Nothing creeped out Cathy Nesbitt more than worms.
But during the past 16 years, she has become known as Bradford
West Gwillimbury’s Worm Lady.
Nesbitt runs her business, Cathy’s Crawly Composters, out
of her home — promoting vermicomposting, or composting with
the use of worms, across Canada by selling red wiggler worms,
composting containers, composter bedding, books, earrings in the
shape of worms, and other so-called “wormy accessories,”
such as compost pails.
“I really was afraid of worms before starting, (but) I’ve
been selling worms by the pound for 16 years. How about that?”
It all began when a friend asked her to take care of her vermicomposting
bin while she was away.
“I had (the worms) in my house. It was horrible,”
But the more time she spent with the worms and investigated vermicomposting,
the more fascinated she became.
“The worms are the creepy part, (but) it’s just our
perception of them. They have five hearts each. That’s 4,000
to 5,000 hearts in one pound of worms. Strange Valentine’s
Day gift — not for everyone,” she said, laughing.
worms are doing good work. They eat half their weight in garbage
The “black gold” soil that is a byproduct of vermicomposting
is rich in nutrients, she said.
Worm castings, or worm poop, conserve moisture and improve soil
conditions, which can reduce dependence on chemicals for gardening,
and it will not harm animals or children, according to Nesbitt’s
People often think composting with worms must also smell, but
it does not, she said.
“Worms digest (the food) before it can smell,” she
said, adding it will only smell if there is too much food in the
worm bin or if the bin is too wet.
“The green bin is a curse and a blessing. People think
it’s composting but it’s not. Does it smell? That’s
your first clue it’s not composting.”
At Nesbitt’s Bradford home, her backyard stretches out into
a variety of gardens, all covered in soil that has gone through
the vermicomposting process.
one-by-one-metre wooden box with a wooden lid on a hinge sits
mid-construction — a large vermicomposter Nesbitt built
for a victory gardens project at the Sharon Temple national historic
site and museum.
It will fit eight pounds of worms, and the box will be insulated
with styrofoam and have a base of limestone to prevent moles from
sneaking their way in, she said.
But not everyone needs such a large worm bin.
Nesbitt sells smaller plastic versions with lids that come in
several colours and have four legs so they can also act as stools.
They are square shaped — just more than a ruler’s
length on each side and about 56 centimetres tall.
They have three removable levels stacked on top of each other,
with holes in between them for the worms to commute.
of these composters sits on Nesbitt’s back deck, and she
lifts off the bright green lid to reveal a layer of soil topped
with shredded paper. This is the bedding, and shredded drink trays
or carbon paper can also be used, she said.
Eggshells or agricultural lime are added to help balance pH levels,
and then food waste and some water can be added to the mix to
get the worms started.
The idea is for this mixture and the worms to be placed in one
of the lower levels in the stacked composter, and the worms will
eventually work their way up to the next tray once the soil is
This can take a few months, and when the worms are ready to move
up, one of the compost levels should be placed on top with more
soil, bedding and eggshells so the worms have a new place to hang
There are several ways to harvest the soil for a garden, including
only feeding the worms on one side for a few weeks so they will
migrate there, allowing you to collect the soil from the other
or by dumping out the entire container into piles under a bright
light and collecting the soil on top once the worms have burrowed
While Nesbitt promotes vermicomposting and has some worms on
her property, most of the worms she ships across Canada are grown
in a barn in Beeton in quantities of 50 to 100 pounds at a time.
Her business, which she runs with her husband, Rick Nesbitt,
was inspired by a garbage strike in Toronto in 2002.
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