organic herbs and gourmet greens with the help of her red wigglers.  She is available for speaking engagements and welcomes volunteers to her premises by the day, week-end or month should they wish to learn vermicomposting first hand.  For more information contact or 888.299.6266

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