Chisago County Master Gardener
Most of us who garden know the value of composting. Compost bins are easy to make, and the organic material created gives our backyard garden plots much-needed nutrients.
But what if your vegetable garden is small, more in the line of good-sized pots where you grow tomatoes, peppers and beans? Compost greatly benefits these growing environments as well. For composting on a smaller scale, vermicomposting can be done right in your home.
Common kitchen waste, including papery onion and garlic skins, carrot tops and coffee grounds, can be composted year-round in an indoor worm bin. A worm bin fits discreetly into a closet, garage, or pantry, making composting quick and convenient for small-space gardeners and apartment-dwellers.
Vermicomposting requires a specific type of worm. Unlike regular earthworms, which burrow in the soil, red wiggler worms (Eisenia foetida) live on or near the surface, where they help decompose organic matter. This makes them ideal candidates for living in an enclosed worm bin.
Worm compost, a mix of castings and decomposed organic matter, contains a greater diversity of beneficial microbes than traditional compost. This may be why it is linked with an increase in plants’ resistance to fungal diseases. The nutrients in worm compost are also more available to plants—a quality that researchers think helps plants grow faster and stronger, more able to resist attacks from aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites.
There’s no need to invest in expensive materials for the compost bin. Start out with a 14-gallon plastic storage container and put kitchen scrapes in the container instead of the wastebasket or garbage disposal.
In just a few months, you have literally thousands of worms chomping on your kitchen scraps, making compost.
For complete and easy directions, visit the website www.organicgardening.com and search for worm composting. You can find red wiggler worms at www.gardeners.com.