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Cathy's Crawly Composters - Vermicomposting

Cathy's Crawly Composters

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Oshawa Whitby Clarington This Week

September 24, 2006


Oshawa This Week Worms Not so creepy

 

By Veronica Sliva

 

Cathy Nesbitt of Bradford, Ontario was afraid of worms until the year 2000. Then she found out that worms can eat half their weight in kitchen garbage and at the same time create wonderful compost for her garden.

She has since developed a new attitude. Ask any gardener. Compost is black gold. So, why go out and buy the stuff when you can make it yourself with the help of a few worms? At the same time you are helping to solve an environmental problem too.

Ms. Nesbitt, the owner of Cathy's Crawly Composters, ships worms and composting kits all over North America.

She says, "I'm an avid environmentalist and my mission is to raise awareness about vermicomposting."

Vermicomposting? Yes ... it's composting with a little help from some creepy crawlies called Red Wigglers. The process is simple; the worms eat organic matter like kitchen scraps, make worm castings (poop to us) and breed more worms, It's the worm poop that we can use in the garden.

Why Red wigglers?
Red wigglers come from the same family as the common earthworm (sometimes called Night Crawlers), but the important difference is that regular earthworms make burrows (up to 6 feet deep) and draw food down into them. Red wigglers are top feeders and like to eat on the go. They scavenge for food julit 6 inches to 12 inches below the surface, making them perfect for a composting environment.

Vermicomposting is usually done indoors because the worms prefer 16 to 21C (60-80 F), although Ms. Nesbitt says, "The bin can stay outside in spring, summer and fall. But, in winter they need to be inside somewhere. Some people keep them in the basement; some prefer the convenience of keeping a bin in the kitchen. Some people even keep them in a closet. The worms are happy wherever they live, but they prefer dark and quiet conditions so avoid bright lights, vibration and excessive noise."

It's Easy
Managing a worm bin is relatively simple. An aerated container is filled with worm bedding (shredded newspaper and dried leaves, or straw), a small amount of soil, and a pound (half a kilogram) of red wigglers. Bacteria and other organisms break down food scraps buried in the bin. The worms eat everything in their path -- waste, organisms, and bedding. Afterward, they excrete the castings ... a soil-like rich, dark humus.

Food
Red wigglers eat most things organic including fruit and veggie scraps, bread, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, grains, plant trimmings, paper, leaves, etc. Typically two pounds of red wigglers recycle one pound of organic matter in 24 hours. They eat half bedding and half food scraps. Ms. Nesbitt says, "You'll get enough for your first compost harvest in three to five months".

Feeding the worms is easy. You simply pull back the bedding (shredded paper, shredded leaves, peat moss, wood shavings or chips, chopped straw or hay, sawdust), and add chopped up food scraps, then cover the food scraps with bedding.

Using worm compost
The worm castings can be used immediately, or stored for future use. They can be added directly into the garden or mixed with soil. They can be used as a top dressing for indoor or outdoor plants. You can also make a "compost tea" by adding a couple of inches of castings to a watering can or rain barrel. Let castings and water to "steep" for a day or so, mixing occasionally. The resulting "tea" helps make nutrients already in the soil available to plants. Water plants as usual.

Kids love worms
Unlike many adults, kids are fascinated with all things Yucky, and worms qualify. Getting kids involved with vermicomposting is a fun and fascinating way for them to learn about recycling and composting. See yucky.kids.discovery.com/flash/worm/index.html for an entertaining and educational website for kids.

For more information visit www.cathyscomposters. com. Contact Cathy's Crawly Composters, toll free at 1-888-775-9495 or cathy@cathyscomposters.com. The City of Toronto also has worm composting information at www.toronto.ca/compost/withworm.htm.

Oshawa This Week Worm

Veronica Sliva is a freelance writer living in Durham Region. Contact her at vsliva@slivacommunications.com.

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Cathy's Crawly Composters

Bradford, Ontario
Local: (905) 775-9495
Toll Free: 1-888-775-9495
email: cathy@cathyscomposters.com