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Bradford West Gwillimbury Times
March 16, 2002
Cathy Nesbitt at home, with vermicomposting bins.
From "icky" to incredible
Cathy Nesbitt used to think worms were "icky".
Now, she sees them as marvels of nature - capable of converting half their own weight in organic waste each day into compost and rich worm castings. They have also become her "partners" in a new venture: Cathy's Crawly Composters, a company that sells vermicomposters.
Nesbitt has always been interested in environmental issues. Since moving to Bradford, she and husband Rick have actively practiced recycling, reuse - and backyard composting, to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, and build a better soil base for their garden.
But Cathy's initial introduction to vermicomposting - which uses a type of earthworm called the "Red Wiggler" to transform organic waste into compost - was less than successful. About 4 years ago, she offered to look after a classroom's vermicomposting project. "It was not a disaster, but…I found the worms icky at the time, and my house was full of fruit flies. I didn't know you had to bury the organic waste."
It wasn't until last summer that she was prompted to give it another try, and became "enamored" - her word - with the Red Wigglers. The little critters can live for up to 10 years, happily devouring half their own weight in organic waste each day, and reducing the amount of garbage going to landfill by up to 30% in an average household. Kept in bins, the Wigglers produce rich black castings - a natural fertilizer, which not only adds nutrients to soil, but also texture - and compost tea, a liquid fertilizer that, diluted with water, is ideal for plants.
In fact, the voracious appetite of the worms is posing a challenge. The Nesbitts don't produce enough garbage themselves to be able to raise the number of Red Wigglers that they'd like. "Right now, I have to go begging for scraps," says Cathy.
Cathy advises that the worms should be fed once a week, with organic wastes that include fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, crushed egg shells, cooked rice or pasta - but no meat or dairy products. The waste should be buried under at least ½" of "bedding" - leaf litter, shredded paper or coffee grounds, for example - to prevent an outbreak of fruit flies. Don't add too much food at one time, or allow the waste to get too wet or too dry; when operated properly, there is no odour, except for a pleasant "earthy" smell.
The Nesbitts will be hosting demonstrations, to promote interest in vermicomposting, and its tiny environmental miracle workers. "First people go, Eew, worms! But then they come and see…," says Cathy.
Cathy's Crawly Composters, 905-775-9495
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