Gold Diggers

The only time I every got in trouble at school was in the 1st grade, when I chased a horrified James Musso around the playground with a handful of wiggly worms. I loved worms then and I still love them now. These days, however, it’s more because they significantly improve my garden’s soil.

Worms do their work by aerating the soil as they burrow back and forth beneath your tomatoes and cucumbers. If you really want to put them to good use, start a worm-composting bin.

The bin uses worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material into vermicompost. Worms eat the food and as it passes through their systems it turns into valuable worm castings.

“Their castings add active microbial life to soil while slowly releasing trace minerals that helps plants uptake nutrients and stave off root rot,” says Grant Estrade, owner of Laughing Buddha Nursery. “Worm castings are one of the best soil conditioners you can find.”

To start a small scale, self-contained worm bin, begin by combining food scraps, a stackable composting system and worms.

“One of the best worms for your bin is the Red Wiggler,” said Estrade. “They’ll thrive in the bin but don’t do well outside in the garden.”

Purchase the bin and worms at such places as the Laughing Buddha or online. Or build your own out of two plastic totes. Drill holes in one tote and then place bedding made of newspaper strips or leaves in it. Stack it above the other tote for drainage. Then cover the top container with a loose-fitting lid that allows air into your bin. The totes should be shallow rather than deep, as red wigglers are surface-dwellers and prefer to live in the top six inches of soil.

To harvest your compost push the bin’s contents to one half of the bin. Then put fresh bedding and food scraps in the empty side of bin.

Continue burying food scraps only in the freshly bedded half. In the next two to three weeks, the worms will move over to the new side.

Finally, remove the compost and replace it with fresh bedding.

The compost can be directly mixed with your potting soil or garden soil as a soil amendment or the compost can be used as a top dressing for your indoor or outdoor plants.

You can also make “compost tea” with it. Simply add one to two inches of compost to a water can. Allow the compost and water to “steep” for a day. Then use it to water your plants. This tea made by worms’ castings gives a nutritious boost to your plants.

Worms will always have a warm place in my heart and my garden.

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