March 2010 – Andy Grant
Worms Eat His Garbage
Greening Greenfield’s “Green Hero” of the month, Andy Grant, became interested in worms from reading Mary Appelhof’s book, Worms Eat My Garbage.
“I became intrigued by the idea of recycling my organic kitchen waste,” says Grant. He learned that you can create great potting soil with 2 pounds of worms (Red Wigglers) for every 1 pound of garbage a week.
So he went online to look up “vermiculture” (the name for using worms for compost), found a site that shipped 1500 worms to him, and set up a plastic bin about 2 x 3 x 2½ feet. Then he laid a base of shredded newspapers and dirt, topped with coconut husks and peat moss as bedding. Soon he was tossing his table scraps, peelings, and everything from coffee grounds to mango pits into the bin. He was amazed to watch the worms break it down into rich soil in no time!
In the seven months since he’s started this project, the compost soil has now grown to about one foot deep and he estimates his worms have tripled their numbers. A little known fact about Red Wigglers is that they are hermaphroditic, each one containing male and female secretions for reproduction. He can tell when they are ready to hatch by a change in color in their cocoons. Grant’s worms have been prolific. He says, “if my worms are happy, I’m happy.”
One thing he has to monitor is the Ph/Acid balance of the soil, for example, you don’t want to squeeze a gallon of fresh orange juice and toss all the peels into the bin – too acidic. He has discovered that his worms love cantaloupe, bananas and apples. But of course fruit flies inevitably appear with these fruits, so he keeps them at bay by smothering them with bedding.
“If you’re already outdoor composting, this probably isn’t for you,” says Grant. “This is really best for apartment renters or homes without a plot of land outside. A person living alone can do this and I love tending living beings in my home.”
He considers hosting a vermiculture bin a great classroom learning opportunity and would like to see our schools incorporating this hands-on practice. It takes up very little space and students could track the worms’ progress, learning how long it takes to break down certain foods, and how to balance the quality of the soil.